Dralion: Another Cirque Du Soleil Adventure Comes To AMSOIL Arena

Ed Newman

One of the exciting achievements of my childhood was winning the Grotto Circus Contest in 1961. The contest was designed as a promotion for the Grotto Circus, which was soon coming to Cleveland. The aim of the contest was to guess the number of animals and people in the circus. Whoever guessed the closest would win $250 and tickets to the circus.

I well remember lying on the floor with pencil and paper, making lists of the various kinds of animals that would be there and their quantities. Having never been to a big circus I would pump my mom for what kinds of animals they had in a traveling show like this. For some reason she said there would be pigs in the circus and I put down 32, which in retrospect is quite a hilarious quantity of pigs. Ultimately the details were irrelevant as the only thing we were to submit was the total. Lo and behold, I was one of four winners, and to my great surprise there were no pigs at all in the circus.

At that time the circus was a three-ring display of acrobats, jugglers, clowns, and trained animals of all kinds. With eyes wide, we as children let the sensations wash over us. Lights, sound, action… and popcorn.

Circuses in America have a long history that goes all the way back to shortly after the Revolution, offering the masses a source of diversion and entertainment unlike anything else. In the days before radio and television there were as many as a hundred circuses weaving their way about the land. But circus was not just about spectacular entertainment. At the heart of the circus was innovative showmanship and entrepreneurism.

In their day the Ringling Brothers weren’t far off the mark when they called their travelling road show The Greatest Show On Earth. They not only had masterful entertainment, but they also had become skilled in managing the enormous entourage of people and animals. At its height the circus filled 14 acres when they came to town. The railroad train that conveyed them was itself a mile long.
The Great Depression and bad investments killed the Ringling Bros. Circus but it did not kill the love for sensational diversions. And Americans, like people everywhere, enjoy their diversions.

Times have changed a lot since I was a boy, and so has the circus. Though there are some aspects of the circus that remain unaltered (children’s eyes are still as wide as saucers) the Cirque du Soleil has proven itself to have a remarkable ability to adapt to the times, incorporating the most advanced technology while still astonishing us with good old-fashioned acrobatics, jugglers and clowning.

Art, entertainment, storytelling, sensational skill, abandonment to imagination and awe... Cirque du Soleil is a modern spectacle with modern sensibilities designed to produce an unforgettable experience. Thanksgiving weekend AMSOIL Arena will play host to seven showings of the a sensational show called Dralion. The first show will be Wednesday evening with two shows each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.


Dralion TM is a signature Cirque du Soleil® production now experienced by close to eleven million people worldwide since it premiered in 1999 in Montreal, Canada. Like circuses of old, Dralion was a travelling circus that performed under the big top. Since 2010 it has been presented in arenas around the world.

The name comes from a fusion of East and West, as symbolized by the Dragon (East) and the Lion (West). Dralion is comprised of 3,000 year-old Chinese acrobatic arts with the multidisciplinary approach of Cirque du Soleil. Thematically Dralion draws inspiration from Eastern philosophy and its never-ending quest for harmony between humans and nature.   

Like most Cirque du Soleil events there’s a storyline that serves as a thread providing continuity to the experience. In Dralion, the four elements that govern the natural order take on a human form. Thus embodied, each element is represented by its own evocative color: air is blue; water is green; fire is red; earth is ochre. In the world of Dralion, cultures blend, Man and Nature are one, and balance is achieved.

Featuring 50 international acrobats, gymnasts, clowns, musicians and singers, Dralion promises to be a spectacle that takes us to new heights as it defies the laws of nature, including the laws gravity. According to one Yelp reviewer the performers are so agile and skilled they “cannot be human.” Keep in mind that there are no CGI special effects at the circus.

This might be a good place to outline what is in this show. Essentially there are a variety of acts, characters, costumes, music and sets, all thematically braided into an experience.

The Characters

The storyline involves a handful of primary characters beginning with Air, Earth, Water and Fire. The goddess of Air is Azala, guardian of the sun and immortality. Her theme color is blue. Gaya is the goddess of Earth, her color being ochre. Oceane, the goddess of water, is queen of movement and her color is green. Finally, there is Fire. Yao, who symbolizes good and evil, commands the rhythm of the show. His color is red.

