An Open Letter to Cirque du Soleil re: TOTEM San Francisco

Dear Cirque du Soleil,

My wife and I have been attending Cirque shows for years – going back to before we met 10 years ago. When our son was 3 we started taking him to shows every year as well. He’s now 6, and our annual trip to Cirque has become the way we kick off the holidays. It has always been filled with wonder and magic, an experience well worth the price of admission. Until TOTEM.

TOTEM marked the first time we felt disappointed in a Cirque show. We attended the matinee SF performance this past Sunday (11/13/11), and once our son had gone to bed we said, for the first time, “Do you want to go back next year?” I’m sure you’re aware that your prices are expensive, and we wanted you to know that the product you’ve put out there this time around has us questioning to come back next time.

Some specifics: TOTEM was extremely focused on the center section of seats. Huge portions of the show played directly to the middle third. We were in section 104, Row B, seats 3 – 5, and we felt like 2nd class citizens through much of the show. The finale of the unicycles & bowls, for example, was completely blocked by the backs of the unicyclists.

The acts felt less engaging this year, as a whole. There were some amazing acts, as always, but there were real “filler” acts too; acts which felt beneath a Cirque du Soleil show, acts which felt like a rip off. Specifically: the Hoops Dancer act was cute once, but too much a 2nd time (and I’ll get into how often they dropped hoops later). The androgynous couple doing strength moves played directly to the center of the house, and never engaged our side of the tent.

There were lots of mistakes. I get it, the performers are human. But there were a *lot* of mistakes for one 2-hour show. The hoops act dropped a lot of hoops; a disheartening number of hoops. Devil Sticks dropped his stick at least once. One of the Russian Bars acrobats fell off of his bar on a landing early in the routine, and from there on out he seemed timid and played it safe.

The “story” of TOTEM was one of the weakest you’ve floated yet. It all seemed designed to set up the “evolution of man” bit – which was funny, but hardly the basis of a show.

For years we have loved your shows and blindly bought tickets knowing that our minds would be blown for the 2+ hours we were under that tent. We’ve never felt like we had a bad seat in the house, until Sunday.

This year we were constantly reminded that we hadn’t bought the best tickets, that we were watching flawed humans perform, and that you’ve been rolling out new shows every year for so long now that it’s taken its toll on your ability to put forth something new, fresh and amazing.

Next year we will read the reviews of your show before it comes to town, and we’ll take any negative reviews more seriously than we would have before we saw TOTEM. We know that your cast and crew work hard, but this seemed like a product beneath what we expect from you.



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