Cirque du Soleil's acrobatic athleticism swoops into Thompson-Boling Arena

The “Old Birds” represent the establishment in Cirque du Soleil’s “Alegria,” at Thompson-Boling Arena March 23-27.


The “Old Birds” represent the establishment in Cirque du Soleil’s “Alegria,” at Thompson-Boling Arena March 23-27.

The pageantry, athleticism and theater that makes up a Cirque du Soleil show flies, swings and sings into Knoxville later this month.

The Cirque du Soleil’s touring production of “Alegria” plays at the University of Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena March 23-27. Tickets range from $40 to $94 for adults, $32 to $76 for children under age 12 and $36 to $81 for students, senior citizens or members of military. The ticket prices vary depending on seating and show dates; see for details.

The 55-member cast of “Alegria” includes clowns, singers, acrobats, gymnasts, musicians and contortionists. The production combines aspects of the circus with tenets of the theater then mixes them with athletic feats, music and imaginative, detailed costuming.

The broad theme of the 21⁄2-hour show is based on the generational struggle for power between age and youth. But it is a broad theme so that each “Alegria” viewer may leave with a different feeling about what he or she saw.

What they will definitely see is a wide variety of athletic acts played out as high as 40 feet in the high and across an elaborate set that suggests an ornate 17th-century French setting.

Performers fly through the air on gymnastic rings or flip upside down while balancing their hands on tall poles. A fire-knife dance is done to drumming. One female singer, dressed all in white, and another, done all in black, are the show’s storytellers and each other’s alter-egos.

Characters like the play’s “Old Birds” represent an aging old guard that cannot see its power slipping. The youth is represented by characters like the athletic Bronx and their tumbling, trampoline act.

Premiering in 1994 as a Cirque du Soleil big top touring show, “Alegria” began an arena production in 2009. That means the show with its sets, equipment and costumes carried in 18 semi-trailer trucks, can set up in arenas like Thompson-Boling rather than assemble its own big top.

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