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Cirque du Soleil 'Volta' review: Forget the story, enjoy the spectacle

Part of Cirque du Soleil's "Volta" action turns

Part of Cirque du Soleil's "Volta" action turns on BMX acrobatics.  Credit: Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil “Volta”

WHERE Through July 1 at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale

INFO From $45 at nycblive.com, 800-745-3000

BOTTOM LINE Forget about the story, go for the spectacle.

A lost soul tries to find himself in “Volta,” the Cirque du Soleil extravaganza that has pitched its big top in NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum parking lot for the next six weeks.

Waz (Joey Arrigo) is a game show contestant who has been ridiculed and bullied all his life because instead of hair he has a headful of blue feathers. His attempt to come to terms with this involves a series of encounters with others who have incredible abilities. These encounters ultimately convince him, we are to gather from his final — and beautifully performed — contemporary dance titled “Breakthrough,” to accept, even revel in, his uniqueness.

The story is almost impossible to follow, but then people don’t go to this kind of production for meaningful theatrical experiences — even Cirque du Soleil’s recent Broadway experiment “Paramour” was light on storyline. They go for the spectacle, and “Volta” (the title suggests an abrupt change of direction) delivers with an array of daredevils, from jump-ropers who double Dutch at lightning speed to a guy who literally swings from a chandelier. Well, a light fixture, anyway.

A MODERN TAKE

In an effort to appeal to millennials, the producers have added extreme sports and an electronic score by Anthony Gonzalez (aka M83) to the Cirque mix that’s been around since its start in the early ‘80s with some street performers in Quebec. “In the creative process,” said writer-director Bastien Alexandre in a promotional video, “we got really inspired by the energy of action sports, that freedom of just going for things that you want to do.”

This translates to a little bungee jumping, a frightening BMX display, and a pas de deux involving a flatland BMX biker (Nao Yoshida) and a ballerina (Rosina Gil) that’s remarkable. The cyclist and the dancer are dazzling as they match each other, leap for leap, spin for spin.

This being a circus of sorts, there’s a clown, Mr. Wow (Andrey Kislitsin), ostensibly the game show host, who excels in both his routines. In one, he battles with three malfunctioning washing machines (bringing adorable giggles from the child behind me) and in another, he gets lost in a jungle after nibbling a hallucinogenic flower.

Women, sad to say, get the short stick in this production, being relegated for the most part to Jennifer Marcus’ unimpressive baton routine and a vaguely masochistic act in which Danila Bim, in a nude bodysuit with strategically placed flowers, performs some impressive acrobatic stunts while being swung around by a rope attached to her bun. Surely there was a woman who might have joined the flashy shape divers in their increasingly risky maneuvers, leaping through rotating hoops, although I didn’t buy for a minute that one of them missed — just part of the act intended to raise the already considerable decibel level.

It is, of course, the perceived danger that creates an almost constant heart-in-your-throat experience. And with good reason. Earlier this year, a “Volta” performer died after losing his grip during a straps routine. Watching the finale, with five BMX bikers doing their complex stunts in close quarters on clear ramps that let you see every twist, the possibility of a collision looms.

When they finally stopped (everyone in one piece), the crowd was on its feet. And, it must be said, absolutely relieved.

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