Chapter 1: My sister and I take Aerial Fitness at Cirque School L.A. Since my last (and only) trapeze class, they’ve moved into their very own gym in Hollywood. It’s filled with bouncy balls and trampolines and taped-up trapezes and flowy silks hanging from the ceiling. The good thing about going with Cathy is that we have all the same magical childhood associations. So one of us says, “Trampoline” and the other says, “Seriously.” And no more words need be exchanged.
I have this plan that I will take all necessary cirque classes (about three months’ worth) to fill my grant requirements; then I’ll quit therapy and use the money I save to become a fucking trapeze goddess. That means I have three months to get my head healthy. The anxiety I had about getting a routine pap smear does not bode well for my mental health.
Chapter 2: Cathy and I can barely move our arms on Sunday—just washing my back in the shower kills me—but we make it to the Kodak Theatre, where Cirque du Soleil is staging Iris, its homage to classic Hollywood. Anyone who’s worried that one medium (film) will eclipse another (theater), need only look to Iris to see the possibilities of us all-just-getting-along. Live filmed bits flicker elegantly alongside stage performers who interact with them directly.
Iris has pretty much the same vague premise as all Cirque shows—everyman gets whisked away to mysterious dream world—but since this is what it means to go to the movies, it makes more sense here. Also, since the early days of Hollywood coincided with the end of the circus’ golden age, all the ‘20s costumes give you the feeling of peeking into two histories at once. My favorite number is a Busby Berkley-inspired piece in which a string of starlets and dashing young men follow each other in and out of a row of dressing rooms, interacting with filmed backdrops and disappearing behind doors. It is choreography as magic trick.
Hardcore circus fans also lament that Cirque du Soleil hides much of the apparatus behind its polished sets, and that the visible scaffolding of the circus is integral to its beauty. That’s why I love a showstopper that pays homage to the backstage circus of 1930s, Cecil B. DeMille-style epics. Contortionists dressed as aliens climb a ladder while Roman soldiers stampede and some sort of gaffer-type person twirls from a rope. These are worlds that speak to each other easily; each indulges in the harmonic chaos of Putting On A Show. And no vertical space is wasted, so even the cheap seats are spectacular.
Cathy and I clap plenty loud and raise our hands as high as our aching shoulder blades will let us.