Cirque Du Soleil’s ‘Volta’ Delivers Spectacle… To a Degree

Cirque du Soleil has returned to Seattle/Redmond once again with another experience—Volta—presumably conceived by a three-day drug bender in which twisted, nonsensical dreams were put to paper and then stage—and above stage—by the stoners who think up these odd, somewhat incoherent stories.

The great thing is you don’t really need to understand what the hell is going on or even care about its loose, interpretive character arcs. After all, Volta, like all Cirque du Soleil performances, is about the experience and the spectacle.

And, undeniably, Volta delivers experience and spectacle.

The show begins with a super strange “TV” talent show called Mr. Wow and from there quickly descends into vignettes perhaps linked together only in the creators’ minds but engaging nonetheless. What ensues is a two-hour event full of entertaining if inconsistent performances that include trampolines, bike ramps, ladders and of course aerial dance.

The trampoline sequence—in which several of the performers fall, jump and bounce in perfect rhythm, sliding in and out of a structure as easily (or so it appears) as you and I walk down a sidewalk—is a highlight and delivers what most would expect of a Cirque du Soleil show.

Another sequence, in which a woman flies above the audience by her hair—literally—is the most jaw-dropping moment, while a duet featuring a chiseled dude on a unicycle and an equally chiseled young woman who at one point stands on his head without any other support, evokes loud cheers.

In a less physically demanding—and yet still physical—part of the show, a mime who talks like a minion attempts to wash some clothes at a very uncooperative laundromat evokes plenty of laughter, especially from the toddler sitting behind me. Unfortunately, the mime’s second segment, set on a crowded beach, wears out its welcome long before it ends.

Other parts of the show, while still dazzling to some degree or another, are less impressive. An interpretive dance on a folding ladder falls flat, and the climax, which has several young men performing tricks on bike jumps, presents plenty of skill but feels like a lesser version of something you could watch on YouTube at any given moment.

In the moment, every aspect of the show works, and yet between the surprisingly simple stage design—especially compared to what was used at last year’s Luzia—and the even more surprising lack of truly awe-inspiring aerial acrobatics, Volta seems much less grand—smaller, even—than other Cirque du Soleil and similar performances I’ve witnessed in recent years.

That doesn’t make it any less worth the price of admission, though, as even in its lesser moments, Volta is an energetic, kinetic blast. Even if none of it really makes much sense.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Miscellaneous