Right before Thanksgiving, there are some staples New Yorkers expect to see in their city – the Rockefeller Christmas tree has arrived, major department stores have unveiled their seasonal window displays and for the last four years Cirque du Soleil has provided a winter wonderland inside Madison Square Garden.
Wintuk combines the English word “winter” with Inupiaq phonetics and was first created in 2007. The show centers on a boy named Jaime who lives in a city that has all the characteristics of winter with the exception of one major element, snow (which may be a good thing depending on who you ask). Jaime craves snow, so much so that he goes on a quest to find it. He befriends a homeless woman who is actually a shaman from the mystical tundra of Wintuk and they along with Shadow Girl (another friend of Jamie) and Wimpy (a sheepish clown-like figure) begin the search to find the mythical arctic city. During their exposition, they encounter bumbling thieves, singing lampposts, gigantic fluffy dogs, cranes, glacier beasts, people that seem to be constructed without bones and cops that can give T.J. Lavin a run (or should I say jump) for his money.
Cirque du Soleil intended this incarnation of their modern circus to be an introduction to families into their animated world, the success of their four year run is more than a testament to its appeal. Wintuk is an icy extravaganza for kids of all ages; it is The Wiz on steroids providing maximum visual stimulation. You will find your eyes and head zipping back and forth from one end of the stage to the other as you attempt to take in this spectacle in its entirety. The show allows the daredevil in all of us to run free as we live vicariously through the performers as they execute high-flying, body twisting stunts. It has been years since I have been to a circus, and I was extremely impressed with the sophisticated display in which Cirque du Soleil showcases typical circus acts. Who needs lions, tigers, bears and elephants on parade when you can view beauty, grace and strength as you are swept out of your seats with amazing theatrical acrobatics?
The Slack Wire act, completed on a clothesline, features an equilibrist who showcases concentration, form, might and agility all while comically pulling up his pants. Walking and chewing bubble gum is beyond elementary for the young lady that fuses hip-hop choreography with juggling. Rola-Bola is a seat cringer that showcases one of the most nimble performers I have ever seen. Rag Doll is an illustration of what a human could do without a skeletal frame. This super contortionist makes body twisting look like a piece of cake. Power Track is a nothing less than electric jolts of power and precision, the tumbling sequences that are performed raises eyelids and keeps mouths on the floor. The Aerial Straps and Hoops routines were my favorite. Ethereal and poetic the aerosaltants ascend above the stage and perform a dexterous ballet. The hoops act is performed by the high priestess of Wintuk. The skill displayed as she contorts her body while managing to rotate multiple hula hoops on various body parts is the perfect combination of art and athleticism. When Wimpy utters, “I love you,” in his high pitch tone, I think he carried the sentiment of all the men and teenage boys in the theatre.
And for those New Yorkers that miss seeing flakes fall from the atmosphere, Cirque du Soleil ends the show with a confetti snow shower that outdoes any ticker-tape parade. The tricks, music and dancing places Wintuk in the winner column for an unconventional family outing, just make sure you remind your kids not to try anything they have seen at home. Wintuk’s final run at the WAMU theatre at Madison Square Garden will end on January 2, and is a must see. The smiles, laughter and memories you receive will warm your soul long after the polar production is gone.