TOTEM by Cirque du Soleil (A Review)

Title : Hoop Dancer2 Picture credit : Daniel Desmarais © 2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc. | Costume credit : Kym Barrett

I got the chance to  watch the opening night of TOTEM (at the AT&T park in San Francisco last October 28, 2011.) This is my 5th Cirque du Soleil show.   I had a great time with my memorable Varekai Act and I was hoping to experience the wonder again.

Totem  is an acrobatic show about man’s evolution from our primitive origins to our current human state. This is a touring show that started in Montreal last April 2010. It is performed in Cirque du Soleil’s signature big top tent known as Grand Chapiteau.

Here is our Totem experience:

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Grand Chapiteau is a customized big top tent (50 meters in diameter) with two staging tents.

Varekai and Totem use the same circus tent setup as well as three other Cirque du Soleil’s touring shows namely: Corteo, Koozå, and Ovo.

Inside the staging tents, you can buy some snacks and Cirque du Soleil merchandise.

I recommend buying both the souvenir program with the beautiful soundtrack of Totem ($20). I like the music of Totem– a lot of rythmic drums yet very modern.

Get this cute frog hand puppet for your kids as a souvenir.

To appreciate Totem better, familiarize yourself with the four (4) main characters of the show:

Here are the highlights of TOTEM:

The show opens with the Crystal Man animating the turtle skeleton in the center of the tent.

Title : Bars (Carapace) | Picture credit : Daniel Auclair © 2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc. | Costume credit : Kym Barrett

Bars (Carapace)A giant turtle at centre stage represents the origins of life on Earth. The creature’s shell is whisked away to reveal an effervescent community of amphibians and fish that lives beneath its carapace. They burst into a playful parallel bars number, with artists embodying frogs launching themselves into the air from a power track and leaping from one bar to the next, criss-crossing in mid-air with inches to spare.

This act was impressive specially when two of the frogmen rotate on the same bar. 

Title : Hoop Dancer | Picture credit : Daniel Desmarais © 2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc. | Costume credit : Kym Barrett

Hoops Dancer. (Part 1) An Amerindian artist performs a narrative dance, using hoops to create static and dynamic shapes to evoke various animals and images in a ritual that symbolizes the endless circle of life.

The Amerindian would perform a hula hoop dance and all of a sudden he would form an animal formation using the 5 hoop rings. 

Title : Unicycles | Picture credit : Daniel Desmarais © 2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc. | Costume credit : Kym Barrett

Unicycles and BowlsThe abundance of fall is represented by the harvest colours and details of the costumes as five unicyclists juggle metal bowls in an astounding display of agility, balance, synchronized control and physical grace, tossing the bowls with their feet—sometimes over their shoulders—and catching them on their heads without using their hands.

The unicyle act  is one of the most difficult acrobatic acts in the show.   The unicyclists maintain their balance while tossing the bowls into the air and catching it using their head.

I’ve always loved Cirque du Soleil shows because of its flawless sequences. I was surprised during the show because for the first time, they were not able to execute. One of the unicyclist fell and there were a few who did not catch the bowl at all. Towards the end of the act, the fallen unicyclist was able to return and successfully complete the most difficult finale routine.

Title : Foot Juggling | Picture credit : Daniel Auclair © 2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc. | Costume credit : Kym Barrett 

Antipodism (Crystal Ladies)Two Crystal Ladies emerge from the fiery bowels of the earth to evoke the creation of the world and the beauty of minerals. Wearing sparkling costumes that mirror the Crystal Man, the artists spin squares of glittering material on their hands and feet before coming together to create a dazzling display of coordinated highspeed motion.

Juggling the spinning squares with their feet was awesome to watch.

Title : Perches | Picture credit : Daniel Auclair © 2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc. | Costume credit : Kym Barrett

PerchesTen businessmen trying to reach the highest peaks execute a number that requires extreme strength and flawless teamwork. The porters on the ground hold long metal perches while the agile acrobats climb almost to the cupola of the big top.

This is pole dancing on a whole different level. They almost reach the top of the tent with these poles.

There is a 15 minutes intermission for snacks and restroom break.

Title : Devil Sticks | Picture credit : Daniel Auclair © 2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc. | Costume credit : Kym Barrett

Devil SticksThe Tracker appears as a virile toreador spinning his devil sticks to a sizzling flamenco-inspired beat.

The second act opens with the Tracker turned into a vampire showcasing his sticks manuevers. 

Title : Trapeze Duo | Picture credit : Daniel Desmarais © 2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc. | Costume credit : Kym Barret

Fixed Trapeze DuoLike two lovebirds, a young man and woman tease, play and sulk in an innocent game of seduction and eventually intertwine their bodies in a light-hearted vertical dance of fresh, unusual movements and lifts.

