A woman juggles multiple tennis balls in a feat only seen in sideshow attractions. A cheerleader flips and twists on an unstable, suspended balance beam, held up by two men. Trapeze artists perform heart-stopping acrobatics, seemingly without a net, and an artist creates surprisingly detailed scenes out of sand. It’s all part of the bizarre world of Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana, one of the newer shows on the Las Vegas strip.
Described as “a spirited journey through an abandoned theater where an extraordinary circus comes back to life [and] populated by a motley collection of off-the-wall characters and incomparable acrobats, Zarkana is a visual vortex set in a twisted acrobatic fantasy universe where, little by little, chaos and craziness give way to a true celebration.”
The breathtaking beauty of the two men performing an aerial strap routine, sailing out over the crowd while relying on the strength of their partner sets the mood, but the wow-factor of the pair is quickly forgotten as a woman juggles over a dozen yellow balls, a gentleman climbs up an unsupported ladder and stabilizes himself as a woman stands on his head and holds a scorpion pose (leg fully extended and held behind her head), two men jump rope and narrowly escape hitting a ball of fire on a high wire and two men go head over feet inside the “wheel of death.”
And yet, there are still more acts, like the Cyr wheel and aerial hoop segment, Cirque hallmark hand balancing routine, flag manipulation portion and banquine (acrobatics assisted by humans) act taking center stage to amaze the audience.
While the 90-minute show flies by and each act is enjoyable, it’s the sand painter and ladder duo who truly mesmerize. In many Cirque shows, clowns entertain the audience while crafty technicians quickly change the scenery. In Zarkana, there’s “The Oracle,” a woman who takes sand and creates awe-inspiring art, moving and molding dust to unveil the Las Vegas skyline, scenes from the show and events that will take place in the near future. The ladder duo is astonishing. The level of skill and balance, combined with the trust and body control required to hit each pose and remain posed is awe-inspiring.
Further, this might just be a Cirque show that people can understand. A creepy abandoned theater where a group of misfits come out and play? It actually sounds like a straightforward theme that plays right into the wheel well of what Cirque does – create jaw-dropping circus routines, complete with flair and finesse.
The show, which is perfect for those new to Cirque shows, flows well and the performers are spot on, but the volume of the music needs to be reduced (or bring ear plugs), as it fills the space at an uncomfortable amplification.
Zarkana performs twice nightly Friday through Thursday at the Aria Resort and Casino, 3730 S. Las Vegas Blvd., in Las Vegas. Tickets are $69 through $180 through Ticketmaster, but special offers can be found by visiting www.cirquedusoleil.com.