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A 360-Degree View of Cirque Du Soleil: X The Land of Fantasy

23 PHOTOS

SmartShanghai tours backstage at the only Cirque du Soleil event in the world currently being staged — and takes in a show.


Paul Lawrence
April 16, 2021

  • 1.
    1.

    A One-of-a-Kind Show, Worldwide

    The only Cirque performance happening in the world is happening right now in Hangzhou, just an hour away from Shanghai via the magic fast train. A production four years in the planning, “X The Land of Fantasy” combines state-of-the-art stage technology and production value, world class acrobatic performance, and a rich and provocative storyline for a jaw dropping theater experience.

  • 2.
    2.

    Modern Myths, Ancient Insights

    With 360-degree fully rotating audience sections, hydraulic-powered raising and lowering stages, and a completely immersive light and projection show, “X Land of Fantasy” bombastically relates a myth for the modern times.

  • 3.
    3.

    A Hero and Heroine Emerge…

    The story follows the separate ancient kingdoms of “Petra” and “Aria”, torn apart centuries ago by love gone bad — ain’t that always how it goes. Guided by the mysterious “Watcher”, the audience, themselves divided, literally, into two kingdoms witness as a hero and heroin emerge, set on a path to peace and reconciliation.

  • 4.
    4.

    Winding Roads to Reconciliation

    As the narratives unfold, intertwine, and diverge again, everything in the theater space is literally moving on a massive scale in reflection. Both the performance and audience spaces are constantly shifting and traveling with the action — walls break apart, raise and lower, and the projection images track their paths. The viewing experience, when you are constantly moving, is exhilaratingly disorientating. You’re never sure which direction you’re even facing and then all of a sudden there is another audience directly in front of you.

    Only for the ground to shift again and send you on your journey…

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    5.

    All Aboard!

    Their 45th project, “X Land of Fantasy” was created by Cirque Productions, and is invested and operated by Suntiandy Group with 1.5 billion RMB in the project, since 2015. Four years in the planning stages, the global pandemic forced the halting of performances right when they debuted in 2019. They opened to audiences again last June, with nightly shows Wednesday to Sunday.

    The Suntiandy Theatre, about 30 mins from Hangzhou East train station, was specifically redesigned for this production. It used to be an old train factory.

    Which is… pretty fitting!

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    6.

    Dizzying Production Innovations

    An audience of 1442 is split into two sections — two big stadium risers called “seating wagons”. These seating wagons view three rising stages, 9 moving walls, and a center stage area that is also constantly rising, lowering, and spinning in a circle.

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    7.

    The Hero’s Journey

    With wrap-around stages, and the ever shifting audience wagon, depending on where you’re sitting, the show is unique to your vantage point — very literally acting out a metaphor of unique perspectives in a shared journey.

    Like a KISS concert that makes you think

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    8.

    Love It Loud

    Each seat has three speakers in the headrest — designed to create surround sound — customized for the show. They’ve also got more than 700 moving lights and six 56 4K projectors imported from Belgium.

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    9.

    Flight of the Navigator

    Here we are in the production booth overlooking the performance area, controlling the movement of trolleys, stage lifts, seating wagons, and everything else. This is the General Stage Manager Seat - the cockpit. They signal the automation, sound, lighting, video, visual, and technical cues to a support staff of over 100.

  • 10.
    10.

    Eyes in the Sky

    Reflecting the two intertwining narratives, automation, lighting, and effects are controlled from Eastern and Western consoles. The production team wanted us to throw in the brands “Grand MA2” and “Dimitri Soundsystem” — I don’t know what those things are but yes, they sound impressive indeed!

    Artists in the show perform wearing trackers, which records their real-time movements to and matches lighting and technical cues on the fly.

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    11.

    Hang on to Your Hat

    The costumes! The costumes!

    Of course, “X Land of Fantasy”, features the dazzling, bombastic, rhapsodic, fantastical, surreal, and idiosyncratic costumes Cirque is known for.

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    12.

    Have You Got This in a Size 10?

    Just looking for something off the rack…

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    13.

    Magic Workshop

    The theatre boasts in-house gyms, rehearsal spaces, meeting rooms, VIP rooms, and more — even a workshop wherein the production team manufactures their own props.

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    14.

    Downtime…

    There are around 50 artists in the show, coming from 9 different counties. We saw one outside, teaching a friend “Beginner Spinning Real Fast Around in a Hoop”.

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    15.

    The Actor’s Studio

    SmartShanghai got the chance to meet Anne-Marie and Jones Talmadge, American wife-and-husband performers from Seattle via Los Angeles. With extensive backgrounds in acrobatic, modern, and theater dance in the States (Not Man Apart, Diavolo, “America’s Got Talent” Season 12), they’ve been in Hangzhou with the production for two years.

