Canadian circus troupe Cirque du Soleil are in Dubai with the family-friendly show Ovo, an insect-themed performance that opened on Thursday night.
Expectations are high — and will be met, at least for families with young children. At the Coca-Cola Arena, guests are greeted with a colourful ecosystem teeming with insect life, courtesy of a digital projection on the rear wall.
Ovo, Portuguese for egg, tells the story of a lady bug, a fly and an eccentric “chief of the insect community”, who try to weave a love story using only insect sounds.
Visually and technically, the concept works wonderfully, as the acrobats mimic the movements of the tiny animals in a masterful display of grace (and incredible upper body strength). Expect eye-popping performances — from a group of "red ants" swinging along three tall poles, to an energetic ensemble of "crickets" jumping and tumbling across the stage.
One of my favourite moments from the show is when a duo of aerial strap artists emerge as budding butterflies, in an almost emotional visual spectacle. The music, by award-winning Brazilian composer Berna Ceppas, as well as a seven-piece band, holds the scene together masterfully.
Another crowd favourite is the entertaining and engaging diabolo artist. His first attempt to juggle four diabolos fails, albeit in front of a very forgiving Dubai audience. He tries it again and delivers a jaw-dropping act.
The best act of the evening comes courtesy of the trapeze team. Donning beetle costumes, they leap and fly overhead, as the amused and slight apprehensive audience gasps. But that's the major selling point for groups such as Cirque du Soleil — the satisfaction of seeing a death-defying act sticking the landing.
The troupe's artists undergo rigorous training to be able to perform such acts. They even fly a travelling gym with them on global tours to ensure performers are physically prepared. The custom-made stage is also designed with utmost safety in mind.
The narrative, however, lacks punch and can feel a bit dry at times to the adults in the audience. Fortunately, the show ends with a spirited performance by a group of trampoline artists and tumblers masquerading as crickets. So contagious is their energy, they have the audience shouting and bursting into applause with every successful bounce and jump.
The flashy Montreal circus troupe, which almost went bankrupt during the pandemic, clearly is not ready to dim their lights.
Speaking to The National before opening night, Cirque du Soleil's publicist on tour Janie Mallet says Ovo, which was first staged in 2009, has undergone a lot of changes over the years.
It is one of the group's best-travelled shows and has been seen by more than seven million people in 155 cities and 26 countries. Cirque du Soleil recently finished shows in Riyadh and Kuwait, and will head to Cairo after Dubai.
The acrobatic numbers overshadow the narrative, despite a rather charming performance from the insect trio. However, it's worth the drive to the arena in City Walk, especially if you have children who are likely to have a memorable evening out.
The two-hour shows run until Wednesday. Tickets start at Dh116 from dubai.platinumlist.net
Scroll through the gallery below to see images from backstage