Aleksei Goloborodko: The Cirque contortionist with a liquid spine

aleksei goloborodko Cirque contortionistIf it weren’t for Aleksei Goloborodko, last night’s Cirque du Soliel’s production, Luzia, would have been merely a good, although not a great, show. Perhaps after having seen 90% of all Cirque productions since the very first one came to San Francisco, way back in 1984, I’m a bit jaded.

Thinking back to 1984, though, I really do have a specific complaint: Recent productions have backed away from what made the early shows so great: spectacular performances that didn’t have busy backgrounds (as is the case with Ringling’s “three ring” circuses), but that allowed one, instead, to focus on the elegant and creative main performances. Now, though, the performances are incredibly cluttered. I find it difficult to keep track of things, which frustrates me.

Looking at last night’s show, I suspect part of the busy-ness is to hide the fact that Cirque’s acts aren’t as good as they used to be. Why do I say this? Because, for the few phenomenal acts, Cirque did not clutter the stage, thereby allowing the audience to focus tightly on the main events. Such was the case with Aleksei Goloborodko, the contortionist.

Since it’s first show, Cirque has usually included a contortionist in the act. I always find the contortionists’ combination of strength and flexiblity fun to watch. It’s beautiful and spectacularly weird to see people bend and twist their bodies into shapes denied most of us.

Last night’s contortionist act, though, was out of the ordinary even by contortionist standards. Aleksei Goloborodko looked as if he had no bones, only cartilage. He was completely liquid when he performed his act, sinuously twisting and folding his body into a series of pretzel-like shapes that exceed all contortionist acts I’ve seen to date. Here — you can see what I mean: