Get ready, Atlanta – the Big Top is coming back to Atlantic Station next month.
Cirque du Soleil’s “Volta” is the eighth show to be performed at the Midtown shopping, dining, and entertainment complex.
“It’s not like a traditional traveling circus, by any means,” said Starr Cumming, specialty leasing retail director for Atlantic Station. “It’s almost like a dream. The choreography and the music and the set design and the costume design, while you’re watching a show you almost feel like you’re in a dream because everything is so vivid and exciting.”
“Volta” follows the life of a character named Waz, a gameshow contestant “that has lost touch with himself,” according to the show’s site.
“He’s ashamed of who he is because of his difference” – blue feathers for hair – and enters the gameshow searching for fame, believe this to be the secret of love and acceptance, but this turns out not to be the case. Following the show, and a return to doldrum around him, Waz meets a free spirit named Ela, who helps him find exactly what he’s searching for.
Per the show’s site, “Volta” “explores the themes of celebrating differences and unique qualities in a world where technology often isolates people from one another rather than freeing them.” It plays off the trends of celebrity culture and reality TV to demonstrate that “the path to fame is not necessarily the path to freedom.”
Cirque perks at the Pinnacle Lot
Various Cirque shows have been at Atlantic Station for the last 14 years. Before that, the Big Top was hoisted at Turner Field and what is now the site of the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. She said audiences members travel from Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama for the shows.
Cumming said businesses in Atlantic Station see a rise in foot traffic, including double-digit increases in restaurant sales and an uptick in hotel bookings. For guests coming to “Volta,” there are a few added perks to take advantage of nearby, including a package deal for show tickets, dinner, and a hotel stay; the upcoming ice skating rink; and a “show your ticket” promotion at select businesses in the complex to get discounts and specials.
“When Atlantic Station was redeveloped and opened in 2005, it had this large vacant, empty lot, which was named the Pinnacle Lot,” Cumming told Georgia Voice. “[It] became their new home in 2006 and we have loved having them here.”
A ‘tender and humble story’
Cirque performer Kevin Beverley told Chicago Sun-Times that “Volta” thrives on adrenaline, calling it a high-energy show incorporating urban aesthetics and extreme sports like BMX.
“But at the same time, there’s a very tender and humble story about becoming true to yourself. Accept who you are, love yourself. It takes a journey and people to help you along the way,” Beverley said. “The lead character’s life starts in one direction, but through a series of events and other characters he breaks free and finds his true self.”
DC Metro Theater Arts writer John Stoltenberg likens “Volta’s” storyline to that of Cirque du Soleil itself: “Long before Cirque became internationally renowned for its opulently imagined syntheses of music, design, dance and circus arts, it was simply ‘a band of colorful characters [who] roamed the streets, striding on stilts, juggling, dancing, breathing fire and playing music.’”
What is now Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group began in Baie-Saint-Paul, Canada, in the early 1980s as a group of 20 street performers. It now boasts 1,300 performers from about 50 countries, and its shows – big top circus-style, arena, ice, and even water, with more expansion plans to come – traveled to audiences in more than 60 countries, according to the company website.
Unlike some of its previous shows, “Volta” embodies a human element, foregoing elaborate, otherworldly makeup so characters are more relatable, Stoltenberg suggests. Even the sets give the idea that characters are on the streets. Performances include the expectedly unexpected trampoline routines, hoop diving, and gravity-defying acrobatics, as well as street-inspired jump rope and juggling.
“At the end, the cast comes out into the audience and high-fives everyone within reach,” Stoltenberg writes. “It’s so cool and so fitting, because dramatically and spectacularly, ‘Volta’ is unadulterated vicarious liberation.”