On November 22nd, Dave and I had an amazing time seeing the fantastic Canadian export, Cirque du Soleil, at Olympic Stadium in Seoul – how cool is that?! About a month ago, Jocelyne sent us a text that her and Ruth had bought tickets, and that we should join them, so we hopped right on board. How many opportunities would we have to see Cirque du Soleil perform on this side of the world? My guess is about one. The show, called Allegria, is currently traveling around the world, and was making a pit stop in Seoul for a few weeks before moving on to the United Arab Emirates.
We decided to make the day as thoroughly Western as possible, and started out by heading down to Itaewon after lunch to buy Dave a few more football jerseys. There are three or four shops along the main strip that sell jerseys, and this time Dave came prepared with a pen and paper to make a short list of his favourites from each location. He was also compiling the list for anyone back home who’d like an authentic NFL jersey, the likes of which normally will run in the range of about $250 back home, for exactly $20 here. Ridiculous. The shop owners are very pushy and aggressive, especially when they see a foreigner wander into their store. They are definitely not impressed if you leave the store without making a purchase, and will even follow you into the street, yelling after you to try and bargain a deal. After settling on a few of his classic faves – Steve Atwater, Gayle Sayers and Deion Sanders - we headed up to an area in Itaewon affectionately known as “The Hill”, which is openly accepted as the mecca for prostitution and gay bars in Korea – Itaewon is such a great place.
What were we doing up there, you ask?? Well, there is a well-known English book store on The Hill called What the Book?, and Dave and I were both a little anxious for some new reading materials. We found the store next to a seedy looking bar called the Moulin Rouge, and headed downstairs to find rows upon rows of English books – amazing! They had a very decent selection of new fiction, travel books, non-fiction, and even a huge used section from ex-pats who obviously can’t lug a pile of books back home with them. Dave quickly honed in on a couple of Kurt Vonnegut books, and I picked up a Self magazine (I’m still in the midst of reading Harry Potter 7).
We met up with Jocelyne at around 5, and headed back down to the strip to meet up with Ruth and some of her friends for dinner. It only made sense that we would have dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, since it fell in line with the Western theme of the day. I had visited the Hard Rock in Orlando when I was 15, and expected the same over-priced, ultra American atmosphere I’d experienced in Florida, and I wasn’t disappointed. Lots of memorabilia on the walls, American music blaring from tv sets, and of course, ridiculously priced food. We chose some delectable American favourites – pulled pork sandwiches, french fries, chicken wings, mashed potatoes – for which we paid a hefty bill, and then we headed out of Itaewon towards the East side of Seoul for Cirque du Soleil.
We took the subway from Itaewon down to Jamsil, only to find out once we’d reached street level that the stadium where Cirque was playing was two exits before Jamsil and we were already super late. We took a cab back towards the stadium, and were dropped off at the entrance in about ten minutes. The next challenge was finding where exactly Cirque du Soleil was playing - we literally ran around 2/3 of the exteriour of the stadium before we saw the signature circus tents.
We booted it to the admission booth, grabbed our tickets, and headed into the tent. The show was already underway, so we had to wait until the act had finished before we could actually go into the performance area. We were stuck watching a really cool acrobatic act on a tv in the waiting area for about 5 minutes – it was torture to know we were so close, yet we couldn’t go in!
As soon as the acrobat hit the floor we were hoofing it over to the tent entrance, only to find that our seats were on the far right of the stage, so our view was pretty severly limited. At the intermission we managed to sneak almost into the middle of the theatre and had a much better view for the second half of the show.
Here’s how the evening ran down: (I stole this directly from the Cirque du Soleil website www.cirquedusoleil.com because their descriptions are much better than any I could come up with.)
An ethereal group of performers soar in the air executing lively gymnastic and tumbling displays in unison and in counterpoint, reaching astounding heights and speeds on an elongated overlapping trampoline that magically appears from within the stage.
This performer combines rhythmic gymnastics, flexible contortion, deft juggling and graceful ballet into one act. Using silver hoops and beautiful silk ribbons, she dances and leaps across the stage as the music plays on.
Romantic and elegant, this act is performed by a young man from Ukraine. Using his incredible strength and his great abilities in ballet and contortion movements, he executes slow figures on canes of different heights. The tallest cane is at 1m 90 from the stage.
This virtuoso defies gravity and explanation in his powerful and graceful performance. Combining the elasticity of the bungee with the power of the gymnastic rings, the artist soars through the air while performing acrobatic feats. His awe-inspiring performance is a combination of incredible skill, agility and strength.
Tribal and magical – this authentic ritual dance is performed with the pulsing rhythm of congo drums by artists weaving their baton-like fire knives around their entire body, from the feet to the palms to the mouth, in a seductively dangerous dance.
These young but veteran performers bring the refined Mongolian art of contortion to life. While perched on a rotating table, they execute both impressive and imaginative feats of flexibility and balance. The fluid movements are masterful, as they manipulates into extraordinary sculpted forms.
Aerial High Bar
Three high bars set more than 40 feet above the stage form the aerial playground for daring acrobats to fly to and from the arms of mighty catchers, suspended by their knees on a cradle swing. The astounding act, performed by Russian acrobats culminates in an impressive plunge into the net.
It was so incredible to see a show I’ve watched on tape so many times in person – it was like watching a moving work of art. The contortionists in particular were mind-blowing. It’s just not normal for two young girls to be able to bend their bodies like that! They could literally lie on their stomachs and bend their heads back to touch the backs of their knees. I spent the entire time with my mouth hanging on the floor. Jocelyne’s roommate, Ruth, actually knew one of the two guys who performed in the fire-knife dance – he goes to her church back in England! What a small world.
Anyway, it was an incredible experience – I still can’t believe I got to see Cirque du Soleil in Korea! Since I’m a fridge magnet collector (a weird hobby, I know), I picked up a $6.00 Cirque du Soleil magnet to add to the numerous others I’ve picked up during our travels abroad. I wish I could have taken pictures of the show, but that was obviously verboten. Anyone who hasn’t seen the show on TV or on video should definitely check it out – it’s spectacular. I just checked the website and the show is coming to Hamilton sometime in mid 2009, so hopefully we’ll be back on that side of the world in time to see it again!