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Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Alegria’ plays through Sunday at Germain Arena

By Staff | Aug 11, 2011

Against a backdrop of imaginative music, costumes and performances that only Cirque du Soleil can bring to the stage, “Alegria” tells a story about the unavoidable struggle and necessary transfer of power between generations.

The show, which debuted in 1994 in Montreal, Canada, is wrapping up its North American tour with a handful of shows at the Germain Arena before heading to Europe. It opened Wednesday night and plays through Sunday.

Artistic director Tim Smith said “Alegria” stands for “joy” or “jubilation.”

“It sets up the concept and struggle between the generations,” he said. “That the old generation has to give the gauntlet to the new generation.”

Throughout the performance, the audience is introduced to an array of characters from the Nostalgic Old Birds, a group representative of the old ways and old systems, to the younger, innocent and even rebellious cast.

Approximately 55 artists from about 17 countries showcase a variety of street-performance type skills ranging from acrobatics and contortionists, to aerial tricks and acts involving a cyr wheel, which is a large metal hoop.

“The environment is very diverse,” Smith said. “They’re incredible people.”

Tyler Block, a performer who works the cyr wheel, said he started out in gymnastics when he was 3 years old. As a youth he had dreams of being in the Olympics, then found himself grown and considering studies overseas.

Before making a decision, though, the science major from the University of California at Berkley took a chance and sent in an audition tape to Cirque du Soleil. Block had attended shows as a child with his parents and took a shot.

“I thought, ‘I have the skills, let’s see if I could get in,'” he said.

Block was invited to attend a camp at the headquarters in Montreal.

“I told my mom this opportunity came up, I think I should take it,” he said.

After first helping others train for another Cirque du Soleil show, Block eventually was called up to perform the cyr wheel and the aerial high bar in “Alegria.” Though his focus now is just cyr wheel, the show offers more.

“There’s such a great mix,” he said of the performers.

Block called being part of Cirque du Soleil “an amazing experience.”

“It’s a dream come true,” he said.

According to Smith, one big obstacle for the Cirque du Soleil touring performers is accommodating themselves to a new arena every week.

“That’s a challenge for the artists and the entire team,” he said.

“Alegria” was originally directed by Franco Dragone for the “big top” in Montreal. The music for the show, which is live – sung and played – is the top selling musical score out of all of Cirque du Soleil’s creations, he said.

“It’s energizing, invigorating and emotional,” Smith said.

The makeup – the performers are taught how to do their own – and the costumes in “Alegria” help to tell the characters’ stories within the story.

“Each show is unique, each show is different,” Smith said, adding that “Alegria” a unique experience that Southwest Florida does not want to miss.

For more information, visit the website at: www.cirquedusoleil.com.

Performances will be held today at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Tickets are $48-$109, that includes fees, and seating is found in the main, lower and upper levels.

Purchase tickets at the T.I.B. Box Office at the Germain Arena, at 11000 Everblades Parkway, Estero, or contact Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 or visit: www.ticketmaster.com. Also try the website: www.germainarena.com.