Babes in Arms

Leslye Orr describes the tyranny of tots; Cirque du Soleil cavorts under the big top

Even at its most cheesy and bombastic--and Cirque du Soleil slips across the line into overwrought bombast with startling speed--Dralion represents modern circus at its most exciting. When other circuses seem like an act of nostalgia, presenting the same dozen acts in the same setting as though frozen in the year 1932, Cirque du Soleil presses forward. (This includes shuttling immigrant labor around the globe to the company's seven shows, and soliciting corporate sponsorship from Lincoln, whose new models flank the big top.) They combine the physically astonishing with the technologically unlikely in a way that has never been seen previously: A massive metallic spider scuttles onto the stage, pausing only long enough for a performer to explode out of its back, as acrobats in white tights scamper up and down the walls like frenzied cockroaches. Even the lighting crew participates in the spectacle: They appear to have been welded into their spotlights, dangling 60 feet in the air like the living embodiment of some nightmarish H.R. Giger painting.

If your child responds to this overflow of visual stimuli with gleeful chortling, you can congratulate yourself on your excellent child-rearing skills. If, instead, they curl up into a ball and sob in terror--well, that offers pleasures of its own, doesn't it?

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