When East Meets West: Dralion Takes Cleveland by Storm
CLEVELAND—The roar of dralions (a clever blending of eastern dragons and western lions) could be heard throughout lower Cleveland over the holiday weekend, drawing thousands to their temporary home within Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center. Billed as a performance that “transcends the boundaries of imagination”, the performers and crew of Cirque Du Soleil’s Dralion masterfully achieved just that.
Running April 4th through 8th, spectators were transported to a dazzling world of rich colors, moving instrumentals, flowing textiles and awe-inspiring acrobatics. Audience goers were treated to a bevy of phenomenal acts showcasing the talents of over fifty performers, at a level of perfection that could only be delivered by Cirque Du Soleil.
Reflecting over 3,000 years of Chinese acrobatic arts, the various acts in Dralion successfully blend eastern traditions with western culture. Over the course of the performance, audiences were treated to spectacles ranging from juggling to a high-stakes game of “Diablos”, Cirque’s unique spin on a classic children’s toy–the Chinese yo-yo. For fans of high-flying excitement, their thirst for aerial thrills was quenched by acts such as “Pas de Deux”, an aerial dance requiring both strength and flexibility from the couple intertwined in a band of blue cloth.
The level of talent on display each night was undeniable, but what goes into bringing a performance of this caliber to an arena like the Wolstein Center? On April 4th, the Weekly Villager was offered a chance to find out.
Tracing its origins back to 1999, Dralion was originally conceived and produced as one of Cirque Du Soleil’s Grand Chapiteau (big top) tours. Production Manager Alain Gauthier explained that in an effort to increase the accessibility (in terms of location), the show was “brought into a new reality” in 2010 when the Cirque creative team “redid [the technical aspects of Dralion] from scratch”. Stressing that while “[the show] remains artistically the same”, the arena tour has enabled the production team to rework the lighting and costumes to “achieve the quality of vision that both the designers and audiences expect”. Working together to produce a “stereo image”, an attempt at creating a unifying experience for audience goers, the creative team believes that “every seat should be a good seat”.
For Cirque Du Soleil, the spectacle comes not from the performers alone, but the blending of aural and visual performances. Not even the stage–described as a “twelve-agon”–escaped the creative team’s eye.
Seeking to reduce load-in/load-out times on the tour, Cirque Du Soleil’s stage supplier developed a unique “no-tool” stage that eliminates the need for screws and nails. Relying on magnets and a host of locking pins, the individual segments that compose the stage can be quickly assembled or disassembled with the “swing of an orange rubber hammer” and an allen key.
When the Dralion trucks arrive at a venue, laden with over 400,000 pounds of equipment, costumes and supplies, it is all hands on deck. Traveling with a permanent crew of 24 technicians, the production crew typically hires upwards of 60 local workers to help with load-in and over 75 for load out. Arriving one day ahead of opening night, load-in typically lasts 8-10 hours while the set and all equipment can be loaded out within 3 hours. Gauthier states that the current load-out record for this year’s tour is about 2 hours and 28 minutes.
Whether you missed your chance to see Dralion or want to experience the magic again, Cirque Du Soleil will be returning to the region in July with a new production which promises to deliver the same level of spectacle and excitement. Cirque Du Soleil’s Michael Jackson the Immortal World Tour blends the King of Pop’s music with “[a] riveting fusion of visuals, dance and fantasy” that will draw audiences into “Michael’s creative world and literally turn his signature moves upside down”.
Photographs from Dralion