There’s this magic moment in most Cirque du Soleil shows where they show you someone doing something incredibly athletic and skillful, yet entirely in your realm of understanding, then that person takes that skill and takes it to another, almost superhuman level. In Corteo, taking place at the Toyota Center this weekend, one of those magic Cirque moments takes place during a pole dance. You watch as the dancer shows off her incredible grace, flexibility
Then the pole rises off the ground, dancer still attached to it, continuing her graceful movements along it as it swings back and forth above and across the stage. I got goosebumps, and am very glad I was able to stifle the curse word that formed in my head when the moment occurred. It was like seeing a well-done magic trick without the mystery.
Corteo feels like a show completely untethered from the earth. In addition to the act already mentioned, performers hang from chandeliers, climb to the top of ladders and jump on beds, to name just a few of the ways they fight gravity through the course of the production. To do so is taxing, and you can’t just go from sitting backstage to being in the air.
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Walk behind the curtain at a Corteo performance and the first thing you’re likely to see are racks of weights and various pieces of exercise equipment so that the performers can properly warm up before they step onto the stage. Some performers warm up for 45 minutes before they go on to make sure their body is fully ready for what they’re about to do before the crowd, and that’s after they finish doing their own makeup.
The stage setup for Corteo is very different from the last time Cirque was at Toyota Center with Toruk ; not quite in the round, the stage cuts the Toyota Center down the middle, with half the crowd on one side of the stage and half on the other. It was designed that way so that members of the audience, in addition to watching the performers, can see the world the way that the performers do. It’s like being in the audience and behind the scenes at the same time.
If you’re looking for a different type of athletic extravaganza this weekend that doesn’t involve calves or horses, Corteo is about as safe an investment as you can make. Settle in and get ready to watch some wonders, on stage and in the air.
Corteo continues March 9-11 at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday at the Toyota Center, 1510 Polk. For information, call 713-758-7200 or visit houstontoyotacenter.com/events. $57-$140.