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September 21, 2017

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Colorful 'Saltimbanco' is in town

"Saltimbanco" (藝界人生) — the classic Cirque du Soleil performance, made its Taiwan debut Wednesday in Kaohsiung, and will carry on in Taipei on Sept. 5. A crew of over 90 people arrived in Kaohsiung last weekend, including 50 artists from 21 countries. Taiwan is the last stop on their Asia tour before returning to Montreal to close the show.

"We're very excited to be here. Among the 90 traveling crew, only one person has been in Taiwan before," said the troupe's publicist Maxime Charbonneau Monday in Taipei. "Saltimbanco" has been showing for 20 years, making it the longest-running show of Cirque du Soleil. It has toured more than 50 countries, and has been seen by 13 million people.

"This is a very colorful production that prompts happiness and joy. You will forget about your life for two hours and leave with a big smile on your face," Charbonneau added.

The Italian word "Saltimbanco" translates as "to jump on the bench," referring to the old circus performance tradition where buskers, entertainers or acrobats stood on a bench in the main piazza to perform. Created in 1992, the show centers on people who live in the countryside that migrate to big cities and discover the dynamics of a metropolis.

Before going into detail, Charbonneau said that one important fundamental about Cirque du Soleil is that one should not try to understand the story too much. "Honestly, it is very difficult to follow the story, but come and enjoy the show for what it is — the beautiful acrobatics, costumes, makeup, music and singers.

"'Saltimbanco' is a simple show in a good way. There is no apparatus or fancy technology involved. It is a simple show with acts of pure human strength on stage," he added.

While the show has been running for 20 years, it underwent a transformation five years ago from a big top performance to an arena performance. Big top performance refers to the troupe's mobile "village," which includes an artistic tent, entrance tents, VIP tent, box office, kitchen, school, office trailers, warehouses and more. Everything goes with the crew wherever they bring the show.

The arena performance became popular after the crew discovered some advantages such as more room for the audience and lighter travel arrangements. An arena accommodates up to 5,000 audience members, doubling the big top capacity of 2,600 viewers. In addition, arena performances have opened many markets, including shows produced in Amman, Jordan and Israel. Although some acts were indeed revised after the transformation, Cirque du Soleil continues to ensure the same high-quality production at a more affordable cost.

Despite the huge success of "Saltimbanco" and the great responses it has received, the company has decided to close the show by the end of 2012. "The reason is that 'Salimbanco' has been almost everywhere in the world and we're almost out of options. We try not to go to the same place twice with the same shows," said Charbonneau, who added cheerfully, "All the more reason to come and watch 'Saltimbanco' for one last time."■

'Saltimbanco' (藝界人生) ► 7:30 p.m. Sept. 5 ~ Sept. 8 (Wed. ~ Sat.) / 2:30 p.m. Sept. 6 and Sept. 8 (Thurs. and Sat.) / 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Sept. 9 (Sun.) / Taipei Arena (台北小巨蛋) / No. 2, Sec. 4, Nanjing E. Rd., Taipei (台北市松山區南京東路四段2號) / NT$800-NT$3,800 /

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