“One of the main things Cirque said to me early on was that they were considering doing a show that would be an homage to women,” says director Diane Paulus. “It was an opportunity I could not pass up. It’s usually 25 percent women to 75 percent male in a typical show. We are nearly the opposite ratio.”
“Amaluna,” which opens in The City this week, marks Paulus’ first collaboration with Cirque du Soleil. Preparing for the show, the renowned New York theater director (known for finding remarkable talent) spent nearly a year seeking top female acrobats from all over the world, and she witnessed “every single talent a woman can do.”
How it translates to the Cirque stage is remarkable. Audiences are taken to a clandestine island governed by goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. A queen, Prospera, oversees her daughter’s coming-of-age ritual, which honors femininity, rebirth and renewal.
Despite the themes, Paulus says, “It was pretty clear to me that I didn’t want to build a ‘women’s agenda’ show. I wanted to make a show with women in the center of it, something that had a hidden story that featured women as the heroines.”
The production doesn’t entirely lack masculinity. After Prospera unleashes a storm, a group of young men arrives on the island and romance blooms between Romeo and Prospera’s daughter. Naturally, their love is tested.
So is the strength of Cirque’s dynamic performers. Numerous acrobatic elements include stunning feats with aerial straps, a Chinese pole, a cerceau (aerial hoop) and a large water bowl. One act destined to stand out may be the Icarian Games, a showcase with spinning, glowing water meteors.
“I think people will be surprised by the emotional impact of the live experience,” Paulus says. “What I was so determined to do was make the audience care about what they were seeing onstage — and connect to it.
“That’s a very strong focus of ‘Amaluna’ and it goes hand in hand with seeing women onstage,” she adds. “The power of that — seeing how these women convene together adds a real emotional layer to the entire project.”
IF YOU GO
Presented by Cirque du Soleil
Where: Big Top, Third Street and Terry A. Francois Boulevard, S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 4:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 4:30 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 24 and Dec. 31; closes Jan. 12
Tickets: $55 to $270
BY THE NUMBERS
15 million audience members who have seen Cirque in 2013
150 people hired locally on “Amaluna”
120 international cast and crew members of “Amaluna”
8 days to set up the Big Top