There are additional characters as well. These include Kala, who represents time and the infinite cycle of life and Little Buddha the chosen child.

The Costumes

Like the acts themselves, the costumes are themselves a phenomenon. Inspiration for the costumes of Dralion originate in China, Africa and India. All the costumes you’ll see were designed by a Costume Workshop team in Montreal. Some costumes evolve over time. Over 16,000 feet of fabric was used to make the costumes for this one show alone, with over 3,000 costume items if you include shoes, hats and accessories. The troupe has four full-time wardrobe staff who also hire three local wardrobe temps in each city where the circus comes to town. On top of all this, they bring with them seven washing machines, three dryers, 24 rolling racks and twelve fans.

The Dralion team travels with 58 road cases just for the wardrobe department. Twelve of these are full of costumes and seven more filled with back-ups and replacements. Over 300 pair of shoes are painted or repaired on the first day they enter a new city. The wardrobe team will labor for a day and a half when they arrive in Duluth in preparation for their performances here.

The Acts

Trampolines, juggling, handbalancing, and rope skipping all sound like basic activities one might have toyed with at one time or another. Here in the Cirque everything is amped to such a degree so as to astonish. Whether solo or in teams, the extreme flexibility and balance is simply extraordinary.

Tarek Rammo’s aerial dance, the Pas de deux, is one of many acts that feature strength and agility. The Bamboo Poles and the Hoop Diving are like nothing you’ve ever seen. And if you remember your tumbling exercises in high school gym class, when the Dralions arrive you’ll see where that activity might have taken you had you stuck with it.

The Music

Music sets the mood as they say. Whether it’s the Beatles in Cirque’s Love shows, or anything else they tackle, the music is as important to the show as everything else. For Dralion, a band of six musicians and two singers provide the backdrop for the action.

The Set

The set design is likewise an integral part of the show. In this case a 60 foot wide design is suggestive of a futuristic Chinese temple or perhaps plate of medieval armor. Like art, it suggests more than it defines, and allows the imagination to interpret accordingly. A key element is the wall that spans the length of the stage, with giant claws attached allowing artist acrobats to blow our minds.

Cirque Du Soleil is an admirable achievement by professionals of all stripes who create an event while remaining anonymous. Production, lighting and rigging technicians remain dedicated to their tasks while others are featured in the spotlight. Stage hands, sound professionals and wardrobe professionals dedicate themselves unselfishly and without marquis notation, yet provide essential services to the success of a performance that utterly fascinates and astonishes. I for one look forward to the return of Cirque Du Soleil to the Twin Ports for yet another show.

Tarek Rammo, Performer

Tarek Rammo was born in Beirut but grew up in Holland. At 9 years old he started gymnastics. After 8 years of competing he saw his first Cirque du Soleil show which generated a spark, and produced an interest in performing. A few years later he applied for circus school in the Netherlands.

Q: Did you have an interest in the Olympics while young and competing?

I was doing competitive gymnastics for about ten years. I was on the national junior team of Holland and I did have a dream of going to world championships and the Olympics but the urge to pursue the performing arts was a lot stronger. When I was about 17 I decided to switch careers?

Q: How many in Cirque come out of Olympis background.

Not sure of the number but there’s quite a few who have competed a very high level, including the Olympics, who have won medals that find a new career at the Cirque du Soleil after they finish competing.

Q: Do performers who become part of the Cirque choose the show they want to be part of? How does that work?

Basically what happens is you do an audition, which is a general audition if you’re a gymnast for example. If you can make it through a rigorous day of auditioning you end up in a database, a big file where all the potential artists for Cirque du Soleil end up. Once they have an opening in a show, they look specifically in the database for someone who will fit that part.  Then they may or may not contact you. It may be a month or a year or three years before you get a spot on the show. It depends on your skills and availability.

Q: What makes Dralion so exciting.

It’s an interesting show… as the title suggests, East meets West… Dragon and Lion
Overview of the various acts here see she All this combined with lights makes it a spectacular show. Plus there is a live band and a

Q: What are the challenges?

