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Flashy, colorful lights, misting fog and upbeat dance music are the first impressions one has when entering the newly redesigned Eldorado Theatre in the Eldorado Hotel Casino. Upon leaving the brightly lit casino for the theatre, audience members are greeted with an ambience more seemingly suited for a full-on rave party or, in this case, the new stage show, “Cirque Le Noir – The Dark Side of Cirque,” which appears Wednesdays through Sundays through Aug. 27.

Heading further down into the theatre, one notices that the previous stage has been replaced with a new fashion show catwalk-style stage. Seats surround this catwalk stage, allowing audience members the opportunity to see performers up-close, and sometimes overhead. Even audience members in the auditorium-style seats facing the stage will feel as if they’re part of the show, co-producer Jonathan Sanford said. And that’s because they are. Cast members parade and dance amongst the crowd throughout the show, further enhancing its party theme.

“The biggest difference between this and other cirque shows is that the audience is super close and intimate,” Sanford said. “You don’t really get to get this close to these amazing talents when you go to most cirque shows. It really gets the audience into a position that they’re generally not in at most cirque shows. It makes for a very intimate show.”

The show

The show features an international cast of 13 performing incredible feats of strength, balance, stamina and aerial artistry as well as comedy and dance.

Darren “Dizzy” Partridge serves as the Master of Ceremonies, clown and common thread that tie all the acts together. Coming from a martial arts background (he studied Tae Kwon Do and fought in the British Championships when he was 18), the British-born Partridge has worked with Sanford and co-producer Simon Painter for about 13 years. As MC, Partridge brings willing audience members on stage to help perform silly skits that kept audience members laughing while the cirque performers readied for their next routine.

“I was a class clown in school, always pulling pranks to impress friends and girls,” Partridge said. “I was doing a stunt show in Spain doing sword fighting when, after that, I went to an audition in London where the producer, Simon, saw me and said, ‘You’re going to be our clown’ and my career as such was born.

Partridge also performs a routine called “shape manipulation,” which features life-sized metal objects that he spins above his head.

“The basic concept of it is to spin the shape as fast as you can, using the lights to make the shapes manipulate so they don’t look like what the shape is when you stop spinning,” he said. “It really does look great if you can spin it very fast.”

Which he does. Partridge also has a humorous bit where he’s swallowed whole by a life-sized rubber balloon that produced plenty of laughs from the audience.

“I describe that as the most stupid thing you’ll ever see,” he said, laughing. “It’s a silly sort of fun. Certainly one that people will walk away and not forget.”

Unforgettable

Truth be told, none of the acts in “Cirque Le Noir” are forgettable.

The circus acts start with Iztel Salvatierra performing a potentially dangerous and high-paced routine on the aerial hoop, nearly 20 feet above the stage and audience members seated around the stage.

Salvatierra, a native of Mexico and mother of two, has previously appeared in three Cirque de Soleil shows in Asia, Europe and Mexico. This is his her first appearance in Reno.

“It is a super intense routine, to be honest,” she said. “It can be dangerous so I have to be very conscious of every move I make up there. But I’ve been an acrobat for 24 years and I’ve been doing cirque shows for 12 years.”

It’s a job that requires the utmost physical conditioning to perform on a nightly basis.

“When I first started, I was training eight hours a day,” she said. “At this point, I don’t need that much training. Now it’s just about keeping up – maybe two hours a day of conditioning, training, icing my body, physical therapy, good eating and good sleeping when I can get it.”

Salvatierra swings on the hoop supported by, at times, only the back of her neck and, at other times, the tops of her feet. She also spins at times like a top, making one wonder how she doesn’t get dizzy.

“I really don’t know why I don’t get dizzy,” she said. “Maybe it’s because I enjoy it so much. I really do enjoy the feeling. It makes me feel free and the faster I spin the better the feeling is. I just love it. I’ll continue to do this as long as my body allows me to.”

The routines are interspersed by dancers (Randi Armour, Meredith Madden, Jayde Reid and Valerii Volynets) moving through the audience wearing sexy costumes of white, red or black, depending on what part of the show they’re in.

The show’s idea is to explore emotions through colors, Sanford said, although he deferred to Salvatierra to explain the show’s concept.

“The show takes you through different emotions using colors, from the pureness of white – and this is more of the cute part of the show – then turning to passion and kinky when the colors go red, before it ends up with these very dangerous acts (the Rolla Bolla and the roller skating routines) that takes you to the edge, which is the dark side of the cirque, the le noir, the black,” she said.

Rings, balancing and more

Other acts include Gregory Mcelroy on the Cyr Wheel, which is a large steel ring that the performer stands inside and then spins geometrically like a coin trying not to fall flat; Yuliia Lytvynchuk doing a hand-balancing act on two two-foot posts sticking up from the stage; Elena Lev and her several dozen hula hoops; Ryan James performing acrobatic feats of strength and grace from straps hanging from the ceiling; Geddy Pavlovicius doing the Rolla Bolla routine, on which he balances himself high in the air on multiple round cylinders and flat boards; and Dandino Garcia and Luciana Haser performing a dangerously high-speed roller skating act while standing on a raised platform about only 6 feet in diameter.

Every act produced plenty of oohs and aahs from the audience and proves why “Cirque Le Noir” has been a popular show since it made its debut in 2013 in Tokyo. The routines are enhanced with a soundtrack created by British composer Evan Jolly and updated with popular and recognizable songs by DJ Hikuri Roots.

While the intimate show is a bit dark, sensual and potentially dangerous, it’s also a family-friendly show designed to entertain fans of all ages, Sanford said.

“This is real life,” he said. “They’re (performers) are human. There’s definitely a chance that something goes wrong. But there’s that chance with any circus and that’s one of the reason people come – to see things that are amazing that most people can’t do. But we’re extremely safety conscious in terms of making sure the acts are safe and the audience is safe. We have procedures in place so we can immediately have the show come to a full stop if need be, but thankfully, knock on wood, we’ve never needed to do that. It’s a fun, amazing show for everyone and we’re really happy to be here for the next few months.”

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