Drawn into the enveloping mist Dralion audiences are quickly whisked away to enjoy a mystical experience of space, colour and excitement. In this uncharted dimension where time no longer exists and harmony reigns, the unique, symmetrical mix of art and body provide a virtual playground for the mind around every corner of the uncharted route.
Add in a dash of slapstick and all is right in the unreal world of Cirque du Soleil, coming later this month to the Okanagan.
Like the company’s other 18 shows currently touring the globe, Dralion’s success is the result of years of work by people who have dedicated their lives to developing the wonderment which has become Cirque’s trademark.
People like acrobatics head coach Michael Ocampo, who initially signed on for a couple of years as a performer and now, nearly two decades later, is still a troupe member.
“I love it, I really do,” said the Quebec native as trampoline athletes warmed up behind him before show time in Abbotsford. “It’s such a thrill to work with people of this calibre. Most of our acrobats and performers are perfectionists and our musicians and our singers too, because if they weren’t they wouldn’t be here.”
Dralion is a colourfully fictional blend of east and west, the dragon and lion in which the four elements of air, water, fire and earth come together in an elaborately staged interaction of movement and story telling.
And while he is not one of the athletes, Michael Hughes’ role as Alberti, one of the three clowns, is a critical component of the performance.
“Our role inside the show is kind of just to share the love,” said the 30-year-old, theatre-trained actor. “These clowns are all about love, they love to be around the circus and they’re as amazed as the audience ends up being.”
Hughes admits being on the road so much can be difficult at times.
“But it’s such a great ensemble here; they are like family for me,” he said. “There’s always a balance; when I need those few moments for myself and then when I need the ensemble.
“There is just such an amazing energy on stage and off, so in that respect I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot.”
After four years on tour, trampoline artist Dmytro Negodin still loves the audience reaction. “Mentally it can be difficult especially when you do so many shows, but when 3,000 people stand up and cheer,” said the Ukrainian athlete, “the public gives me the energy I need.”
As staggering as the show itself, is the infrastructure, most of which is contained in the 18 semitrailer trucks that will soon be rolling into Penticton.
It includes everything from the five-metre high, 18-metre wide metal temple-like backdrop to the three motorized aluminum rings suspended high above the stage used to move performers and provide support for technical and acrobatic equipment.
There are also the 1,500 costumes cut from 5,000 metres of fabric which include some rather unusual items like bubble wrap, window screen and springs.
More than 300 pairs of shoes alone are cleaned and hand-painted each week by the touring staff who travel with their own washers and dryers.
Eight performances of Dralion are scheduled for the South Okanagan Events Centre beginning June 29 and running until July 3.
Tickets are available at the SOEC box office in Penticton, online at www.valleyfirsttix.com or by phone 1-877-763-2849.
Mark Brett is a Black Press reporter with Penticton Western News.