Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Amaluna’ rocks — with estrogen

Miranda (Iulia Mykhailova) discovers her sexuality and rubbery bones on and in “Amaluna” water bowl. Photo: Laurence Labat.
Miranda (Iulia Mykhailova) discovers her sexuality and rubbery bones on and in “Amaluna” water bowl. Photo: Laurence Labat.

The more things change, the proverb screams, the more they stay the same.

Except, maybe, when the change-maker is Cirque du Soleil.

Then it’s mostly different.

In the case of the famed circus’ latest creation, “Amaluna,” in which Tony Award-winning director Diane Paulus gender-bends Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” into a feminist panorama, I could swiftly hear the changes as well as see them.

They shook me out of my comfort zone.

I’d grown contented over the years with the Cirque’s signature new-agey, otherworldly stringed melodies. But now, behind AT&T Park in San Francisco, I needed to deal with rhythmic, drum-heavy world music with vibrating overtones of electrified rock chords that, well, rocked.

High energy. Emotion-packed.

And undoubtedly aimed at a new generation of circus-goers.

But for white-haired types such as myself, the music sometimes came in three-stage waves: Loud, louder, too loud.

The show, a women-power fable that blends coming-of-age and royal-romance themes, starts and ends with a dancing scarf that resembles a lithe, floating feminine body. Those moments bookend sundry acts from a 52-member multi-racial cast that, for the first time, is more than 70 percent female — and that even includes a 100 percent estrogen-laden band.

Perhaps the most memorable segment is the 15 minutes that spotlight Lara Jacobs as a Balance Goddess.

She creates an eerie but mystical skeleton-like mobile out of 13 palm leaf ribs, using her toes to grasp each delicate piece. Her increasingly labored breathing, seemingly broadcast via a body mic, adds tension to an otherwise quiet, almost meditative slo-mo sequence.

Paulus inspires “Amaluna,” a fabricated word that fuses two that signify mother and moon, with a simple switch of letters, an “a” for an “o.” She transforms the Bard’s Prospero into a female shaman, Prospera (Julie McInes).

And she shows her personal wizardry by turning a youthful Miranda (Iulia Mykhailova) into a romantic partner to Romeo (Evgeny Kurkin).

The director then showcases Mykhailova’s talent as a handstander and contortionist in and out of a bowl that weighs 5,500 pounds when filled with water — and Kurkin’s athletic ability to plunge headfirst down a pole.

Paulus utilizes, too, the superb juggling skills of Victor Kee, who portrays Cali, a half-lizard, half man who momentarily traps Romeo in the bowl.

What else can be expected?

Typical Cirque spectacles — imaginative and flashy costumes; dancing lights that complement dancing humans; a fast-moving assortment of Valkyries, Amazons and goddesses; and a pair of clowns who do an oblique, sometimes funny number on childbirth that even features an homage to “Brahms Lullaby.”

Most of the music, by the way, is sung in French, not the invented languages for which the circus gained renown.

Cirque du Soleil has produced 32 shows so far. I’ve seen 10 or 11 of them, and “Amaluna” is neither the best nor the worst. Many of its components, however, lingered with me long after I left its big tent.

So did the sensation of having had a melt-in-your-mind treat.

And I recalled that if I weren’t particularly impressed with any given component, the chunky woman seated next to me still kept blurting out in amazement, “Oh my God, oh my God.”

The Quebec-based troupe employs a total of 1,300 artists from 50 countries. More than 100 million spectators have watched their animal-free performances in 300 cities, and a few thousand more will catch “Amaluna” in San Jose starting Jan. 22.

It’s not required to have had any familiarity with Willie the Shakes to enjoy “Amaluna,” nor is it necessary to be female to appreciate that the show represents a woman’s prospective. The only requisite is to like colorful, animal-less circus extravaganzas.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on,” the Bard proclaimed in “The Tempest.”

“Amaluna,” for me, is crammed with dreamy stuff.

“Amaluna” plays in the big top behind AT&T Park in San Francisco through Jan. 12. Night performances, Tuesdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m.; matinees, Fridays and Saturdays, 4:30, and Sundays, 1 and 4:30. General tickets: $50 to $270. Information: (800) 450-1480 or www.cirquedusoleil.com.

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