OVO (Cirque du Soleil): Acrobatic insects and a life-affirming egg

Cirque du Soleil’s OVO features an ensemble of acrobatic insects (Photo credit: Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil)

Cirque du Soleil’s OVO features an ensemble of acrobatic insects (Photo credit: Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil)

You don’t have to be an entomologist to love Cirque du Soleil’s OVO! The bug-themed spectacular, which premiered as a big-top show in Montreal in 2009, and is currently touring throughout North American arenas in 2016, gives an exciting look at the imagined behavior of anthropomorphic insects in the rainforest of Brazil. Written, directed, and choreographed by Deborah Colker (with acrobatic performance design by Philippe Aubertin), the breathtaking extravaganza combines daring acrobatics with live music and songs to a Brazilian beat (by composer and music director Berna Ceppas), colorful costumes (Liz Vandal) and make-up (Julie Bégin), a towering set and props (Gringo Cardia, with rigging and acrobatic equipment designed by Fred Gérard), and captivating sound (Jonathan Deans) and colorful lighting (Éric Champoux) that easily fill a large-scale stadium, in the internationally acclaimed company’s signature style.

A superb ensemble of 50 performers from twelve countries presents a series of astonishing circus acts within a narrative framework about a giant egg (“ovo” in Portguese) carried into the characters’ bustling ecosystem by the Foreigner–a spiky blue fly who falls in love-at-first-sight with the local Ladybug. A universal symbol of birth and regeneration, the mysterious egg reminds us all, be we human or insect, of the cycles of life and nature, and the importance of love to propagate the species. It’s a message that Cirque du Soleil delivers with light-hearted humor, stunning physicality, and consummate grace.     

The sensational vignettes include foot-juggling ants and a firefly that juggles diabolos; contortionist spiders and an arachnid that rides a unicycle on a slack wire; a hand-balancing dragonfly and a butterfly that emerges from a cocoon of aerial silks; wall-climbing crickets propelled on trampolines and scarab beetles that “fly through the air with the greatest of ease” from the heights of their aerial platforms. The daredevil routines are perfectly synchronized, performed with split-second timing and flawless precision, and enhanced by distinctive movements and noises (the buzzing of a violin and the hissing of a tambourine are especially amusing) that evoke each particular insect.

You have to see OVO with your own eyes to believe the extraordinary feats performed by this masterful troupe. It will leave you on the edge of your seat, gasping, OMG’ing, and shaking your head in amazement at what seems to be humanly impossible–but looks completely natural and effortless for these agile and energetic insects! If you miss the seven-performance run in Philadelphia, Cirque du Soleil will be at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for another seven shows playing from June 22-26.
[Liacouras Center, 1776 N. Broad St.] May 11-15, 2016; www.cirquedusoleil.com.

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About the author

Debra Miller

Debra holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware and teaches at Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ. She is a judge for the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice, and has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and President of the Board of Directors of Da Vinci Art Alliance. Her publications include articles, books, and catalogues on Renaissance, Baroque, American, Pre-Columbian, and Contemporary Art, and feature articles on the Philadelphia theater scene.