    “We met performing with a company called Diavolo Architecture In Motion, which was big set pieces and very circus-ey,” says Jones.

    “It’s been a shift, of course, from our life in Los Angeles to focus on one show, one creation. When you’re in Los Angeles, you’re constantly thinking about the next project, the next creation.”

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    16.

    Opening a Box…

    Jones: “My character in the show is actually the narrator in the show, so I can give you an idea of what it’s about: I’m “The Watcher”.

    The Watcher, basically, opens a box and tells a story. The story is that there are these two kingdoms and they were formed by a phoenix and a dragon, who were in love at the beginning of time, and the serpent of chaos and jealousy split them apart.

    The two kingdoms were created out of this, without really knowing each other, and they fought each other. They didn’t really understand each other, and spoke different languages — but they came from different aspects of the original source.

    The story is about the destiny of this hero and the heroine who have emerged in this situation. And the prophecy is that when they come together again the peace and culture will be restored.

    it’s a story about peace and destiny and about getting over differences and conflict to focus on the essence of life and understanding.”

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    17.

    Cross-Cultural Creation

    Anne-Marie: “With this show specifically, half of the cast is Chinese and they are unbelievable. The acrobatics here are so succinct — they’re just incredible. It’s nice because this show specifically blends this Western and Eastern culture. I think as artists, coming from different backgrounds, we’re all bringing different feelings and different emotive viewpoints with the acrobatics, and seeing it all merge. It’s really different from your typical circus show. This specific show is unique in that way.

    The group amplifies the individual performances in ways they hadn’t considered. In encountering different mindsets, we are able to expand our own creative thinking in ways where you couldn't if you were back in America.”

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    18.

    Engaging an International Audience

    Jones: “Reflecting on the show itself, we have a creation and a company that does an artistic production that has been built despite a language barrier. Like, we have this company that is not just West-East but from all over. Chinese and English are the common languages, but people speak Spanish, they speak French. They’re from The Philippines, Russia — people from all over the world doing this show.

    So to have this environment, which is very multicultural and diverse, I think is what makes the show and the art that comes out of it magical and engaged.

    And I think the audience can tap into that. Our coming together.”

  • 19.
    19.

    A Day in the Life

    Anne-Marie: A typical day? Well, we wake up. Chinese class. Work out. Stretch. Start to rehearse with each other and try new ideas. Play with different concepts. Move into meetings with other people, on stage or in the dressing room. Meetings are to integrate new concepts.

    The acts are always getting better. People bringing in new ideas, detailing choreography. We’re always chiseling this sculpture.

    Each group has their own sections. And they get their time to train with their coaches. And there is a team of technical people involved… coaches, stage managers, technical teams. There’s so many layers.

    And then it’s showtime. Costumes, make-up, and then we do a show!”

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    20.

    Celebrating Difference

    Jones: “It’s a perfect show for us coming over as Americans to have this as a theme — where we get to do a show that’s about having cultures come together and how our differences can be celebrated as strengths. We get to combine our skills and talents so we can make the whole better.

  • 21.
    21.

    Now Showing!

    Cirque du Soleil: X Land of Fantasy runs ongoing, 2021 in Hangzhou at the Suntiandy Theater (90 Dongwen Jie). Performances are Wednesday to Sunday, nightly at 7.30pm. (Closed Monday and Tuesday).

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    22.

    We’ve Got Two!

    Tickets are available in Children’s and Adults categories, in VIP and A through E sections, priced 1620rmb to 360rmb.

    A backstage tour is included free of charge for those buying VIP and Area A tickets on the following dates this April: 9th, 10th, 16th, 17th, 23rd, 30th. The backstage tour will be on the morning after the show between 10am-12pm and takes about 15-20 minutes.

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    23.

    Snazzy Hotel Package Also Available!

    Radisson Blu Hangzhou Xintiandi offers a prime location only a short walk away from Cirque du Soleil. After attending the show, return to the comfort of your hotel room, which features free Wi-Fi and 24-hour room service. The hotel offers a state-of-the-art fitness center and heated pool.

    A backstage tour is included free of charge for those buying VIP and Area A tickets on the following dates this April: 9th, 10th, 16th, 17th, 23rd, 30th. The backstage tour will be on the morning after the show between 10am-12pm and takes about 15-20 minutes.

    Packages are priced for two tickets, between 1880-2660rmb for 2 tickets. Packages including Hotel and the backstage tour are available exclusively on SmartTicket.