Cirque du Soleil's new 'Amaluna' opening at Citi Field in Flushing

Uneven bars secene from "Amaluna," directed by Diane

Uneven bars secene from "Amaluna," directed by Diane Paulus. (Credit: Laurence Labat)

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Imagine you're a director, sitting in a hangar, giving direction to your cast -- "Let's take it from the top" -- and then you hear your words repeated. In French. Russian. Spanish. Language after language, like some international echo.

That's Cirque du Soleil for you.

"It's like the United Nations, with artists from all over the world," says Diane Paulus, director of "Amaluna," Cirque's latest extravaganza. The show has toured Canada and parts of the United States since 2012, and opens Thursday in a 62-foot-high, heated tent alongside Citi Field in Flushing. Paulus, an acclaimed theater and opera director, is no stranger to sprawling epics, having brought the recent "Hair," "Porgy & Bess" and "Pippin" revivals to Broadway. It was with "Pippin" that she had the idea to mix circus performers with singers and dancers, and she became fascinated by the international world of acrobats.

When the Cirque folks called, Paulus jumped at the chance to work on a full-fledged big-top production.

"They wanted this show to be an homage to women," says Paulus. "And I loved the idea."

"Amaluna" is loosely based on Shakespeare's "The Tempest," about a mighty king and his daughter on a desert island -- except here the king is a queen, and she rules over a gang of goddesses.

But not just any goddesses. They are the most double-jointed, gravity-defying band of women you'll ever find on one island. They fling themselves off uneven bars and spin on aerial straps. When a ship of dudes is washed ashore, they're amazed at the feats of athleticism they witness. Particularly a chap named Romeo, who falls for the island's young princess after he sees her amazing "water bowl dance" (in which she dives into and snakes around a large glass bowl full of water).

The show has taken the Cirque squad a bit outside their comfort zone. The cast is about 70 percent female, 30 percent male (a flip of Cirque's typical ratio) and the music is decidedly more rock and roll (played by an all-female band).

"What I love is not only the virtuosic athleticism, but those moments when you're touching emotions," says Paulus. "When you're moved. Not just oohing and ahhing, but you're emotionally hooked."

For info and tickets, visit cirquedusoleil.com.

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