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Despite Being a Nervous Wreck, I Loved Corteo

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Cirque du Soleil is at the Del Mar Fairgrounds

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Cirque du Soleil is in town with Corteo , one of its six touring productions. I went to the opening Friday night and let me tell you, it's all the things you hear about their shows: awe-inspiring! jaw-dropping! death-defying! Since compound adjectives seem to work when talking about Cirque, I'm going to add one of my own: nerve-wracking!

I was anxious the whole time about someone falling (phew, nobody did). I've developed a late but mild fear of heights, which obviously added to my anxiety. But it's also too unbelievable that people can twist their bodies in that way, or make them fly through the air, or suspend themselves 20 feet above the stage by a PIECE OF FABRIC!, or hula hoop across a tight rope 30 feet in the air. I mean, who does this? What is the molecular make-up of a person that says "Hey, I want to try that!"? It might be like the speed gene, which I definitely don't have (while driving, I've been called "grandma" more than once, but I brush it off. Safety first!).

But despite the damage to my nerves, Corteo is crazy fun and makes for a great night out. "Corteo" is Italian for cort?ge, which means procession. In this case, the procession is a funeral parade in the form of a carnival, all imagined by a dying clown. Not the scary, creepy kind of clown, the cute 16th-century Italian kind.

The costuming and set are gorgeous. It's a mix of 16th- century Italian fashion (think Commedia dell'arte), traditional big top wear, and the latest in gymnast chic. There's also less make-up in this show - you can see the performers' faces, which look all to cucumber cool as they're flying through the air.

My favorite numbers: A man climbing a ladder perched against...nothing! It just stood straight up in the air and he had to wiggle the whole way up to balance it. He flew up and down it and then brought out a bigger ladder and proceeded to slowly make his way up, balancing, with no net underneath.

There was also an amazing opening number which had women swinging from three elaborate chandeliers high above the stage. Oh, and a real crowd-pleaser, deservedly so, featured a female little person (not sure what the p.c. term is) attached to a bouquet of huge helium balloons . She floated out into the audience where people would gently push her feet to move her around as if passing a beach ball above their heads. Now that I'm writing it, it sounds kind of weird. But it was really magical and, at the very least, something you don't see every day.

Even if you've been to other Cirque du Soleil shows, I suspect these things never get old. Del Mar Fairgrounds hosts the big tent, and you can learn more here .

Oh, and check out this whistle performance from the show. This was the only act where I wasn't nervous that the performer would get hurt. I could care less about vocal chord strain.

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