Published on February 3rd, 2009 | by Greg0
Leaving Gymnastics to the Professionals: Le Reve
I was struck, when watching the Beijing 2008 gymnastics tournaments on site, at how boring it actually is to watch pure, unadulterated gymnastics. Yes, there’s a certain amount of national pride and tear-jerking back stories that make watching the amateurs interesting, but the actual visuals are flat. Watching an international trampoline match, even live and in person, complete with turns, twist and flips at ludicrous heights, in the end is just one person jumping up and down in a square. Where were the routines of people switching trampolines while performing stunts mid-air in flowing, flame-like garb?
And diving? Well, that ought to be interesting.
But no, performing a flawless dive may be fascinating to the judges, but perfect feats of athleticism are rarely as visually appealing or dynamic as the imperfect ones. Shows like Cirque du Soleil, Le Reve, and even more run-of-the-mill gymnastic shows in circuses and theme parks are far and away more interesting to watch than the four-year sports. Costumes, props, choreography and a sense of aesthetic take physically-challenging feats and make them something worth shelling out money to go see.
The show Le Reve, created by former Cirque du Soleil mastermind Franco Dragone and currently playing at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas, exemplifies the difference between the professional shows and the amateur matches. Le Reve has some fantastic props. The stage is a circular pool with a thin-ringed platform coming out from the center. There are people flipping off of sculpted trees into the water, a giant silver globe of acrobatics, and a maw in the ceiling from which objects appear and disappear. Le Reve did not disappoint in eye candy.
Their circular theater was reminiscent of the oval stadium I was in this last summer. It was both a stroke of genius and an albatross holding them back. There were no bad seats and the choreographers did a good job of equitably distributing the action to every view — not an easy challenge as I can relate having watched the uneven bars from the distant side. However, somehow with only one ring, Le Reve managed to create the feeling of a three-ring circus. With such a spectacle and with often competing acts or parts of acts, it was difficult to know where to focus one’s attention.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspects of the show were the costumes and the music. They were often more interesting than the red-white-and-blue leotards many national teams were sporting last year, but Le Reve’s costumes were an odd assortment of Carnivale and New York musical. There were tango dresses accompanied by bright red high heels, and 50’s synchronized swimmers with fake white wigs; there an ensemble comedian act in white suits followed by more organic costumes of cave men and fantastical creatures. Perhaps all of this makes sense in a “dream” — the translation from French of “Le Reve” — but it was visually discombobulating. The music followed along the same lines.
However, perhaps the main trouble I have with these shows is that I’m not in them. Jumping from great heights, climbing trees in the middle of the water, bungee jumping, all sorts of bounding and leaping. People pay good money on their cruise ship tours for trapeze lessons. When will the tourists get to join the Vegas shows and run away with the circus?
Tickets for the show run from $99-$179. The most expensive seats are the furthest from the action, but include comfier chairs, champagne, and chocolate-covered strawberries. Most interestingly, they also offer folks in the VIP seats screens with live behind-the-scenes views.