Inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar, Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk: The First Flight is a combination of the fantasy and magic of Pandora with the even more fantastical acrobatics and physical feats of the Cirque performers. That the Toruk premiere at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Thursday paralleled the kickoff of Providence’s 4-day PVD Fest honoring the city’s arts, culture, community, and history was a happy coincidence.
As you’d expected with a Cirque du Soleil production, the aesthetics of the show were extraordinary, and the abilities of the performers well outside the realm what most of us would deem as “normal” performance art. Cirque du Soleil shows focus on acrobatics, trapeze, and other circus styles of performance. By pairing the astounding physical prowess of these performers with the mythological world and culture of the Na’vi tribe from Avatar, Toruk brings to the stage a performance that wows in stunts as well as storytelling.
What made Toruk special was the incorporation of a distinct plot, complimented by excellent costumes, scenery, and music. The story follows the journey of two Na’vi warriors on their quest to save the Tree of Life from destruction by pairing up with the terrifying, but powerful creature Toruk. Throughout their journey, these warriors are faced with challenges in the form of natural elements, opposing clans, and native creatures, all of which are brought to life by Toruk: The First Flight’s impressive crew, lighting, stage, and set designers. It was as if the audience had stumbled across a microcosm of Avatar-ian life and are silent witnesses to the Na’vi journey.
While there were some flaws in the performance that came from communication errors — not understanding the Na’vi language, unclear narration by the chief and “ringleader” — there is nothing quite like Cirque du Soleil. If you’ve never seen the group perform before, consider seeing Toruk: The First Flight. If you’re a fan of Avatar, then there’s really no question: it’s time you see Toruk; and Toruk will see you, too.