I personally liked the acrobatic romance of this duo and how I wish we were seated in the middle of the tent to witness this act. The shoulder-to-shoulder act deserves a standing ovation!

Title : Manipulation | Picture credit : Daniel Auclair © 2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc. | Costume credit : Kym Barrett

ManipulationThe Scientist represents reason and the quest to understand the universe in ways that can be quantified, measured and put into boxes. His “laboratory” features an orchestra of glass containers filled with mysterious fluorescent fluids as he steps into a transparent cone and juggles with luminous balls that might represent planets or molecules—or both—making them chase after each other in spiral orbits.

This is an interesting play of light balls as the Scientist juggles it around him in this cone-like structure. This is the first time I’ve seen a juggling routine like this. 

Title : Hoop Dancer | Picture credit : Daniel Auclair © 2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc. | Costume credit : Kym Barrett

Hoops Dancer. (Part 2) Surrounded by members of numerous tribes, the dancer returns to create new figures with his hoops, finishing with a globe that he raises high above his head.

For me, the hoop dance was the least interesting and dragging among the different acts. 

Title : Russians Bars | Picture credit : Daniel Auclair © 2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc. | Costume credit : Kym Barrett

Russian BarsWearing colourful costumes inspired in part by the lost civilizations of South America, ten artists perform feats of strength, balance and acrobatic movements. The jumpers are launched into the air and fly weightlessly across the sky like cosmonauts, leaping from one bar to the next with astonishing agility in a thrilling evocation of the human desire to escape the Earth’s gravity.

This act ended with a dangerous 2-level jumping act. 

Title : Roller Skates | Picture credit : Daniel Auclair © 2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc. | Costume credit : Kym Barrett

Roller SkatesIn a scene that evokes a wedding ceremony, a pair of roller skaters spins and whirls at heart- stopping speeds atop a tiny platform—just 1.8 metres in diameter—shaped like a drum.

This is the most awesome circus act I’ve ever seen. It was the most heart stopping act because of how dangerous the speed at which they spin and be able to maintain their form. 

Title : Roller Skates | Picture credit : Daniel Auclair © 2010 Cirque du Soleil Inc. | Costume credit : Kym Barrett

The finale of this circus act is a must see! 

Overall, this is one of the most refreshing circus acts I’ve ever seen with one of the best musical soundtrack. I also like the floor ambiance projections which sets the mood as it transitions from one world to another. 

It is highly recommended. Don’t miss their remaining shows in San Francisco and their 2012 shows:

  • London, UK – January 5 – February 5, 2012     
  • San Jose, CA – March 2 – April 1, 2012  
  • Atlanta, GA – May 8 – June 17, 2012     
  • Washington, DC – Coming soon

How I wish they could travel to Asia too…

TOTEM by Cirque Du Soleil
Official WebsiteCirque Du Soleil – Totem
Offical Facebook:  TOTEM – Cirque du Soleil

TOTEM traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly. The characters evolve on a stage evoking a giant turtle, the symbol of origin for many ancient civilizations.

Inspired by many founding myths, TOTEM illustrates, through a visual and acrobatic language, the evolutionary progress of species. Somewhere between science and legend TOTEM explores the ties that bind Man to other species, his dreams and his infinite potential.

Show name
The word “totem” contains the idea of the order of species. We carry in our bodies the potential of all species, all the way to our desire to fly—like the thunderbird at the top of the totem pole.

Cast and acts
The cast of TOTEM comprises 52 performing artists from 19 countries. The theme of evolution extended into the acrobatic acts, which were selected to reflect the evolution of human motor functions. 

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Full Disclosure: We paid for our tickets. We are not connected in any way to the Cirque du Soleil company  or PR company promoting this show. 

Photography is not allowed during the show, thanks to Cirque du Soleil for the official press photos. 

P.S. Did you know that SALTIMBANCO by Cirque Du Soleil is finally coming to Manila!? 


8 thoughts on “TOTEM by Cirque du Soleil (A Review)

  1. if you were a reader you would know this is a blog about Anton’s travels and experiences and not just the Philippines 🙂
    Yay for another Cirque show coming to Manila 🙂

  2. If they have brought Varekai, and Saltimbanco to Manila, Why not Totem? It is exactly the same Grand Chapiteau setup as Varekai but it is probably 10x better than Varekai in terms of act and music.
    This is a simple campaign to bring this show to Manila 🙂 (Sana 🙂

  3. hi
    looks like you are in SF. try to hit up el farolito or pancho villa and it will change your perspective with mexican cuisine.

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