Nostalgia For A Past That Never Occurred

CAROLING WITH CAROL

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When your eyes were first dazzled by a circus did you go home that night and dream of taming lions, hula-hooping on a tightrope or flying as only a trapeze artist can?

Or did you dream as I did, of painting your face and being a clown?

Instead, most of us grew up and chose lives that are not filled with the thunder of applause.

But later, when we share the magic of the circus with our children it gives us joy to see the wonder in their eyes, knowing what flights of fancy will fill their dreams.

I was raised on Barnum and Bailey's three rings, but in 1990, I saw a new kind of circus out of Canada. Since then, nothing has matched the grandeur of a Cirque du Soleil production.

Animals, if any, are only make-believe.

"Oohs," "ahhs" and "wows" happen when a contortionist walks with his head looking at you from between his knees or when aerial artists dance suspended from a single rope held in the one dancer's teeth.

When six acrobats tumble inside of hoops you hold your breath and pray they don't collide.

Each Cirque du Soleil production has a storyline -- often wavy, surreal and spoken in a foreign tongue.

The annoyance of not understanding the language is overpowered by the agility of the performance artists.

What visions might fill a circus clown's dreams at the end of his life?

Corteo, the Italian word for a funeral procession and the title of Cirque du Soleil's new touring show, gives answers open to interpretation.

Angels with minimalist wings pull the clown from his death bed and teach him to fly.

From the lofty heights he can look back over his life ... to pillow fights and soccer matches where he is the star.

Care was taken in the production of Corteo to have the action happen so that audiences on both sides of the oblong stage have great views.

Sitting under the Cirque big top also offers the delight of intimacy with the performers on-stage.

The clown sends one of his friends floating, suspended from six balloons into the audience.

Her diminutive voice expresses delight at her freedom. In a foreign language she seems with charm to demand, "Look at me. I dare you to resist smiling."

Costumes for Corteo are just as beautiful as the first two Cirque's I saw. Unlike Mystere and Novelle Experience, the faces of the artists are not hidden under paint.

The faces of this cast of 56 don't look any different from the people I see every day in my life.

Perhaps, the clown is really one of us and he has dreamed, to coin a line from the program, "nostalgia for a past that never occurred."

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