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Sunday Times STLive By CHRISTINA KENNEDY, 2010-08-01

Dazzling circus with a contemporary twist

There's no smell of sawdust, nor are there any forlorn, flea-bitten lions jumping through hoops.

But by blending theatricality with eye-popping feats of human endeavour, a modern-day indoor circus, such as Le Grand Cirque, still offers fun by the bucket load.

A massive hit during its previous season at the Joburg Theatre, this thrill-a-minute circus is back with a new edition: Le Grand Cirque Fantazie. Slick and spectacular, glitzy and fast-paced, it is a dazzling fiesta of action-packed entertainment.

Spearheaded by executive producer David King, the UK showbiz whiz who brought us the hit productions Spirit of the Dance and The Twelve Tenors, it is no wonder the show has been successful.

It was a treat to witness the sheer, unbridled awe of the underprivileged children who saw the show free on Mandela Day. It showed that no matter how much gadgets and gizmos creep into our lives, there's still no substitute for the raw power and immediacy of a live show.

In the case of Le Grand Cirque, it's certainly a case of show business meeting the Big Top.

It blends deftly choreographed circus routines with dramatic classical music, pulsing lighting effects, exquisite costumes and a touch of pizzazz to produce pure dynamite.

And there isn't an animal in sight.

This show is all about the human animal as we marvel at how these specimens of Homo sapiens push themselves to the limits of endurance and ability.

Bending, tumbling, contorting, balancing, soaring - it is clear they are not only stretching themselves physically, but mentally, as well.

Imagine the concentration required to perform dangerous stunts in front of 1000 people every night.

Most adults and children will not be bored for a second .

Almost every act is a showstopper, from the gravity-defying grace of the acrobats and the sexy hula-hooper in her hot pants to the clever neon-lighting illusion.

The bells and whistles that make this a visual and aural banquet are mere embellishment, because at the show's core is the incredible artistry, skill and pursuit of perfection of the mainly Asian cast.

In fact, one of the most striking acts is a model of simplicity, in which two men, clad only in white shorts, are framed in muscular silhouette as they undertake breathtaking feats of strength, balancing and poise.