At this point, if you haven't seen the trailer, please take a moment to do so.
"Zumanity, the Human Zoo." Cirque being naughty. Yes, they show titties and all that, but that's just about all Zumanity has in common with the other topless shows in Vegas. I read a number of reviews before we went, and many of them were just luke warm to the show. I think one review hit it right on the head, though. She said that the only reason you come away at all disappointed, is because it's a "Cirque du Soleil" show. After seeing one of the other shows, where everybody on stage does something incredible and superhuman, watching people just, well, dance, seems like potential unrealized.
By any other standard, though, it's incredible. One of the pinnacles of modern dance is to be able to execute any move, no matter how athletically challenging, with a smooth grace that makes it look effortless, and the dancers in Zumanity are the best I've ever seen by that standard. Referencing the trailer, the gorgeous, sensually erotic pas de deux (seen in profile as a man holding a woman in a linear composition, with her folded in half) is spine-chilling. They transition from a simple turn or bend to some incredible sliding folded knot and back with utter grace.
There is the "usual" Cirque things, although even they are fun in a new way. The woman in the short plaid skirt with the hoops? There's just exactly enough "I'm playing a naughty schoolgirl" in the act to be delightfully risqué, and what she does with the hoops, well, it does give one all sorts of ideas, some of them naughty. The guy whose shoulders move unnervingly is a contortionist, and bends into all sorts of shapes. As the mistress of ceremonies comments afterward, "I know what you're thinking, and yes, he can."
The flying handstand is done by one of the most erotic characters in the show (and boy, that's saying something). He's not the most well-muscled man, but he's in the top three, and the skin-tight fishnet leggings strung with hair tell you all you need to know, even if you don't notice the little horns on his head: he plays a satyr. It could have been a leering horny caricature, but this satyr really says that he's a demigod of lust and sensuality, not just fucking.
Really, the entire show is like that. "Love" is there mostly as a sideline. This show is about lust, but it's gratifyingly sophisticated about it from beginning to end. Don't miss the pre-show, by the way. Cast members (I can't really call them "clowns," although they are. Rather, they're comic performers) work the crowd, and they're perfectly willing and able to whip out bananas suggestively, hand condoms to audience members with aplomb, and say "fuck" without batting an eye. That's really key. They use "fuck" and "sex" and "pussy" and "penis" when that's the right word; the word you'd use if you weren't trying to act all delicate and indirect. On the other hand, they never act as if you're supposed to be shocked or embarrassed. The performance assumed that I was an adult, and could use the phrase "passionate thrusting" as easily as I could say "hand trowel."
The show also covers a lot of territory, and does so without having any strong opinions (to my eye). One especially striking performance involves a woman, a chair, a leather whip, and ropes. She ends up high overhead, fondling/tangled in/bound by the ropes, panting and moaning before suddenly going silent and limp. Kinky masturbation? Orgasm? Death? I don't know. It was a performance about bondage, and maybe more, but it left it to us to decide what we thought about it.
Homosexuality was also treated as deftly. Four male dancers come on stage, and a cage drops over them. They start posturing angrily. At this point, I'm suddenly not so sure I'm happy with the designer. It's Zumanity, so this is about sex. It's all guys, so it's gay sex. And it's starting out with them in a cage, beating on their chests (figuratively, mostly). In no time, they've all leaped upward and are perched in the upper corners of the cage (It's a big cage, maybe 15 feet square and 20 feet high). Two of them start to fight. It's a dance fight, and it's also amazing. Their timing is perfect. Pretty quickly, it becomes clear that one of them is hot for the other guy. It's not so clear if he's actually admitted this to himself, and if he's fighting because he's trying for a classic jail rape, or because he's lashing out at a symbol of his own feelings which he's trying to deny. It gets more complicated after that. Maybe the other guy found anger become respect (for the first guy's fighting ability) become love. Maybe he was just playing hard to get. If we assume that Guy 1 started out by denying his attraction, Guy 2 might have been fighting against homophobia, and was won over when Guy 1 accepts those feelings.
However one reads it, the dance culminates in a kiss. A big, hot, passionate, tonsil-sucking kiss. The cage flies up and out of sight right about this point, too, trailing metaphors like a jellyfish. Was that a self-created prison of a man denying his own passion? Society's barriers to gay love (or lust)? The male trap of testosterone ("make love, not war")? I don't know.
The bystander males are clearly satisfied with the outcome, and scamper off. The two main characters walk to the back of the stage with arms around each other, strutting. I still don't know if those oh-so-sexy asses were saying "Whew! Time to smoke 'em if you've got 'em," or if the strut was "Now we're going to go fuck each others' brains out," but the characters were definitely joined at the hip in more ways than one.
They even pulled people from the audience. Yes, at least one of them is a plant. They admit this later in the show. But there's, well, there's basically an orgy at the end, with the entire cast on a turntable indulging in foreplay, and they had three audience members mixed in. I'm awfully glad they didn't pick me; and yet, were I to try to choreograph the Ultimate Orgy, I couldn't start it off better than on that turntable with those people, or characters, or whatever. The dominatrix with the mile-long legs who can't get the men to pay attention until she blocks their view of the football game. The silly pom-pom people. (I still don't know if they were naked or not, as they moved their pom-poms back and forth, but unquestionably didn't have any straps on their hips.) The naughy schoolgirl. The seductress who flew overhead with sheets of fabric, dancing in mid-air with the satyr. The transvestite MC. The lesbian bowl-diving duo. The man in the leather bodysuit (just his eyes and mouth were visible). The overly-passionate latin lover. The fat women.
The fat women! Frequently comic (they moved up and down rows of seats in the pre-show, placing various parts of their bodies in audience faces or laps or whatnot), but never tragic. They carried themselves as if they knew that they were as sexy and seductive as anybody else on stage, and the other characters treated them that way as well. In a show filled with incredibly sexy bodies of many forms, they were the reminder that anybody can be sexy if they want to be. If they, or anybody else, on that stage had invited me to their dressing room after the show, I'd have said "yes" in a heartbeat. Well, maybe not quite that fast for the schoolgirl. After watching what she could do with her hips, I'd have performance anxiety.
If ever there was an example of the difference between "erotic" and "pornographic," Zumanity is it.
We selected which performance to see based on which one had the best seats still available. You should always spend the extra money to sit close to a Cirque show, and that counts double for Zumanity, although the "love seats" (wide enough for two) are not worth it, in my opinion.