DRALION: CIRQUE DU SOLEIL
Review by Michael Jacobson
Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: Multi-Angle Performances, Making-Of Featurette, Trailers
Length: 89 Minutes
I've heard of Cirque du Soleil for years, but until I
watched the DVD presentation of their last big show, Dralion, I had never
seen them on stage. I had no idea
what I was missing. This talented
troupe combines dance, music, acrobatic stunts and comedy with elaborate lights,
costumes and stage settings into a stage performance unlike any other.
They may call themselves a cirque, or circus, but they've far
transcended the normal crudeness of what we tend to think of as a circus,
elevating it from a carnival atmosphere to a high art form.
Dralion is a combination of the words ‘dragon' and
‘lion', and this show represents Cirque du Soleil's melding of their own
acrobatic showmanship with Chinese traditions; a sort of east-meets-west
production that brings the best of both worlds into one spectacular show.
Featuring performers from Asia and Europe, and despite language barriers
and cultural differences, this team comes together to blend individual styles
and abilities into a presentation that's as unified as it is diversified.
With constant music and live singing, the troupe stroll
their acts out one at a time in front of a close and appreciative audience.
After establishing the lights, sounds and effects, the first performer
takes the stage for her pole balancing act.
High in the air and on the tip of a vertical pole, she supports herself
with one hand as she twists, turns, and molds her body like a living sculpture. When she flips from one hand to another with seemingly no
effort, all I could think of was, this little girl had to have more arm strength
Other performances include Viktor Lee, who is by far the
best juggler I've ever seen—you'll really marvel when he gets seven balls
in the air at once without a miscue—a traditional Chinese ring diving act
which has to be seen to be believed, platform jumpers that build a higher human
tower than you could imagine, and a couple of hysterical clown teams who are as
accomplished as musicians as they are comedians. There are no animals and no ringmasters; just artists who
combine movement, stuntwork and skill into a performance that's both awe
inspiring and beautiful to behold.
My only complaint, which keeps this from earning a four
star rating, is the occasional cheesy video effects. When I'm marveling at the physical abilities of these
performers, the last thing I want is for some ambitious editor slowing down the
footage, which also invariably means we're missing another part of the act
because everything is timed and choreographed tightly to music.
There is a whole lot of show packed into this hour and a
half long performance, and I'm thinking now that I've seen Cirque du Soleil,
I'll never be impressed by Ringling Bros. again!
Dralion is a cornucopia of colors, from the costumes
to the sets to the lighting. It's
such a feast for the eyes that I can't help wishing it had been shot on film
rather than video, but there are still very few complaints. As with most video images, there are occasional moments of
unmistakable softness, and some instances of color bleeding and loss of
definition in lower lit settings. While
noticeable, they hardly detract from the overall enjoyment of the program, and
these are the kinds of issues brought about by the medium, not by the transfer.
I didn't notice any undue grain or shimmer, or any other telltale signs
of compression. Overall, this DVD
presentation is about as good as it can be with the source material.
The audio is pretty good, though I couldn't really tell a
nominal difference between the 2 channel and 5.1 channel surround tracks.
The subwoofer hardly comes into play despite the sometimes percussive
music—most of the bass is handled by the other channels.
The rear stage was mainly used for crowd response and reverb, though
occasionally, bits of the musical orchestration could be heard emanating
discreetly from them. The overall
dynamic range was surprisingly limited, despite the potential given the quieter
comedy performances contrasting with the more potent music.
The clarity is top notch all the way:
no noise, drop-outs or distortions.
All in all a good, if imperfect, audio presentation.
The disc contains a nice making-of featurette, which takes
you behind the scenes to show the performers training and rehearsing, as well as
the costume, set designs, and the opening night of Dralion.
There are also four multi-angle presentations which give you a choice of
three camera views for each, and trailers for this, Quidam, and Riverdance.
Dralion is an unforgettable show by the masterful troupe Cirque du Soleil, and for those of us who didn't make it to their North American tour, we can thank Columbia Tri Star for preserving it on DVD for us. This is a colorful, musical, spectacular presentation that the whole family can enjoy. You'll see dance, comedy, costumes, lights, and human bodies moving in ways you never dreamed possible.