Show Review: Totem’s mid-air stunts leave hearts in mouths

Cirque du Soleil returns to captivate and thrill with the new show and stunning performances of Totem

6 Crystal Man - web

The Crystal Man ignites the show with his brilliance.

A gigantic carapace of a tortoise sat right in the centre. This conundrum set the stage for an evening of magical delight.

As the ‘curtain’ or outer layer of the shell was drawn, a community of frog-like creatures came to life. The nimble and multi-coloured amphibians slid and somersaulted, deftly manoeuvring around the skeletal frame and its bars.

5 Carapace Gymnasts - web

The ‘frogmen’ of the tortoise carapace ensure the audience is captivated from the start.

Almost instantly, everyone was captivated in the spell of Cirque du Soleil: Totem. A journey of evolution, Totem brings the audience into different natural environments and stages of human development. Parts of it brought to mind Fatboy Slim’s music video for “Right Here, Right Now”, which portrays evolution from the amphibian to the mammal stage.

Artistry & brilliance that is Cirque du Soleil

A number of those I had spoken to, as well as myself, expressed having had their hearts in their mouths for almost the entire duration. It’s no wonder, with the (seemingly) impossible stunts, dazzling costumes and emotive music and drama that made it a complete sensory experience.

Together with partial projected scenery and a mechanical, movable portion of the stage (that some call the ‘scorpion bridge’), all the elements harmoniously combined and immersed the audience in the artistry and brilliance that can only be aptly described as Cirque du Soleil.

Enthralled in amazement


The lady in the Roman Rings and ropes trio displayed formidable strength and grace.

One of the first to take our breath away was the trio on the Roman Rings and ropes. My companion, who has experience in dance and gymnastics, commented on a particular stunt by the female performer, “Wow… Usually only guys do that, because of the strength required.”


The Crystal Lady’s spinning and juggling with her feet was an amazing sight.

The one that impressed me the most was the “Crystal Lady” spinning and juggling square rugs with her feet. I was utterly impressed by her flexibility, dexterity and… er… form.

2B Russian Bars Parallel - web

The Russian Bars and cosmonauts was another visually-stunning and ‘impossible’ act that enthralled the audience.

To me, the Russian Bars team of acrobats was the second-best act of the night. It was amazing how these psychedelic ‘cosmonauts’ leapt and somersaulted across man-supported bars with a trampoline-like quality. The moments when they were parallel to the ground in mid-air or in a dive-bombing position in suspended animation were aesthetically stunning.

Heart-pumping stunts

4 Fixed_Trapeze_Duo - web

The Fixed Trapeze Duo left many with their hearts in their mouths with seemingly impossible flips with barely-there connections.

Throughout the night, I couldn’t help but feel that many of the stunts I saw were near-impossible to execute. These included the Roman Rings ‘surfer dudes’ b-boying and posing while suspended above, and the Fixed Trapeze couple executing stunts and flips with nary a connection holding them together. I wasn’t sure how much more my heart could take of such constant daredevil skill and trickery.

3 Unicycle Jugglers - web

The audience held its breath for the Unicycle Jugglers but they performed much better than on the President’s Star Charity.­­

When the Unicycle Jugglers rolled out, many in the audience felt a tad anxious for them. They had performed on the President’s Star Charity show on television but had faltered a little. I suspect that this was due to the difference in the size of the performance area and the lack of preparation time.

In Totem, these mobile ladies put on a laudable performance and were highly entertaining. With each ‘throw’ of the foot or each jerk of their bodies, the audience held its breath to see if each bowl would be caught. There was nothing to fear, as they performed much better.

Smiles becoming permanent

Fisherman Clown - web

The Fisherman clown lit up the faces of the entire audience with his fishing and ‘cooking’ antics.

The entertainment and smiles didn’t just come from the main acts but also from the transitionary performances. The clowns were highly-amusing, and the Fisherman was the best of the bunch.

With his antics and creative use of pots and pans, I realised after a while that my wide smile had almost become a permanent fixture. From the most elaborate to the simplest, this is what Cirque du Soleil embodies in every character and act — heartfelt, feel-good entertainment for all ages.

Despite the many acts, I felt that the night had drawn to a close all too soon. Nevertheless, I’m certain this rousing show has sparked something within me, not just raised goosebumps on my arms.


P.S. Without giving away a spoiler, keep an eye on the Crystal Man and his crowning moment of brilliance.

Cirque du Soleil Totem is on at the Grand Chapiteau (Big Top) next to the Sands Expo & Convention Centre, until Dec 6. Tickets are available from Sistic, from $98.

By Lester J Wan