Credit: Matt Beard

Volta is Cirque du Soleil’s 41st production since 1983 and, like all the others before it, struggles mightily to be unique. The show’s imagineers (reportedly 16 in all under the guidance of “director of creation” Jean Guibert) have fabricated another Cirque wonder, bursting with gorgeous costumes, carefully crafted spectacles, and virtuosic displays of acrobatic prowess, all performed under a retro big top filled with perfectly calibrated state-of-the-art machines of joy.

As in past shows, there is a story, or at least the hint of a story: Waz, an athletic young man with blue hair and an evocative name, finds himself in an almost inexpressible psychological/spiritual crisis—indicated by music, lighting effects, and choreography—and is overwhelmed with images of his past (riding bikes with his friends, going to the beach). Each dazzling circus act that follows represents, more or less, an episode in his life.

The circus acts are dazzling, and dangerous. How dangerous? In 2018 aerialist Yann Arnaud fell to his death during a performance of Volta in Tampa, Florida.

It’s surprising there aren’t more mishaps. All of the acts in Volta push things to the extreme. The show abounds in performers leaping on trampolines, rebounding on bungee cords, being lifted high off the ground by only their hair; acrobats somersault through ever-higher and smaller hoops; a squad of BMX bikers careens up and down huge ramps, threatening always to fly out into the audience. The ever-present danger is as much a part of a Cirque show as the spectacle. But if it wasn’t death-defying, it wouldn’t be the Cirque.   v