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Where EAST meets the Northwest

 

"Sticks" (Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil)

"Russian Swings" (Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil)

Members of the synchronized tumbling act are seen during a practice session held prior to the first show in Portland. The performers in the act are Narihito Tonosaki, Hayami Yumita, Yuta Takahashi, Kodai Noro, and Ryota Asadome. (AR Photo/Jan Landis)

Members of the synchronized tumbling act enjoy some down time prior to the first show in Portland. (AR Photo/Jan Landis)

A member of the Cirque du Soleil Varekai production practices her act prior to the opening show in Portland. (AR Photo/Jan Landis)

"Russian Swings" performers are seen during a practice session prior to the opening of Varekai in Portland. (AR Photo/Jan Landis)

"Russian Swings" performers are seen during a practice session prior to the opening of Varekai in Portland. (AR Photo/Jan Landis)

Narihito Tonosaki speaks during a media preview event for Cirque du Soleilís Varekai. (AR Photo/Jan Landis)

Asian Reporter web extra, May 7, 2015

A walk in the forest with Cirque du Soleil

By Kate Hubbard
The Asian Reporter

It began with the sounds of a forest and the image of light peeking through the trees. Only the trees were thick poles, and the forest, much like this show from Cirque du Soleil, is just temporary magic. It was the spring of 2006 the last time Varekai was in Portland, but this time there is no yellow and blue Grand Chapiteau erected on Portlandís south waterfront. This Varekai is a travelling version of the show, and itís now showing at Portlandís Veterans Memorial Coliseum. With a different roofline and constantly evolving acts, only the story remains the same. But as always, seeing the show is an experience that triggers oneís imagination -- and also perhaps motivates a visit to the gym.

Varekai is a panoramic explosion of color, movement, and music. Cirque du Soleil is known for its lush costumes and highly skilled acrobatics, and this show upholds that tradition. In just a little more than two hours, attendees are transported to a world where magical things happen and anything is possible. The things the performers are able to do with a net, or batons, or even a set of crutches, are pretty surreal. And the final act -- the "Russian Swings," which features Mongolian, Australian, and Russian performers -- it will take your breath away.

The production features whimsical creatures in wildly imaginative costumes as well as acts that seem to defy physics. Itís a show thatís well worth the effort of getting over to the Rose Quarter before May 10, the last chance to see Varekai in Portland before it moves to its next three venue in British Columbia.

After months of training at Cirque du Soleil headquarters in Montreal, a new act is now included in Varekai. A group of Japanese tumblers was added only three weeks ago. The performers -- all in their twenties -- were discovered by the organization at a scouting competition in Japan.

A driving beat announced the arrival onstage of the synchronized tumblers, onto what looked like a large, bouncy tree stump. The performers -- Narihito Tonosaki, Hayami Yumita, Yuta Takahashi, Kodai Noro, and Ryota Asadome -- proceeded to fling their bodies through the air with ease, feats that would leave most of us in traction or with a Darwin award.

The tumblers are followed by several acts -- a single-point trapeze artist, "Georgian Dance," "Fireflies," "Slippery Surface," "Lightbulb," and more. Then thereís a young Japanese woman, Arisa Tanaka, who is featured in the baton act called "Sticks" -- itís epic.

From the whimsical creatures to the comic relief, Varekai will take you on a wonderful journey -- a walk in the forest has never been so spectacular.

Varekai is featured at Veterans Memorial Coliseum (1401 N. Wheeler Avenue, Portland) through Sunday, May 10. To learn more, or to buy tickets, call 1-800-745-3000 or visit <www.cirquedusoleil.com/varekai>.

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