Stepping Out

A 'Big Top' for the modern age

A spirited adventure unfolds in Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Volta’

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The Big Top is back on Long Island. Cirque du Soleil is settling in at Nassau Coliseum on Thursday for an extensive stay with “Volta,” its energetic spectacle that’s been captivating audiences since it’s North American tour began last year.

Now Long Islanders can get in on the action. The high-tech circus-style show unfolds with a storyline about the freedom to choose and the thrill of blazing your own trail. An homage to the adventurous spirit that fuels the culture of action sports, the production weaves acrobatics into a visually striking show driven by the energetic beat of electro-pop.

According to the creative team, “Volta is a story of transformation. It is about being true to oneself, fulfilling one’s true potential, and recognizing one’s own power to make it possible. Ultimate freedom comes with self-acceptance, and with the liberation of the judgment of others.”

Audiences follow along with Waz, a game show contestant who has lost touch with himself. “It takes you on a journey that everyone will respond to differently,” says Johnny Kim, Cirque’s assistant artistic director. “Everyone leaves feeling something unique to them. That’s the magic of the show. It brings up a sense of emotion that taps into your soul.”

In Cirque du Soleil tradition, the fast-paced spectacle features their signature mix of acrobatics, juggling, contortion and lively visuals, supplemented with their interpretation of “street sports.” BMX riding, parkour and bungee jumping amp up the thrill level. Each act highlights the show’s themes.

“Volta represents a new style for us,” says Kim. “We’ve added a young, contemporary vibe with electronic music and the addition of street sports. It’s an exciting evolution for Cirque du Soleil. The BMX riders at the end, during the finale, really wow audiences.”

“We’re reinforcing the traditional circus acts, such as shape diving [in which acrobats tumble and jump through shapes, sometimes feet first, sometimes backwards, sometimes bent in half] and hair hanging with the newer elements. We’re bringing some of the traditional skills back with a retro feeling that’s exciting to see. Some of our audience didn’t know these older elements existed, so what’s old is new to them. Other elements may have only been seen on a YouTube video, so it really transforms the show to see them live.”

The set design, highlighted by a granite quarry landscape and the pulsating music punctuate the energetic spectacle. Electronic composer Anthony Gonzalez, of the acclaimed French electro-pop band M83, bring his modern sound to Cirque du Soleil for the first time. The result is a series of atmospheric musical landscapes that propel the show along.

The highly cinematic music evokes a complex array of emotions and moods that ebb and flow, always in sync with the acrobatic performances on stage. It is a narrative tool in its own right, echoing the different arcs in the storyline.

The two-hour show concludes with a BMX routine highlighted by a full-blown BMX park mounted on stage in front of the audience’s eyes. Riders invade the stage to deliver a fast and furious performance of nonstop acrobatics on wheels. The riders go up the jump boxes and perform air tricks before landing and leaping off the ramps again, crisscrossing and spinning their bikes in midair in a spirit of brotherhood.

The ending is a positive acknowledgement of Waz’s transformation as he reconnects with his true self “It’s really all about a celebration of differences and the uniqueness of others,” says Kim.

“Throughout you’ll see so many amazing things. The very stylized acrobatic acts are fun and energetic. The hair hanging is just incredible. People are flabbergasted by what they are seeing and with good reason.”

“All in all, it’s an exciting show that comes together a cast of 48 people who represent 25 different nations. It’s an outstanding group of international talent and charisma.”

Cirque du Soleil

When: Thursday, May 17, through Sunday, July 1. Tickets start at $55.

Where: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale. (800) 745-3000/877-924-7783 or www.ticketmaster.com or www.cirquedusoleil.com/volta.