The most thrilling stunt in Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna” is a meditative and positively mesmerizing sequence in which the Balance Goddess erects a unique and wild structure made of what looks like large palm fronds.
Using her feet, Lara Jacobs Rigolo builds her creation, a seemingly large animal skeleton of sorts, keeping the audience spellbound, and quiet, for a luxurious length of time. It’s a seemingly revolutionary act in today’s world filled with multitasking and 15-second attention spans.
The rest of “Amaluna” — Cirque’s 32nd production since 1984, now in The City in the big tent near AT&T Park — is a hit-and-miss affair.
As is often the case in Cirque shows, the story of an island girl’s coming of age, supposedly reminiscent of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” is difficult to decipher, as is a theme of female empowerment.
Yet many of the women in the foreground of the show, directed by Diane Paulus of Broadway renown, kick booty. For example, the all-female band — cellist-vocalist Julie McInness, Prince-inspired guitarists Rachael Wood and Angie Swan, drummer Didi Negron, bassist Teresa Morini, singer Jennifer Aubrey and percussionist Mireille Marchal — excels at varied musical styles.
Miranda, who experiences young love, is portrayed by contortionist and balance artist Iulia Mykhailova, who also goes for a dip in a large bowl of water. Her paramour, Evgeny Kurkin, races up a pole and displays mind-blowing acts of upper-arm strength.
Balancing “lizards” on Miranda’s island of origin are an exhilarating act, as well as athletic, agile women on uneven bars and men on teeterboards. Cali, a half-human, half-lizard character, is confusing; however, juggler Viktor Kee is adept at his trade.
Yet too much time is spent on aerial ballet and a pair of clowns whose irrelevant story really slows down proceedings.
Meanwhile, “women power” themes come through sporadically, with the titular Moon Goddess; Leysan Gayazova, on an aerial hoop; and the fast-moving aerial straps act, Valkyries, in which Renee Koehler, Kylee Maupoux and Andréanne Nadeau soar above the crowd — thrilling!
Of course, production values are up to Cirque’s amazing standards, and with its one-of-a-kind costumes conjuring fantastic characters and creatures, “Amaluna” is often a visual treat.
However, as a story of women making a statement and their way in the world, it doesn’t compare to designer-choreographer Kate Mitchell’s “Fashioning Women,” a terrific art and fashion event last Saturday at SOMArts Cultural Center in which Bay Area women (and a few hearty men) danced, witnessed cutting-edge couture (with commentary) and enjoyed each other’s company.
Presented by Cirque du Soleil
Where: Big Top, Third Street and Terry A. Francois Boulevard, S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 4:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 4:30 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 24 and Dec. 31; closes Jan. 12
Tickets: $55 to $270