du Soleil's Dralion on DVD
An Entertaining Sensory
Cirque du Soleil has gained worldwide fame and fortune for its fascinating
and involving blending of circus, music and dance. Dralion is a production
that fuses the traditional Cirque approach with that of an ancient Chinese
Though the disc doesn't really make it apparent, Cirque's web site explains
that Dralion is meant to be a celebration of life and the "four elements"
that maintain the natural order: air, water, fire and earth. What you
end up with is a multifaceted tour de force and, though you may never
understand a word being sung or, more rarely, spoken, you're drawn into
the show and become amazed, excited, and titillated at the same time.
Not all of the acts are performed by Chinese acrobats, though a majority
are (and some of the acrobats appear to be surprisingly young) and they
include ballet on lights, hoop diving, bamboo poles, juggling, teeterboard,
double trapeze and skipping ropes.
Some of these might sound pretty trite, but until you've seen what these
people can do with hoops and jump ropes you won't believe it.
One of the other acts is a particularly avant-garde juggler who, in typical
Cirque tradition, takes what could have been an ordinary juggling act
and turns it into a tour de force of athletics and acrobatics at the same
Part of what makes Cirque du Soleil special is its use of costumes, lighting
and sound to move the circus from the traditional sawdust ring into a
far more theatrical environment. They also tie everything together with
ethereal music sung by Cirque's version of ringmasters, a male and female
duo who - singly and together - weave tonal tapestries that provide a
wonderful backdrop to the acrobatics happening on stage.
In short, Dralion is one heck of a show, and it really should be experienced.
We wish we could say the same about the DVD. Everything looks promising,
from the box. The production was shot in widescreen, and it fits the 16x9
TV perfectly. The sound quality is very good, and the use of the surround
tracks to immerse you in the audience works very well.
Unfortunately, the picture suffers from "digital artifacts" which take
curved lines (and Cirque is full of curves of various types, whether human
or from equipment or settings) and turn them into rough "stairsteps."
These turn what should be a wonderful experience of color and light into
an annoying example of how not to make a video production. It's so bad
you'd think the thing was produced by amateurs.
To be fair, after we experienced the artifacts on our big, widescreen
reference TV (which includes a digital "line doubler" inside it) we tried
it on a 36" digital 4x3 TV and the artifacts weren't as noticeable. They
were still there, though - and we haven't experienced problems like that
with any other DVD (yet!) on the big widescreen unit.
Other than that, there's a lot of other stuff that can help you enjoy
the disc. There's a "Making of" featurette, and a section of performances
that make terrific use of the DVD format's multiple angle capability.
This latter section is really neat to watch and makes us wish more discs
would take advantage of this little-used feature.
Cirque du Soleil presents Dralion, from Columbia Tristar Home Video
89 minutes, Widescreen (1.78:1), 16x9 TV compatible, Dolby Digital
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