Welcome to Kurios: Cirque meets Steam!

Official Kurios Promotional Image

The IT Guy and myself we’re lucky enough to get to see Kurios in Chicago last week. For those of you unfamiliar with Cirque du Soleil, the performance group brings together various acrobatic and traditional circus performance acts: contortionists, gymnastic acts, trapeze artists, and more. The acts all tie together following a general story line (for shows like Quidam) or simply all match a costume/inspirational theme (like Ovo). Shows run for about 2 hours (plus an intermission) and have a variety of acts within them. For each show there is always a distinctive selection of acts that match the theme or attitude of the show.

Shows takes place under a ‘traditional’ big top, only better. Cirque tent: large multi-post tent made of bold yellow and blue stripes with a decorative arc entrance

Inside the tent is a full size stage with intensive rigging and (thankfully) blasting A/C. Before you get to the stage, though, you can do a fair amount of shopping for the standard theater swag like tshirts, hoodies, hats, and umbrellas (my personal selection) as well as Circ merch like art books, CDs, and the like. New to me was the photobooth where waiting ticket holders could choose from an array of props for a green-screen photo op. Luckily the ITGuy is a good sport and humored me:

The Librarian and the IT guy in Victorian hats holding fake cameras inside a green-screen hot air balloon picture

Kurios, where “Reality if Relative”, has a very upbeat and excitable attitude. The costumes range from traditional Victorian garb for the balancing gymnasts to colorful poke-a-dotted fish suits for the contortionists. True to the Steampunk aesthetic the main non-gymnastic character, The Man Scientist, was accompanied by large automatons, several phonographs, and cracks of free flowing electricity. The music, played by a live band of a cello, a banjo, a violin, and a single drum and accompanied by a live vocalist, had the feeling of Moulin Rouge: peppy, dance inspiring, and distinctly French.

Acts included:

  • An aerial bicycle
  • Russian Cradle (strong-man throws a very small woman around allowing her to complete trapeze style aerial flips)
  • Contortionists
  • Chair Balance (chairs are stacked higher and higher requiring the performer to balance carefully on at a constantly increasing height)
  • Acro Net (trampoline act with parkour inspired motion)
  • Cirque staple Aerial Straps
  • Rola Bola balancing act on an aviator’s flying machine

See a full list and description (plus costume previews) on the show’s website.

Personally I was most impressed with the Acro Net. It was incredible to see over a dozen performers all working together with perfect timing to jump, spring, and fly across the stage. It was fun to watch, and the performers seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves too. Unlike many Cirque acts which leave you staring in awe at the grace and strength of the performers this was purely entertaining.

So would I suggest Kurios as a Steampunk outing? You bet your brass buttons I do.

While it’s easy to dismiss the show as simply taping into a popular theme, that doesn’t give the choreographers or costumers the credit they deserve. They took core feelings of Steampunk — the appreciation for the self made artist, the imagination, and the re imagining of the turn-of-the-century circus — and turned it into a non-verbal performance piece. That’s no easy feat, and they did it impeccably.

Kurios will be in Chicago through September, then it will continue to travel. Check where it’ll be next on the Cirque ticket website.  Cirque shows travel a lot, and at different times over the years. If you don’t see your city listed, check back regularly OR you can join the Cirque Club and get emails whenever any show is coming to you.

Even if a circus show isn’t your cup of tea, the custom music from the show can serve as amazing artistic inspiration, or to shake up your next Steampunk event playlist. The music is distinctly jazzy and Francophonic making it not only fun to listen to, but wholly engaging and attention grabbing.