My wife Sherrie and I, accompanied by some close friends Tony and Émilie, recently attended the first showing of the 2019 version of "Alegria," the Cirque du Soleil show currently playing in the Old Port of Montreal. If I were asked to use one word to describe Alegria, the show that was resurrected this year due to its incredible popularity, it would be "hypnotic."
I had seen the original version about 20 years ago. It was my first Cirque show, and it left a lasting impression on me. I've seen six Cirque shows, including three in Las Vegas, and Alegria still stands out as my favorite. Beyond the incredible performances, which are impossible to describe, they have to be seen to be believed, lies the foundation for what I think makes this show so special - the MUSIC. One cannot help but be completely entranced by this beautiful, enchanting musical score that is performed live, with soaring spot-on vocals, all in perfect synchronicity with the performers. The music carries the show from beginning to end. Once you hear the self-titled theme song, Alegria, you can't get it out of your mind. You'll find yourself repeating the chorus over and over and over again in your head, but you'll be happy to have it keep you company! Below is the MP3 of "Alegria" for your listening pleasure.
On April 18th, the night of the show, I was at three weeks into a six week period of convalescence that has me wearing a neck collar following a very serious operation I had called a "Posterior Cervical Laminectomy & Fusion" at the Jewish General Hospital on March 29th. Weeks before the surgery, I had asked my surgeon if he thought it would be feasible for me to attend the show just 20 days after the surgery. He answered, "Yes, it should be fine, as long as you don't plan on being part of the show!" So, he had given me the green light, but right up until the day before, with my health very much out of control, I did not know if I would be well enough to attend. Would I have the grit it takes to muster up enough willpower to get ready, out the door, and into the city for a very long evening in a crowd of people? I had not left the house since coming home from the hospital, and I was quite nervous about the effort and energy it would require for me to see this show in my current state of health. I had had a few tough days during the week leading up to the day of the show. On several occasions, I found myself suffering from panic attacks and severe emotional breakdowns due to compounding symptoms that were just too much to cope with. Fortunately, April 18th turned out to be an exceptionally "good day." And so there I was, sporting my neck collar as a new fashion statement, sitting under the big top, flanked by my wife and friends, with my head well supported, ready once again to be hypnotized by those Eurasian eyes.
And what a show it was. After seeing Bronx, the performer who does a number with a new-fangled apparatus—the double-crossed wheel, my wife said, "That is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." She was right. This particular act indeed was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. And most of the other performances that followed were also something to behold.
As I sat there watching these young, agile, strong, vigorous, and graceful circus performers dance, run, jump, flip, spin, fly, twirl, swing, hang, and land on their two feet every time, I could not help but think about how physically compromised I have become after 25 years of illness. I was in absolute awe of what human beings are capable of doing with their bodies during their youth. The human body truly is an evolutionary marvel. Youth and health, when combined, are unstoppable.
When I look back on my life, before I became ill, I can't believe what my body was capable of. I can remember being 18 years old and working a full day at a hand car wash in the dead of winter, then coming home for a quick supper before driving into the city from the suburbs to go to my 2nd job, the evening shift at UPS where I unloaded and loaded packages for 3 to 4 hours! I can also remember going skiing for the afternoon in the Laurentians, then driving back into the city to work the evening shift at UPS. I had boundless energy; nothing could exhaust me. Today, just climbing a flight of stairs leaves me with burning thighs and winded. As I watched these athletes perform I could not help but yearn to be young again. I know that we are supposed to be "present" and "live in the moment" rather than pine for what once was or hope for what could be in the future, but I could not keep my mind from wandering to the days gone by when I could do anything without even thinking twice about it. Whereas today, in sharp contrast, I have to plan each moment, focusing on energy conservation, allocating only a certain amount of time to specific tasks and balancing them with periods of rest. I have to think about how I'm going to get out of bed, walk down a flight of stairs, bend over to pick something up off the floor, open the refrigerator, carry an object, etc. Every action requires my full attention to avoid tripping, falling, or injuring myself. I made a joke as we were walking back to our car after the show. I said, "There he is (Bronx, the male performer), swinging from a rope with just one arm with his female partner dangling gracefully from his other arm as they fly through the air, and I have to be careful not to hurt my hand just cutting an onion!". My wife and her friend Anna had a good laugh. But that is my reality, and I have no choice but to accept it. And that is something that I am working on every day - acceptance.
Seeing this show made me feel human again. I was out and about, mingling with my friends in the food court/boutique area before the show and it felt great. I was out in the city, with my wife and friends, like old times, taking in a spectacular show, eating a $9 bag of popcorn and drinking a $5 bottle of 7UP, and I all I could think was how blessed I was to be there. Despite all of my health problems and active symptoms, I was carried and whisked away to a place in my soul that I had not visited in a long time. To quote Tony, my good friend who accompanied us, "I was, as a child, spellbound and rapt with wonder." How wonderful is that!"
Before leaving, I decided I wanted to browse through the souvenir shop. I chose a $15 branded mug and made my way to the cash to pay for it. The cashier told me that the cup had a neat feature - it reveals the bird and eyes logo when hot liquid is poured into it! Wow, and it's just $15! I also grabbed a fridge magnet because... I just can't help but be hypnotized by those Eurasian eyes.
With the Cirque du Soleil and Corey Hart both being homegrown Montreal icons, I thought I should include his hit song "Eurasian Eyes" for your listening pleasure.
I've also included "Hypnotized" by Fleetwood Mac!
You'll find both tracks just below.