In terms of personal challenges…. As artists we’re living out of our suitcases. We’re moving every week. So you really have to adapt your life, knowing that you have to be portable. It’s also, of course, being away from home. Away from your family. Away from your friends. And though we choose this because we love it, it’s not an easy part.

Q: Do you have a wife and kids?

I have a wife. And funny enough, she just arrived here this week because my old partner who I was doing the aerial duet with unfortunately had an injury.  My wife is also an acrobat and she was also in the database for the Cirque du Soleil. Because we’d worked together, they just brought her in to replace my old partner for the upcoming weeks, so I am actually the luckiest guy right now in the Cirque.

Q: I tell story and mention it must be demanding

We’re doing about 7-8 shows a week. It’s all very physical, and with the travelling combined it’s quite an effort because in every city we have to do rehearsals and make sure everything is all right in terms of height. Everything is different everywhere, but we have a very good technical team that makes sure everything is exactly the same in every city we go to.  We have to do the checks; we have to do the rehearsals, because it’s all high risk.

Q: Do you have any favorite acts in this particular show?

I really enjoy doing my own act, but some of my favorite acts in the show… I would say the hoop diving number by the Chinese troop. It’s a number where they stack circular rings on top of each other and they do all kinds of crazy jumps through them, landing on the stage. It’s a very high stacks number and very energizing.
We have a very good juggler. He’s a great dancer as well, in perfect harmony with the music. Very energetic and engaging.

Q: How do performers maintain high energy levels for these shows and not get jaded so that it’s routine?

That really depends on the person. Some people need a lot of sleep, for example. They go to bed quite late after the show but spend most of the day in bed. Others will wake up early – I’m an early riser. I need to go outside for a bit, get some fresh air, do my personal work, relax a bit.  
Some people are really focused on their diet, their eating habits, to maintain their energy level. Others are more casual with that, so I would say it’s really different for everyone.
Some people work out every day before a show because that’s what they feel they need.

Q: What was the first Cirque show that you saw?

I saw Alegria when it was in Amsterdam in the Big Top?
I’ve seen about three or four others after that.

Q: Costumes for this show originate from Africa, India and China. Are the performers also from Africa, India and China?

They’re from all over the world. We have a very large troop from China. One of the main characters is from Africa, she’s an African dancer. The Water Element has an Indian background, though she was raised in the U.S. her heritage is Indian. I’m from Holland with a Lebanese background, and there’s Russian, Ukrainian, people from Argentina… a total of 18 nationalities on this tour.

Q: You go for a week to different ...

A: We usually travel on a Sunday, after our show or shows, board a bus and travel through the night. We’ll have Mondays and Tuesdays off …
Wednesday is usually the busiest day because we have to do all the checks. That’s really the start of our work week.

Q: What are other questions…

Some people ask if what we’re doing is dangerous. Some people ask if we get our make-up done by people, but we do ourselves every day. Are you afraid of heights?

Q: How did the writers come up with this concept? (merging of Dragon and Lion)

The show has been running for 15 years, but I have only been with the show for seven months.


• In 1984, 73 people worked for Cirque du Soleil.
Today, the business has 4,000 employees worldwide,
including more than 1,300 artists.

• At the Montreal International Headquarters
alone, there are close to 1,500 employees.

• More than 100 types of occupations can be
found at Cirque.

• The Company’s employees and artists represent
close to 50 nationalities and speak 25 different

• More than 150 million spectators have seen
a Cirque du Soleil show since 1984.

• Close to 15 million people will see
 a Cirque du Soleil show in 2014.

• Cirque du Soleil hasn’t received any grants
from the public or private sectors since 1992.





• The Production team
is composed of 24 technicians
from 5 different countries.

• In each city, they use from
80 to 100 local stage hands
for load-in and load-out.

• The weight of all the gear
and components for Dralion
is 366,000 pounds.

• The show, originally
a big top tour, was converted
to tour arenas in 2010.

• The stage, the grid, the
wall and all the cases
for Dralion are on wheels,
around 7200 in all.

• The gear travels by boat,
by plane, or by truck (21).
The gear will fit in
25 containers or fill just
a little over two 747 planes.