NORTH CHARLESTON — With each turn, the ropes swiped the stage, causing a sound not unlike that of car wash flaps lapping soapy water against doors and windows. Performers, as if on a merry-go-round, skipped in circles over the ropes.
Things quickly got more interesting, as is expected with a Cirque du Soleil production. The choreography reaches its apex when a team turns double dutch between a team turning double-dutch rope. And then Norihisa Taguchi flies into the middle and proceeds to skip over the rope he turns like a tap-dancing prize fighter.
“That one is not a difficult trick,” Taguchi said, after a rehearsal in March. “Don’t mind the outside. Just see the inside. If you look at the three of them, it gets confusing.”
Taguchi, from Japan, where rope skipping is a celebrated competitive sport, is a captain of the rope skippers in “Quidam,” the Cirque show that will be staged at the Colonial Life Arena on Wednesday through April 28. This is the third Cirque show – “Alegria” and “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” are the others – in as many years at the arena.
Taguchi, a former IT worker, was introduced to skipping 12 years ago by Sadatoshi Watanabe, a university friend who is a legend in Japan, Taguchi said. When Taguchi was asked if his status in Japan was comparable to that of a rock star, he smiled and nodded.
“That style of skipping, before us, never was in Japan,” said Taguchi, who has been traveling with Cirque for 10 years. “So we are the original in the performance style.”
“Quidam” tells the story of a girl, Zoe, who, feeling ignored by her parents, goes on a journey where she comes across interesting characters. The story is aided by John, an eccentric ringmaster and the Target, a spinning and jumping force.
Of course, not all of this show’s action takes place on the ground.
The staging includes the telepherique, which is a gondola lift system. It is 120 feet long and 40 feet high. There are five tracks with sliders that allow performers, once hooked in, to be conveyed in the same way as ski lift cars.
The show features aerial stunts including contortion in silk, twirling hoops and the Spanish Web. Acrobats in the latter wrap their bodies in rope before uncoiling and falling dramatically. The unharnessed act includes tandem stunts that involve trust as much as they do skill.
“We have to have a good notion of our body, a good center so we can have control during the falls,” Grace de Moura, a Spanish Web captain said. “We need the strength to climb, but we need the strength and the technique to do the falls.”
There are more than 50 entertainers in the show, including a live band. About 2,500 costume pieces are used, all custom made for each performer. It takes six hours daily to wash and steam costumes.
Even the shoes get special treatment. For example, Zoe’s yellow Dr. Martens, decorated with flowers of various sizes, get scuffed during each performance. David Woody, an assistant in the wardrobe department, repaints racks of shoes daily.
“It creates textures that the audience can pick up,” he said.
The many moving parts of “Quidam” – a rotating stage with a trap door, superb juggling, the majesty of the Cry Wheel, how the aerialists attach to the telepherique – have smooth transitions because of Cirque’s misdirection techniques. There’s always something else that grabs the audience’s attention, such as “Quidam’s” clown comedy.
The Clown engages the crowd on multiple occasions, even enlisting the audience to assist him with on stage follies. He communicates with hand and facial gestures. The laughs are hearty and plentiful.
But just as easily, Cirque can hush the crowd, holding the audience as still as a statue even as music thumps. This is an act and moment in the show that shouldn’t be skipped.
Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362.