(Dralion is currently playing at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA, through Sunday, October 26. Buy tickets here.)
Let me begin by saying that I thought we had never seen Dralion before. Halfway through the show, we realized that we had. (The clown act gave it away for us.) That’s how many different Cirque du Soleil shows we’ve seen. We’re in the double digits now.
To say we’re fans is putting it mildly.
Dralion is one of the longest-running Cirque du Soleil shows (if not the longest-running). It premiered in 1999 and has been touring the world for the past 15 years. Sadly, though, the show will come to an end next year, ending this impressive run.
Therefore, if you want to see this one and it’s coming near you soon, I’d highly recommend you catch it before it’s gone forever.
Dralion, more than most Cirque du Soleil shows, draws its inspiration from the real world and real cultures. The look and feel of the show and its many acts are heavily influenced by various Asian cultures—most notably, Chinese.
Officially, the show strives to fuse the 3,000 year-old tradition of Chinese acrobatic arts with the multidisciplinary approach of Cirque du Soleil and draws its inspiration from Eastern philosophy and its never-ending quest for harmony between humans and nature.
Wondering about the name? It’s derived from two emblematic creatures: the dragon, symbolizing the East, and the lion, symbolizing the West. (By the way, it’s pronounced dra-lee-on.)
Since the show debuted some 15 years ago, many of its acts have since percolated to some of Cirque du Soleil’s other shows. Acts such as the Aerial Pas de Deux (in which two acrobats seemingly fly over the stage on long bands of cloth), Hoop Diving (in which 16 gymnasts launch themselves like missiles through small wooden hoops), and the Trampoline (where the performers appear weightless and have the ability to walk up walls) have all popped up in other Cirque du Soleil shows.
That’s not to say those acts aren’t still impressive. Because they very much are.
Still, we’re drawn to the acts that are unique to each show. Since Dralion is so heavily rooted in Chinese culture, it should come as no surprise that the most impressive and memorable acts are also rooted in Chinese culture.
The Dralions themselves are a “reimagining” of the traditional Chinese lion dance. The acrobatics and balancing acts done here are all the more impressive when you consider the costumes these guys have to wear.
The Bamboo Poles act is notable for its beauty and the performers’ ability to keep such long poles balanced and “in flight.”
The Diabolo is a traditional Chinese yo-yo that has since become a staple in any juggler’s toolkit. However, in the hands of these women, the skill takes on a entirely new dimension. Simply spectacular.
Like all traveling shows, the acts and stage design are a bit more “toned down” than you might see in one of the resident shows (particularly those in Las Vegas). But the majesty, skill, and brilliance still shine through in nearly every respect.
The music, the costumes, the wonder. It’s all pure Cirque du Soleil magic. If you’ve never been, you certainly can’t go wrong with this one. And since it’s closing forever next year, there’s really no excuse to not catch it again even if you’ve seen it before.
The crowd in Charlottesville for the opening night performance was woefully sparse. If you’re within driving distance (we drove down from DC for the show) or will be in Charlottesville for Homecomings weekend, do not miss it.
You won’t be disappointed.
Like I mentioned up top, Dralion is currently playing at the John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville through Sunday, October 26. Buy tickets here.
After that, it moves on to Fort Wayne, IN; Bloomington, IL; Cedar Rapids, IA; Duluth, MN; and several other cities through the end of the year. Check here for a full schedule.
(Disclosure: We were guests of Cirque du Soleil for this performance. All opinions are our own.)