Any company that has two extravaganzas playing simultaneously in Las Vegas has definitely entered the rarefied world of the juggernaut. But the wonderful thing about Montreal's Cirque du Soleil, now appearing at the United Center in its first performances here in three years, is that it defies knee-jerk cynicism. In Dralion the company explores the four elements while drawing on the art of Chinese acrobatics. Director Guy Caron maintains a fine balance between heart-stopping physical feats and the clowns' naughty antics. There's a bit of a New Age feel, as the theme suggests. But pretension and pomposity are banished in favor of a celebratory pageant of human skill and endurance. I was struck by the grace and strength of Zhao Yashi balancing on a single hand atop a metal plate on a pole, the effortlessness of Viktor Kee's juggling, and the sinuous airborne semaphore of the double-trapeze artists. Francois Barbeau's costumes provide enough eye candy to send the audience into insulin shock, and composer Violaine Corradi works in a variety of styles, from electro-symphonic music to taiko drumming to an impish hoedown. Stephane Roy's sculptural metal set features a large aluminum ring that descends, ascends, and tilts from side to side as well as whisking performers up to a catwalk. What's most impressive, however, is that the human dimension of this circus never gets lost in all the grandeur. United Center, 1901 W. Madison, parking lot K (at Adams and Wood), 800-678-5440 or 800-450-1480. Through July 29: Tuesdays-Wednesdays, 8 PM; Thursdays-Fridays, 5 and 9 PM; Saturdays, 4 and 8 PM; Sundays, 1 and 5 PM. $41-$65; VIP packages available.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Al Seib.