By Matt Bearden
Photos courtesy pf Cirque du Soleil, Matt Bearden, Mikkel Hyldebrandt
Do you think about the world you create?
Do you think about how you interact with the environment?
Do you think about the animals we share Earth with?
ECHO, Cirque du Soleil’s 20th Big Top show, will get you thinking about these questions.
Jaw-dropping acrobatics, hilarious comedy acts, and dimension-breaking props will bring you face-to-face with the exploration and building of the world around us.
An inquisitive girl. FUTURE.
Her companion. Ewai the Dog.
Our world. The CUBE.
FUTURE and Ewai “navigate the phases of evolution” with a menagerie of animal characters as they learn that their “actions have the power to shape the world.” Inspired to collaborate, FUTURE and the menagerie of ECHO’s cast come together to rebuild our planet, the CUBE, piece by piece, creating the world we all want to live in.
Unsurprisingly, Cirque du Soleil challenges how we interact with space, people, and our environment. Performance art, especially, is a commentary on social, political, and cultural climates. While all Cirque du Soleil shows bring a spectacular story performed through modern-day circus acts, ECHO goes further.
ECHO embraces technology and texture more than I have ever seen a Cirque show do. To bring the CUBE to life, to break dimensions, there are 10 projectors set up inside the Big Top—the most a Cirque show has ever used. The projectors show the CUBE dismantling and rebuilding. It gives new imagery and movement as characters interact.
The CUBE, essentially the size of a 2-story apartment building, is made of various materials, such as foam or carbon fiber, in addition to its sturdy structure. One act that audiences will love is the first-of-its-kind dual slackwire act—with fire! When talking to artistic director Fabrice Lemire, this act concerns animals and wildfires. (I thought I was watching a live cinematic experience during this act.)
At its core, ECHO is “fueled by the power of invention.” ECHO invites the audience to participate in a universe of color, wonder, and infinite possibilities. The comedic duo, DOUBLE TROUBLE, plays with the boxes pulled from the CUBE. In a way, they’re exploring how the pieces stack and interact together. With FUTURE, they interact with the blocks as pieces get scattered in the audience. As all Cirque shows have an element of audience participation, the purpose of ECHO becomes meta as audiences actively build the CUBE.
Charlotte O’Sullivan and Penelope Elena Scheidler are ECHO’s hair suspension act. One of my favorite acts of the show, these two performers came to Cirque du Soleil as a pair with their own choreographed routine. O’Sullivan praises the trust Lemire and his team have for her and Scheidler. She remarks that it has given them the freedom to create under the Big Top. When watching this act, take in the synergy the two performers share. The grace and beauty in their movements invite you to “suspend” your disbelief in the near impossible. And…while your jaw may be on the floor, imagine if you were hanging 20 or 30 feet in the air from it. You’ll see what I mean.
Interestingly, not all performances of ECHO are the exact same. The show I saw may not be the exact one you’ll see. Live entertainment has its own obstacles and contingency plans. Every act in ECHO has backup acts ready to be swapped in. If the CUBE or some other technical difficulty occurs, the cast has ways to work around it—ways in which you won’t know are swap-ins! The magic of live performance knows no bounds. This means you will always get a spectacular experience whenever you see ECHO or any Cirque du Soleil show.
Art is inviting. It begs the onlookers to put themselves in a position of introspection and introspection. As queer people, we often ask where our representation in the art is. Sometimes, it’s evident through the rainbow’s presence or outward demonstration of queer love. Other times, it’s more subtle.
If ECHO’s message is “the “world is yours to create,” where can queer audiences find themselves in this show? Lemire has the perfect answer:
FUTURE and the CUBE. You draw your path. We don’t know where we’re going as gay people, so just go and explore. Being different is important. You must force yourself to find those places to be accepted. A message of hope in the way everyone gets together.
When connecting queerness and FUTURE, you should look at her outfit: clouds and camouflage. Blending in. She hasn’t fully realized herself, much like how we queer people are still realizing who we are. We search for our tribes. We blend in with specific environments. But ultimately, we become our true selves by creating our paths.
The impact we make on our world leaves a permanent mark. I know for me, and I hope for you, too, that we are creating a beautiful and hopeful world. A world where we won’t need to hide. Where our sisters and brothers can become who they truly are in creating art and poetry—creating a better future.
Cirque du Soleil’s ECHO is at Atlantic Station through January 21, 2024. As with every Cirque show, there is no bad seat in the house. When arriving, enjoy the preshow’s jugglers and clowns mingling and teasing patrons. Pick up popcorn, cold drinks, and merchandise, too! You can purchase general admission, VIP, or Premium Backstage Tour packages all through Cirque du Soleil’s website. While on the website, check out the content about costuming, set design, characters, and more through videos and an immersive app!
Post, rave, and enjoy Cirque du Soleil’s newest show, ECHO!!
Get tickets at cirquedusoleil.com/echo, tag Cirque du Soleil’s ECHO using #ECHOcirque on their social platforms!