by Rick Pender
Onstage at Dayton's Nutter Center through June 16
Cirque du Soleil's classic show, Quidam,
opens with Zoé (Alessandra Gonzalez), a bored little girl whose parents
ignore her. We enter the world of her imagination when Quidam, a
headless wanderer under an umbrella, hands Zoé his blue bowler hat.
(This imagery will resonate with those who know the surrealist paintings
of René Magritte, a 20th century artist whose paintings challenged
traditional perceptions of reality.) Zoé's self-absorbed parents float
away and we are transported to the magical reality of Cirque's
physically astonishing performers.
The "world" presently inhabited by Quidam is Dayton's Nutter Center, on the campus of Wright State University, through Sunday, June 16.
The show, which originated as a big top production (it spent several
weeks in Cincinnati in August and September 2006 in a "grand chapiteau"
on the Ohio River bank near the Suspension Bridge) is now an arena show,
and it works beautifully in the Nutter. Five giant metal arches are
used to suspend performers in mid-air, but you quickly lose sight of the
mechanics thanks to the artistry, visual and musical, of Cirque.
To me, the
greatest wonder — beyond the physical precision and discipline of
Cirque's athletic artists — is the universality of shows like Quidam,
which tour the world. (In a few months, this company will be
performing in Europe, playing to audiences in cities including Vienna,
Munich and London, where it has a month-long engagement at Royal Albert
Hall.) The performers are ethnically diverse and the storytelling spans
cultural boundaries: Wordless clowning (Quidam features a segment
about making a silent movie that recruits a few audience members as
"actors") is laugh-out-loud funny, and the ringmaster John (Mark Ward)
borders on intentional incompetence in a way that endears him to the
crowd even as he moves us from act to act without saying a word.
acts we see: German Wheel (a pair of man-sized double hoops containing a
guy who rolls around the stage); Diabolo (spinning Chinese yo-yo's
tossed high into the air from a string and caught); Aerial Contortion
(Tanya Burka is an amazing silk contortionist, many feet above the
stage); Skipping Ropes (using 20 acrobats); Aerial Hoops (three women
spinning and pivoting through the air); Hand Balancing (incredible
strength and flexibility by a woman on yard-high canes); Spanish Webs
(five fellows on high, hanging and twisting on ropes); Statue (a
mesmerizing performance by Yves Décoste and Valentyna Sidenko who slowly
and powerfully balance in various positions); and finally Banquine
(acrobatics). The latter section, Quidam's finale, uses 15
artists, launching tumblers high into the air and catching them. At one
point they build a tower of four humans atop each others' shoulders.
Each assemblage or toss seems more daring than the previous.
might be the product of Zoé's boredom, but the show expands imaginative
horizons. It's definitely worth a one-hour drive from Cincinnati.
by Andy Brownfield
Vows to bring to justice killers of U.S. Ambassador to Libya
DAYTON – Vice President Joe Biden took time at the beginning of his
Wednesday campaign stop in Dayton to condemn an overnight attack that killed the
U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, while praising the work and
courage of American diplomats and promising to bring to justice those who
carried out the attack.
“(This) brave — and it’s not hyperbole to say brave –— ambassador
was in Benghazi while the war was going on. Our ambassador risked his life
repeatedly while the war in Libya to get rid of that dictator was going on,”
“These men are as brave and as courageous as any of our warriors.”
The Tuesday attack took place during a protest against an amateur
short film made in the United States that protesters say insulted the Prophet
Muhammad. U.S Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his staff members
“Let me be clear — we are resolved to bring to justice their
killers,” Biden said.
The vice president made no mention of Republican presidential
candidate Mitt Romney’s criticism of the Obama administration’s response from
the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, which he characterized as “akin to an apology” and a
“severe miscalculation,” but the vice president quickly segued into politics, alluding
to Romney’s relative lack of experience in foreign policy.
“The task of a president is not only to defend our interests and
causes and the cause of freedom abroad, it is also to build a nation here at
home, to which the entire world can look and aspire to be like,” Biden said. “Whether
we do that and how we do that, that is literally the essence of the choice we
face in this presidential election. It really is that basic, and foreign policy
is not some sideline to all of this.”
The Romney campaign in Ohio was quick to respond, calling Biden’s
remarks “hypocritical” in an emailed statement.
“Vice President Biden’s appearance in Dayton only served further
damage to his credibility as he reprised hypocritical and widely debunked
attacks against Mitt Romney. Not only did the Vice President mislead Ohioans,
but he attacked Mitt Romney for supporting the same tax policy the Obama
Administration supported just last year,” Romney Ohio spokesman Christopher
“With today’s Census report showing nearly 1 in 6 Americans
living in poverty and incomes continuing to decline, it appears that misleading
attacks are all the Obama campaign has left to offer 400,000 Ohioans looking
Maloney’s email also fact-checked a claim made by Biden during
his speech. Biden said that he opposed the so-called “territorial tax,” which
he said would allow American companies that invested abroad to avoid paying
taxes in the United States.
The email included links to an Associated Press fact checking
article that concludes that Romney’s proposal was aimed at encouraging
investment in the U.S. rather than overseas.
Biden spoke to a packed house at Wright State University in
Dayton, with overflow crowds estimated in the hundreds viewing in separate
rooms in the Student Union.
The vice president reiterated many of his usual stump speech
points — the Romney tax plan’s negative effects on the middle class, the
benefits of the Affordable Care Act and the Obama administration’s commitment to
manufacturing — but much of Biden’s speech focused on education. He said a president
Romney would cut funding for Pell Grants, meaning many students in the audience
would have to leave school. He also lauded President Barack Obama’s
administration’s enactment of a tax break of $2,500 for every family that sends
a child to college.
The usually bombastic Biden wasn’t without his gaffes. Twice he
referred to Wright State as “Wayne State,” which is in Detroit, despite a large
Wright State University banner displayed in the conference room where he gave
The crowd was quick to correct him after the second time he misspoke.
“Wright State, which also includes Wayne State,” Biden said after
he was corrected, eliciting laughs from the audience.