Magic at Cirque du Soleil

Photo: Teresa and Michael outside the theater at Disney World Last month, Teresa and I took a long postponed vacation, five days in Orlando, Florida. For two days, Teresa kept me running to the Gulf and Atlantic coasts so that she could satiate her thirst for the ocean — white sands, waves and sun. We stopped at the Kennedy Space Center for a couple of hours, not long enough to take the whole center in. We also spent one full day at Epcot Center, Disney World and also another day shopping for gifts and bargains at the outlets that tempt the tourists to delay their return to the Magic Kingdom. Teresa complained that we had waited 15 years too long: we should have brought the kids to Orlando when they could have enjoyed it. Of course, in those days, we couldn’t have afforded it.

For me, the highlight of the trip was the Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian ultra-circus, had a resident show, La Nouba, at Disney World. I had seen Cirque du Soleil on television and was intrigued by the concept. But TV or phtographs could never capture the electricity and scope of the performance. First of all, the Disney World show is presented in a custom-built freestanding theater so it is a magical setting. The lighting, the set and wings were exploited to increase the impact. The audience was seated in the round and the actors frequently ventured into the audience. I thought the music was recorded but there was a full musical band seated in the elevated wings and the singers roamed the stage.

Photo: House troupe, La Nouba at Disney World
House Troupe, Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba at Disney World
© The Walt Disney Company
Costume credit: Dominique Lemieux

Once the lights came down and the show got underway in earnest, I gasped. It was overwhelming; I felt as if my senses were insufficient to take it all in. My eyes were darting back and forth trying to catch all the action. As the performers soared through the air, danced across the stage, balanced on the edge and tumbled, it suddenly occurred to me that I was seeing something that I aspired to in my own yoga practice. The grace and strength, the imagination and dexterity, the playfulness and wit that drove the performance were the essence of my intention when I stepped onto the mat. Not that I could ever aspire to the sheer athleticism and skill that the Cirque du Soleil cast displayed, but that joy and courage could propel my own body as it flew out of downward-facing dog to forward bend or balanced in crow.

Photo: House troupe, La Nouba at Disney World
Teresa in front of the Big-Tent-style theater where we saw La Nouba

A week later, I was in Barbados at an evaluation for a new online education program that CICAD, my employer is sponsoring. After our last session, I went back to my room and did a yoga practice on my balcony — maybe it was something magical about Caribbean seas, winds, sand and sun. As I stretched out in side plank, my top arm reaching high and my shoulders arching back, my vision just took in the blue sky above the railing and it felt if I were balanced precariously on a high wire, and in a daring flourish, I lifted my top leg into tree position, resting my foot on my thigh. It was all an illusion, a trick of tunnel vision and concentration on my practice, but it was also a seed of intention.

For purposes of clarity, I am adding the explanation of the term “La Nouba” because there’s no way of know what it means. I stayed through the entire show and I did not get. Of course, I did not buy a program.

La Nouba originates from the French phrase “faire la nouba,” which means to party, to live it up. It transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, engaging the imagination from beginning to end with opulent sets, brilliant choreography, theatrical lighting and provocative music.

Debra Perlson-Mishalove told me that she had read that many cast members of Cirque du Soleil practice yoga. It wouldn’t surprise me. Yoga Journal has a mention of cast members in a yoga class.