By Iride Aparicio


SAN FRANCISCOCalifornia –  The word  “Totem”  is described in the dictionary as an emblem of a clan or a family. Apparently, the concept of the brotherhood of mankind is accepted by many because the over 1.5 million people around the world who has seen the latest CIRQUE DU SOLEI's production, acclaim the show.

Described in a few words TOTEM the show, is journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly.
Written and directed by ROBERT LEPAGE, the show was inspired by the founding myths of different races.  It is staged by superb acrobats wearing elaborate costumes (designed by KYM BARRETT) and represented in multi-media sets. The aboriginal-sounding  music includes singing and drums.

The spectacle takes place in the GRAND CHAPITEAU  (located at AT&T park in San Francisco) which transformed the blue inside of its tent into the universe about to be shaped.  A spark, ignites the circle of life.

Shinning in the darkness, appears “the Crystal Man”  that we first see at the top of the stage as a small  dot of light.  The dot metamorphoses  into an acrobat wearing a silver color costume  who hanging from a wire descends into a large  hole on the roof of  the  flesh-color stage in the shape of  a huge turtle shell, evoking “The Giant Turtle” believed to be the symbol of the origin of the species by many ancient civilizations,


As the “Crystal Man,” representing the life force, comes down, he allows us to see clearly  his dazzling armor-like costume made of 4,500 reflective components including small mirrors and crystals.

When he enters the shell, the effervescent community of amphibians living inside, come alive. They start moving, climbing the  bars that shape the shell, leaping in the air like frogs, jumping from one bar to another  crisscrossing each other. The show had began.

TOTEM has something for everyone. Acrobats defying the physical laws of  gravity, magical moments, music, songs, dancing, clowns and plenty of laughter. It also has marvelous effects made possible by the use of creative lighting, audio, a live band on the stage  and  Hi-tech multi media computers which can create lakes populated by frogs and fish on the stage,  a sharks-infested ocean  and a lake filled with swimming  amphibian men.

The "creation" acts are many and each one is performed  with excellence. To me, the most creative in concept was done on a  trapeze  (shown on first picture) where a man and a woman execute daring jumps, hang on its bar by one hand or by their feet upside down, or do body figures together several meters above the ground. The act is interesting because at all times the couple plays the role of a man and a woman falling in love with each other in the peaceful setting of the sky. Since the show is about the world creation, could they be Adam and Eve?

Not to forget who walked on earth before us, we see the monkeys in a temporary tribe. the Crystal Ladies, emerging  from the bowels of the earth spinning squares made out of cloth on their hands and feet, evoking the creation of the minerals in the world. The acts are too many to be described individually.

There is dance on roller skates executed by a couple on top of  a circle shaped like a huge  Indian drum. There are Unicycles and bowls, as five riders balance themselves on tall unicycles juggling  gold  metal bowls on their feet, tossing them on the air  and catching them on their heads in perfect synchronization.

There are acrobats climbing  a tall metal pole sustained on a the right shoulder of one of them doing different acts. One of them, reaching for a fleeting moment of weightlessness, managed  to stretch  his whole body on the air, on top of the pole,  sustained by his right hand.  Another to stretch his body erect, on top of the pole standing on his head. A third man balanced himself on a pole held by two men as he walked carrying another pole with a man on top.

And to show molecules atoms and particles in perpetual motion in his quest to understand the universe in ways that can be measured, a Scientist stands  inside a huge glass of bouncing atoms molecules and particles of different colors and in the process became younger.

TOTEM 3There were astronauts on rockets and clowns on boats and dynamic shapes  created by a native dancer (pictured on left)  using hoops  in a narrative dance in which he creates shapes to evoke the various animals in a ritual symbolizing the endless circle of life.

“TOTEM is about life,” writes GUY LALIBERTE
Guide and Founder of CIRQUE DU SOLEI, in the program. “The life that drives us: fragile at birth, yet strong by nature. “

“Like CIRQUE DU SOLEIL, TOTEM  deploys the splendors of the imagination , the strength of the body and the power of dreams.”

“This show pays tribute to the infinite imagination of Man and the beauty of the world through the talent of artists and the powerful vision of creators.”

“It brings me greet pleasure to take you from the Earth to the stars with TOTEM”

Believe me, the journey was wonderful!




Highlights of Totem

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B-Roll courtesy of Cirque du Solei