img: Al Sieb, costume: Francois Barbeau

Beginning in the early eighties, Cirque du Soleil reinvented the circus by banning animals and doing away with rings. Fast forward three decades. Certain Cirque shows have been circumnavigating the globe for ten or twenty years now. Dralion, touring through Colorado this month in its new arena format, is among them. Think of it as retro Cirque, though all shows go through occasional upgrades (especially when they’re refitted for bigger venues). Spandex is the most common costume fabric, but the acts still wow after all this time.

Opening a show with roaming, trickster clowns is classic Cirque formula. Dralion’s resident funny men are apparently Italian. Embarrassing a randomly selected audience member is a guaranteed laugh-getter. Spoiler alert: the joke’s on us. But it’s entertaining nonetheless. Comb-over funeral rites, a dancing pot belly and a saw solo are just a few of the gags in the Italians’ bag.

Dralion, a hybrid word that fuses “dragon” and “lion,” is a Far East-inspired production. Contortion, hand balancing and other Asian circus art specialties are featured prominently. Chinese dragons pop up a lot too. Four man beasts are able to flip sideways off a balcony and balance on boulder-sized balls, even rolling them up onto a teeter totter at one point. Country fiddle and acid house squelch accompanies the latter action.

As is often the case with Cirque, Dralion contains more than a few high points—both emotionally and literally. Trampoline-facilitated Spiderman shenanigans, an aerial hooper seemingly immune to dizziness, human pyramid jumprope and, quite possibly, the most mesmerizing juggler I have ever laid eyes on. Not even dropping a few balls diminished his snakelike physical fluidity. The hoop divers were so smooth that I found myself hoping they’d make a mistake, just so I could be reminded of how difficult what they were doing actually was. They eventually did falter, but it didn’t minimize the act’s impact.

Dralion ain’t broke.

img: Daniel Desmarais, costumes: Francois Barbeau

George Peele enjoys strapping on height enhancers and aurally ambushing strangers. He is Music Features Editor for 303’s print edition. Look for a Custom Singing Telegrams mention in 5280 Magazine’s February ‘It’s a Date’ feature or Mantis Man at Westword’s Artopia February 18. Follow Peele on Twitter: @Orangepeelmoses. Avatar image courtesy Jonathan Shoup.