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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bushnell’s “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” an amazing holiday delight

by Kory Loucks

HARTFORD — Over 30 tumblers, jugglers, skaters, clowns, contortionists, and singers from Mongolia, Uzbekistan, China, Ethiopia, the United States, and many other countries join together for an amazing performance of holiday delights in “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts through Saturday.
There is no real plot to this stunning acrobatic circus, created and directed by Neil Goldberg, with Assistant Artistic Director Heather Hoffman. The premise is simply that Christmas ornaments come to life, and it works splendidly.
The recorded music was too loud to start Tuesday, but then became more tolerable, with music and lyrics by Jill Winters and David Scott, and additional music by Lance Conque and Tony Aliperti.
There are familiar holiday songs such as “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree,” and the beautiful “Holy Night” all sung by Joanna Carpenter and the fabulous Christina Rodi. Rodi could probably tour all by herself — she’s that good.
Devid Tsytko from the Ukraine kicks off the evening, after the opening ensemble song “Once Upon a Dream,” with some precise Diabolo work that he performed seamlessly. The Diabolo is a kind of freeform yo-yo tossed on a string or stick held by the performer’s two hands. A simple concept, but like juggling that is well done, it’s fascinating to watch.
Buyankhishig and Erdenesuvd Ganbaatar, contortionists from Mongolia, played Flying Reindeer and Flexible Dolls, twisting their lithe bodies into incredible pretzel shapes both on the ground and spinning in the air.
Bing and Jun Long, also contortionists and jugglers from China, squeezed into tiny tubes that made me a bit claustrophobic, but were also incredible to witness.
The degree of professionalism and quality of the acts was impressive. There is never a moment when there wasn’t something engaging happening on stage.
Even when the acts were changing, other entertainment was taking place, making for smooth transitions from act to act.
Kaylee Couvillion, Louis Joseph LaVecchia, Charles Robinson, and Colleen McCary from the United States are Skipping Elves, performing some unbelievable jump rope action.
They even have a magic act with Natalia Khazina and Ilya Ryzhkov from Russia as quick-change artists that perform costume changes that defy the imagination.
Probably the most frightening act was performed by Anatoliy Yeniy of Moldova and Vladimir Dovgan from the Ukraine as the Wobbly Penguins. The two men were linked arm in arm on a tall, small platform balancing on a skateboard sized board with a cylinder underneath. The first attempt didn’t work and the board went flying. Then they added platform after platform until they were extremely high in the air.
There has got to be an easier way to earn a living. It was really incredible and breathtaking to witness.
For comic relief Martin Lamberti of Germany played the bell conductor clown who had four people from the audience participate in bell ringing. Lamberti was commanding, delightful, and thoroughly engaging.
Less successful was Jose Henry from Columbia as the tightrope walking Toy Soldier who fell off the bouncing rope more than once. Let’s hope he was just having a bad night.
Olena Piontkevych from the Ukraine and Andrey Lyamin from Russia were exquisite as the beautiful Flying Angels, gliding gracefully high in the air on two silken drapes.
The numerous day-glow colored costumes by Cirque Productions, Lenora Taylor, and Santiago Rojo were garish in the extreme, with strange bobbles and spikes coming out of some headpieces, but they got the point across that they were all ornaments.
Goldberg founded Cirque Dreams in 1993, and has numerous shows that tour, similar to the more familiar Cirque du Soleil. Cirque Dreams isn’t as sophisticated as the latter, but is more jam-packed with acts.
This is a terrific show for children, with Santa and Mrs. Claus available for photo ops, as well as ice skaters on a small rink in the lobby. At two hours it is a bit long for the very young.
Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the hectic holiday season and give the family the entertaining gift of “Cirque Dreams Holidaze.”

Four Stars
Theater: The William H. Mortensen Hall at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
Location: 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford
Production: Created and directed by Neil Goldberg. Music and lyrics by Jill Winters and David Scott with additional music by Lance Conque and Tony Aliperti. Costume design by Cirque Productions, Lenora Taylor, Santiago Rojo. Act design by Goldberg, Heather Hoffman, louri Klepatsky. Scenic design by Jon Craine. Lighting design by Kate Johnston.
Running time: 2 hours, plus one 20-minute intermission.
Show Times: Thursday at 6:30 p.m., Friday at 3 and 7 p.m., and Saturday at 1 p.m., through Dec. 20.
Tickets: $30 to $65. Call 860-987-5900 or visit their website at

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