Four corners of the world

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Cirque du Soleil bring to Sheffield next week their classic production, Dralion, which has been enjoyed by eight million people worldwide since it premiered in Montreal in 1999.  

The spectacular two-hour production features gravity-defying acrobatics with aerialists bouncing off trampolines using the wall as diving board and landing pad, the fiendish Crossed Wheel and a spectacular aerial hoop act.

Fusing the 3,000 year-old tradition of Chinese acrobatic arts with the multidisciplinary approach of Cirque du Soleil, Dralion (pronounced “Dra-lee-on”) draws its inspiration from Eastern philosophy and the never-ending quest for harmony between humans and nature.

The show’s name is derived from its two emblematic creatures: the dragon, symbolising the East, and the lion representing the West.

The four elements that govern the natural order take on a human form, each represented by its own colour. blue for air, green for water, fire red while earth is ochre.

Dralion features an international cast of 50 performers, not only acrobats but clowns, singers and musicians. Courtenay Stevens is Albertini the clown, a character who is one of four Italian brothers dressed like waiters.

“We stumble upon a circus and we’re people who take any opportunity we get to take to the stage. There’s a show going on and we see something special out there with the audience,” explains the Canadian performer.

As to whether their act is scripted or improvised, Stevens continues: “Our role is to interact with the audience so for us it’s different for each show. There’s a template but because there’s no lines of speech it gives us the freedom to respond to different audiences. The architecture for the show is there but there’s no fourth wall – the audience is part of our wall and what we receive from them keeps us fresh.”

Stevens joined Cirque in 2010 after 20 years as an actor on stage and TV in Canada, specialising in physical theatre and comedy.

“I feel blessed to have done Shakespeare – and clowning. I do get a lot of joy being in a fat suit and make-up.”

Is it inevitable that a Canadian ends up in Cirque du Soliel? ”It’s odd because it’s such a large country. I grew up in the West and then I moved to Toronto on the East side where Cirque is based (in Quebec) but even so I have surprised myself in finding myself in the company.”

From a group of 20 street performers at its beginnings in 1984, Cirque du Soleil now performs to more than 100 million spectators in more than 300 cities in over 40 countries on six continents.

Cirque du Soleil will present Dralion at Motorpoint Arena Sheffield from Wednesday to Sunday next week.