A journey of self-empowerment comes alive under the Big Top

China 24

Physical stunts that seem impossible. Visual artistry that stirs the senses. And a stirring story about how to reach one’s full potential.

That combination is behind one of the newest productions of a world-renowned troupe.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo got a behind-the-scenes look – with a trio that’s bringing this tale to life.

Don’t let the Big Top fool you – one show will turn your idea of a circus on its head.

“There’s no animals because we focus on the talent of humans,” explained Enmeng Song, a member of the elite troupe that makes up Cirque du Soleil’s newest production.

And it’s not just any humans but some of the top performers in the world.

“Cirque du Soleil is very famous around the world, everyone knows Cirque du Soleil,” said Wentao Xian, another Cirque performer from China.

Cirque du Soleil is a global household name. For 35 years, it’s wowed audiences with performances that seemingly defy reality.

“I watched so many shows, but not in person, on TV,” said Xian. Xian was once just a fan. He’s now a member of the elite troupe.

“That’s my dream, and now I’m making my dream come true,” said Xian.

He’s part of Cirque du Soleil’s “Volta” show. It’s a tale about a character shunned by society who’s lost touch with himself.

Throughout the show, he embarks on a journey of self-acceptance and empowerment. Xian and two other performers from China – Yan Li and Enmeng Song – represent some of the “Free Spirits” guiding him in the right direction.

“Kind of like a soul, to guide this guy from darkness to happiness,” said Li. “People always lose themselves at some point. And they need to find their own way.”

They perform on Swiss Rings and do shape diving, effortlessly jumping through high hoops.

“You don’t know my next move,” said Li. “I want to surprise you!”

They’re among dozens of international performers – including BMX bikers, trampoline artists and a woman who literally hangs by her hair. It’s a contemporary, urban twist on traditional circus performances – from the acts all the way to the costumes.

“We have different make-up, our costumes are made by hand,” said Song. “It feels like part of your body.”

These performers make it look simple – but they’ve been at it for much of their lives.

“We’ve been practicing for over 10 years, so what we do on stage, you think it’s easy,” said Xian. “But actually, we practice a lot. Sometimes we mess up, we get hurt. But we make it look easy on stage, because we need to show our audience how professional we are.”

Also, the energy of the audience fuels the performers’ own sense of fearlessness.

“Every night, I feel like it’s my first show,” said Song. “I taught myself – this is my first show, also this is my last show. I have to use my power, all my energy to finish.”

“The moment in time is my free time,” said Li. “I feel myself more stronger in life. It’s a fantastic feeling. It’s fantastic. In the beginning, I feel nervous. Afterwards, when I do more and more, I feel more calm and more confident.”

It’s a personal journey they hope resonates – beyond the Big Top.

“We just want to make people feel happy,” said Li. “If they are happy, we make (sic) a successful job.”

Afra Zhao Wang discusses Western entertainment culture in China

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