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Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Alegria’ aims to inspire, dazzle and unite

SHARE Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Alegria’ aims to inspire, dazzle and unite

"Alegria" is Spanish for happiness, joy and jubilation.

It is also the name of one of Cirque du Soleil's dazzling arena shows that will stop in Utah this week.

The production, premiered as a big-top show in 1994, has been formatted for an arena setting recently.

Like all Cirque du Soleil's productions, "Alegria" is filled with surreal images and characters that embark on a journey in search of happiness.

The journey features the artistry of aerial high bars, synchro trapeze, choreography and contortionists, as well as singers and dancers.

Sheryl-Lynne Valensky, the production's assistant artistic director, took some time off during her hectic schedule in Kansas City, Mo., to speak with the Deseret News about "Alegria."

"When the show was created, it was the beginning of the Internet explosion," Valensky said. "People were looking at new ways to do business and connect globally.

One theme explored at the time was innovation, she said. "How do you take traditional ways of doing things and create something that is innovative? Out of that concept we came up with contrast and conflict."

"Alegria" is filled with contrasts.

"We have these characters called the Old Birds," she said. "And they represent society and the status quo. On the other hand we have characters called the Angels, and they represent change and excitement and transformation.

"The conflict comes when the Angels and the Birds try to work out their differences."

There is also a running contrast of the beautiful and the ugly within the show, Valensky explained.

"The best way to describe the ugly (concept) is not so much that it is grotesque or sinister, but rather simply a representation of the alter ego."

There are two sides to every argument, she said. "So, there's going to be two sides to the human, to the culture to the environmental aspect of all things."

There are also two singers, one dressed in white and the other in black, who appear during the performance.

"They represent each other's alter egos," Valensky said.

Although there is conflict and contrast throughout the production, the ending is uplifting.

"We're all about the happy ending in the sense that we want everyone to have a positive experience," Valensky said. "We want to explore all those conflicts and contrasts, but in the end we want to see the resolution.

"We wanted to show that it's possible for everyone — the Angels and Birds, the white- and black-costumed singers and the ugly and beautiful — to come together."

Unity is a concept that is still relevant today, especially with the different arguments surrounding the political and global communities, she said.

She said this is one reason that "Allegria" is still touring. "It doesn't matter what country we take the production to or what language they speak or what their cultural preferences and focuses are. Everyone has conflict and everyone has to face change," she said.

She wants audience members to be inspired. "We want them to see the acts and think that anything is possible, and open their minds to that idea."

"Alegria" is also about perspectives.

"We take traditional trapeze and Russian bars and present them in different ways," she said. "When people see how they are presented within the show, they get a different perspective than they would have done otherwise."

There are 55 artists from 17 different countries performing in "Alegria." "We're a little United Nations," she said. "They all come from different cultures and have different languages and backgrounds.

"That's part of the reason why the acts are so good. We don't put four people from the same country together. So you have to find ways to work together. It's not all about communicating with language. The education and respect you develop by working with these wonderful and divers people is amazing."

Of all the Cirque touring productions, "Alegria" is one of Valensky's favorites because it has touched her on different levels.

"As well as it being a sensory experience, 'Alegria' is also a spiritual one," she said. "We don't have a lot of technology in the production so you really do focus on what the artists can do.

"Someone can be jumping and flipping 2 feet away from where you're sitting, and I think that affects people."

She said the performer and the audience member are focused on the basics of humanity and "can relate to each other without the headphones and the iPods and the texting,"

"You get inspired in an old-fashioned and soulful way," Valensky said.

If you go...

What: "Alegria," Cirque du Soleil

Where: E Center, 3600 S. Decker Lake Drive

When: May 19-May 22, 7:30 p.m., May 21 and 22, 3:30 p.m., May 23, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

How much: $31-$93

Phone: 800-745-3000

Web: www.ticketmaster.com

e-mail: scott@desnews.com