East meets West in Cirque du Soleil's Dralion

DULUTH -- Cirque du Soleil's East meets West performance, Dralion is at the Arena at the Gwinnett Center on Aug. 31 through Sept. 4 with a fictitious fable, vibrant characters and acrobatic aerials.

Dralion combines traditional Chinese acrobatic arts with a contemporary Western circus. The Eastern philosophy is represented by the dragon, while the West is symbolized with a lion to create the "Dralion."

In the story, the audience meets four elements: Azala the goddess of air, Gaya the goddess of Earth, Oceane the goddess of water, and Yao the guide to fire -- each color coded red, blue, green, and brown. Humans are seeking to be one with nature, but in the world of Dralion everything is balanced between the two.

"This is very unique from the other shows because the audience will be surrounded by a kaleidoscope of colors and a blend of different musical genres from Western influences," said Tara Catherine Pandeya who plays Oceane. "It is a large mix of colors and cultures."

Attendees will be exposed to unique acts throughout the show that incorporate performers from different backgrounds and training. Some come from the circus background, others are classically trained in an array of dance techniques, the rest strengthened their bodies to become flexible and durable for random skits, which works for this type of show.

"I'm still getting used to circus life," Pandeya said. "I'm a professional dancer and I've toured before, but this is a very new experience for me to tour year round with circus performers."

The performers are from all over the world and they come together to bring a mythical story to life. There will be single bar handstands, contortionist acts, juggling with break-dancing, a trampoline performance and other artful acts.

"I've seen the show over 200 times, but I still stand backstage and watch the show," Pandeya said. "I'm proud to say that I'm still in awe with my coworkers."

Each of the costumes was hand crafted to emphasize the character and emotions. Yao, which represents fire is bright red, orange and yellow to bring out his feisty personality. Azala, the goddess of air has cooler blues and grays like the sky. The dralions look like Chinese dragons and are made from foam, lycra, silk, leather, and other fabrics and decorations.

This Cirque endeavor has been restaged to fill arenas across the country instead of under a traveling big top, like other Soleil shows in the past. This gave the touring troupe more cities to visit, including Duluth.

The set designers created a massive structure as the backdrop that looks like a Chinese temple for the performers. The large wall has the allusion that it is light and flexible, yet it is extremely sturdy to hold aerial dancers float through the air holding on to silk banners.

The show is suitable for all ages. For ticket information, visit www.ticketmaster.com or call 404-249-6400.