Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Dralion’ a cultural acrobatic spectacle

The Dralions in Cirque du Soleil’s “Dralion.”
The Dralions in Cirque du Soleil’s “Dralion.” Photo provided

The incredible gymnasts of Cirque du Soleil have been dazzling audiences with their elaborate and high-flying acrobatics for the past 30 years. From Oct. 8-12, Centre County will have the chance to witness these sensational defiers of physics in person when the company unleashes its “Dralion“ production at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Currently in its 15th and final year of performing around the world, “Dralion“ is a hybrid of culture and choreographed calisthenics. Showcasing 3,000 years of Chinese acrobatics with the modern touch of Cirque du Soleil, the one-of-a-kind performance blends the traditions of the East and the West, creating an awe-inspiring palette of sound, color and unrivaled athleticism.

“We are so excited to be bringing Dralion back to the United States,” said the production’s publicist, Julie Desmarais. “The show spreads across centuries of Chinese traditions and acrobatics mixed with the Cirque du Soleil flair of doing the circus. ‘Dralion‘ has some really unique acrobatics that you will only be able to see in this show.

“Dralion is a show about the four elements — water, fire, air and earth — and the costumes are designed to reflect each of those elements,” Desmarais added. “It’s a story about harmony, where all of the elements become one, bringing a balance between humans and nature.”

While the music and lighting certainly enhance the show, what defines “Dralion“ most is the athletes performing on stage. Having left her native country of Japan at 16 year -old to train as a professional trampolinist in the United Kingdom, Hiroi Tokuma has spent the past six years as a member of Cirque, using a trampoline to mock the laws of gravity.

“I have been trampolining for almost all of my life and used to compete for Japan at the international level,” Tokuma said. “After trampolining competitively, I didn’t really know what to do next. I then thought about performing for people without a judge’s table in front of them.”

Like every Cirque production, the choreography and showmanship of “Dralion“ is astounding. The performers spend countless hours practicing and perfecting their routines, getting in sync with each other, not only to put on a great show, but to avoid catastrophic injury.

“Even if you make a mistake, you have to quickly recover and move on,” Tokuma said. “The performers have to communicate with their eyes on stage; we can’t really talk to each other because of the music and everything. We really have to know what the other people are thinking at all times, it’s really kind of challenging. There are so many things going through my head while I’m on stage, but at the same time, I’m still enjoying every minute of it.”

Cirque du Soleil has established itself as the premier contemporary circus for both audiences and performers. Being a member of the company is the equivalent of making the major leagues, the ultimate destination for gymnasts and acrobats eager to perform for audiences around the globe.

“I love being a part of ‘Dralion,’ I have an incredible opportunity to travel the world, I get to see different people and immerse myself in different cultures,” Tokuma said. “Performing is fantastic. The show is very colorful and is such a sight to see.”