Cirque du Soleil Returns to Japan with Ovo

By Kelly Wetherille
April 7, 2014
Art & Culture

Ever since I caught a performance of Dralion during a trip to Denver several years ago, I have been hooked on the amazing acrobatics, gorgeous costumes and elaborate sets that characterize Cirque du Soleil. Since then I have had the privilege of seeing several other Cirque productions, including Zed during its residency at Tokyo Disneyland. So when I heard that the Montreal-based circus was returning to Japan with its touring show Ovo, I knew I had to book tickets. But what I didn't expect was for the production to become my favorite one so far.

Benoit Fontaine © 2009 Cirque du Soleil Inc. 5 cropped

Ovo is a fast-paced, energetic romp through the fantastical and beautiful world of insects. The set itself, while compact enough to fit under the big top, is an impressive engineering marvel, with lots of moving parts including gigantic flowers that open and close, holes in the floor through which performers enter and exit, and a rock wall backdrop with trampolines stored under the floor. The costumes are just as intricate and inspiring, instantly transforming their human wearers into ants, scarabs, spiders, crickets, butterflies and other creatures.

Benoit Fontaine © 2009 Cirque du Soleil Inc. 3 cropped

The show incorporates many acts that are similar to those seen in other Cirque du Soleil shows. Tiny ants juggle pieces of fruit—and even each other—with their feet; a graceful dragonfly balances on the thin tendrils of a plant, often using only one hand; a group of fleas perform an acrosport routine, flinging themselves through the air and holding each other aloft with incredible strength and agility; two butterflies soar through the air using a Spanish web; and scarabs fly high above the stage in a breathtaking aerial act.

Benoit Fontaine © 2009 Cirque du Soleil Inc. 2 cropped

As entertaining and impressive as these feats are, some of my favorite parts of Ovo were the acts that were completely new to me. These included a slackwire performance that seemed to completely defy every law of gravity and physics that I learned in my high school science class. Seeing someone balance and do acrobatics on a tightrope already makes my stomach flutter and my hands grip the edge of my seat in nervousness, but this was something else entirely. It was like watching someone walk, flip and even ride a unicycle with his hands, all the while supported only by a single piece of loose rope. It was nothing short of incredible, and I still have no idea how it is even humanly possible.

Benoit Fontaine © 2009 Cirque du Soleil Inc. 6 cropped

Another of my favorite acts was the finale of the show, which combined an eight-meter vertical climbing wall with trampolines in the floor for a daring performance that looked like so much fun I wished I had been one of the performers. Some 20 artists threw themselves off the wall and onto the trampolines, flipping and flying through the air before perching back on the wall using tiny grips as their only support. A power track running down the center of the stage added additional momentum and even more speed to the already fast-moving act.

Speed and momentum are two elements that are present throughout Ovo, ensuring audience members never want to take their eyes off the stage for fear they might miss something. Even with a 30-minute intermission, the show’s pace is quick, drawing you in to a magical world that you’ll be reluctant to leave after curtain call. This is also what makes Ovo so appealing to spectators of all ages—looking around me, I saw elementary school aged children, couples on dates, and senior citizens, all just as enthralled as I was.

OSA Images cropped

Ovo’s Tokyo run goes through June 29, and then the show will move on to other cities in Japan, including Sendai, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka for performances through June 2015. For now, the big top is located in Odaiba, near the DiverCity shopping mall. Combine a performance with other area attractions and you have the perfect family day, school field trip or night out. For more information, check out the show’s official website.

The Deets

When: Now through June 29 in Tokyo; later dates in other Japanese cities

Where: Odaiba Big Top, 1-1-16 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo

Tickets: ¥6,500–¥13,500 for adults; ¥4,500–¥9,500 for children aged three through elementary school students. Tickets can be purchased online or at convenience stores (in Japanese only).

Spider photo by OSA Images; all others by Benoit Fontaine ©2009 Cirque du Soleil Inc.