To celebrate another successful show, all the performers gather on stage and take turns
flying and flinging on the bungee cords. Some grab acrobats by the feet and sling-shot them
so hard that they soar to the top of the tent. The band plays a quirky little song that
embellishes the jovial mood, but with a sudden snap of the snare drum the finale arrives.
Cirque du Soleil is known for rearranging live songs from the studio versions, but the
closing song, "Horéré Ukundé", has one of the most distinctive changes. On the soundtrack
this song is played with a slow 4/4 time signature; live, however, it is played to an upbeat
2/4 signature that almost seems rushed. This song includes some of the most interesting
imaginary lyrics with words like "qwu-eggy" and "mah-leggy" that rolls off the vocalist's
tongue. Maybe Cirque du Soleil could just create a universal language for all to speak.
And...the bell tolls once again. The performers wave goodbye to the admiring crowd.
If Alegría is Cirque's signature show - the one that pulled together all of the various
elements into one seamless, fantastic production - then Saltimbanco is the progenitor of
what would become the essence of Cirque du Soleil. By taking a giant leap from the literal-
mindedness of Le Cirque Réinventé, and, to some extent, Nouvelle Experience, it laid the
groundwork for the true exploration of what these shows had already begun. It is much less
literal than any of the shows that came before it, relying more on thematic structure and
image than on a strict set of rules.
To look at Saltimbanco, coming where it does in the evolution of Cirque's history, is
to see a basis of what came after it. In our opinion, with Saltimbanco, the productions
became less about pretty pictures that tied the acts together, but more of a total
experience, out of which the circus acts became an integral part. In other words, it became
one complete theatrical experience. The acts come out of an impulse in the story line; they
blend together in one seamless totality of fantasy.
The characters, then - the Worms, the Baroques, the Baron - become not just plot devices
or wonderful costume pieces that add to the visual excitement, but archetypes of personality
and emotions. The Baroques are vividly different from the Worms, and the nature of their
performance (most pointedly in the Russian Swing) is vastly different (compared to the Worms
on the Chinese Poles). The music of the show is expertly integrated to underlie the thematic
structure. Indeed, the signature song of the show - Kumbalawe - is one of the lightest, most
lyrical pieces of Cirque's repertoire. Think of it in comparison to the bright colors, the
high energy of the set and the design, and it is a simple, almost child-like tune, reminiscent
of innocence and joy.