Cirque du Soleil returns to Philadelphia with a critically acclaimed acrobatic and circus-arts production titled “Amaluna,” a tribute to the work and voice of women. Inspired by Greek and Norse mythology and taking creative cues from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” the show takes audiences to a mysterious island governed by goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon.
The queen, Prospera, presides over her daughter’s coming-of-age ceremony in a rite that honors femininity, rebirth and balance, marking the passing of these insights from one generation to the next. In the wake of a storm caused by the queen, a group of young men land on the island, triggering an emotional love story between Prospera’s daughter and a brave young suitor.
Women make up 70 percent of the show’s cast, the most ever in a Cirque show, and “Amaluna” features an all-woman band.
Chris Houston, a long-time Cirque performer and the show’s out artistic director, said that “Amaluna” has a more accessible plot than most of the other Cirque shows making the rounds.
“A lot of our shows are esoteric and abstract. ‘Amaluna’ revolves around a narrative that the audience can get behind and feel a part of. It’s easily recognizable. It’s about love. It’s about mothers. It’s about relationships,” Houston said.
Another Cirque vet and cast member, Eira Glover, who plays the Peacock Goddess, said that the atmosphere adds to the intimacy of this show.
“You’re engulfed in the show,” she said. “I love ‘Amaluna.’ I feel that the music is strong. The colors are strong. The art and the acrobatics and the narratives are strong. People step in the tent and are swept up in the world of Amaluna and are shot out. I hope people are taking in the ride and are able to understand their life from a new perspective. That’s the effect that art has.”
While Director Diane Paulus insisted she did not want to build a “women’s agenda show,” Glover remains excited about the representation.
Still, she doesn’t like to think of it as a feminist show, but instead, she said, “we’re moving into a time where different peoples’ stories and voices are important.”
Houston added that with the battles for equality and balance happening all around us, “Amaluna is about placing women center stage on the world stage. Not only that, it’s also about recognizing men that choose to elevate women. We’re balancing masculine and feminine energy in the show. That’s what the fight is right now.”
Both Glover and Houston said that any sociopolitical takeaways from the show are up to the audience.
“Of course it will depend on who’s watching it,” Glover added. “Now more than ever we are able to recognize that this is something unique. It’s extremely relevant in today’s times and I’m just excited for what that can mean. But hopefully it’s just the beginning for all-female bands and shows that have strong female characters.”
Houston and Glover said that the show’s lasting impact will probably come from performing in countries where the progress of women and feminist ideals lag behind North America.
“’Amaluna’ has been to some international markets where the status of women is even further off-kilter than it is here,” Houston said. “It’s incredible to hear the feedback from the young girls that come to watch, who see a representation of themselves on stage.”
Cirque du Soleil presents “Amaluna” through Aug. 25 at The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, 100 Station Ave., Oaks, PA. For more information or tickets, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/amaluna.