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Review: Cirque du Soleil celebrates progression, humanity in ‘Totem’

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During the foot juggling act, two performers balance on top of each other while also spinning objects on their hands and feet Aug. 22 at the Ohio Expo Center. Cirque du Soleil is in Columbus through Sept. 15. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

During the foot juggling act, two performers balance on top of each other while also spinning objects on their hands and feet Aug. 22 at the Ohio Expo Center. Cirque du Soleil is in Columbus through Sept. 15. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

A scientist, a businessman and an ape standing in the wetlands seems like the perfect set-up for a joke. However, from an evolutionary angle set at the vantage point of one of the most theatrical circuses around, this scene becomes more joyous, celebratory and meaningful than any punch line.

And thus, those three figures, spread at equal distance from each other in the middle of the first act, sets the stage for Cirque du Soleil’s triumph of man’s transformation.

The Quebec-based company has set tent at the Ohio Expo Center for the first time since December to bring Columbus audiences “Totem.” The show, only one of Cirque’s 19 current shows internationally, centralizes itself around the theme of human evolution, but not in order of the classic image associated with man’s development.

The show begins logically, starting with man’s amphibian stage performed on parallel bars. But then, we fast-forward through all of humanity’s famous primal years and arrive at a summer beach, where two “Jersey Shore”-esque men court a woman by demonstrating their physiques on the rings. Later, though, the show rewinds progression, halting at a native man and woman performing a tribal dance with hoops.

The lack of chronologic sense, though, is what makes “Totem” so commemoratory of human origin.

Instead of fixating on the simplicity and innocence of life before being introduced to the technological advances that make up current modernity, the audience is told to focus on what makes each stage beautiful through acrobatic love stories and playful juggling of light bulbs.

In turn, we are told to see advances not as one step towards the isolation of human, but as the natural flow of human progression.

Of course, Cirque du Soleil maintains their reputation of storytelling through artistic and imaginative acrobatic feats, elaborate costume and a universal soundtrack in “Totem.” Even more impressive, though, is the show does not confine man’s evolution to one type of culture. Instead, it is a global affair, with a familiar tribal song here, touches of Bollywood there and a Spanish love song over there.

By the end of the show, every line of the body will be appreciated, every emotion acknowledged and every step of mankind celebrated.

“Totem” opened Aug. 22 at the Ohio Expo Center and will run until Sept. 15. Show times vary per day, and ticket prices vary per seat.

Tickets can be purchased on “Totem’s” website.

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