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'Totem' pays tribute to Native American dance and then some

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Totem

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Cirque du Soleil fuses Native American dance and music with interpretations of reptiles and amphibians for an entertaining family event in "Totem." Want to impress someone with a great gift? Thinking of memorable family time? This splurge will be worth it.

"Totem" originally premiered in 2010, but is finally making its rounds in Southern California. The big top seats 2,600 people and took eight days to set up, but will take less than three to tear down for the move to Santa Monica. "Totem" travels in 64 trailers that carry more than 1,200 tones of equipment. The cast includes 26 acrobats, actors, musicians and singers.

Among the dancers are Native American hoop dancers and the music reflects this Native American tradition.

We saw "Totem" in Orange County at the Great Park Festival site in Irvine until 29 December 2013. The theme for this show is evolution and has a definite nod to the reptiles among us. After December, the show moves on to Santa Monica, opening on 17 January 2014, but Great Park's great advantage is the low traffic and easy parking ($10 per car).

The disadvantage, if you've never been to Great Park, is that you won't see the big top rising before you from the highway as an obvious directional clue. We zoomed right past the sign for the Great Park, but at night, there is that orange ball in the sky.

After the obligatory clowns who interact with the audience prior to the show, you see what appears to be a skeleton. Using the form of a turtle shell, this is a jungle gym that covers a trampoline and acrobats clad in wonderfully bright unitards take on some high bar and uneven parallel bar high flying feats that you'll never see in Olympic competition and might not garner a ten for form, but definitely rates a perfect ten for performance and entertaining.

From there, we are off. The theme of water and rising above and below it come in many forms including a witty nod to the evolution from primate to businessman and even to hunky beach dudes. As impressive as the beach dudes are in their single ring and then double rings, the woman who comes out and vamps better than Vanna has the kind of biceps, quadriceps and abs that would make most men cry. She can wrap rings around her totally etched arms and fly through the air impressively.

Then there's a duo who combine spinning with gymnastics and, as a connecting comedic transition, a missing link parade. Do you think the business man is named Gordon Gekko?

Ever try to ride a unicycle? How about a unicycle that is about 10 feet long? And then how about adding flipping around dishes and catching them on your head.

As the title suggests, there's also a connection with Native American tradition which is represented by hoop dancers and a roller skating Native American duo who perform daring lifts and spins on a small platform center stage.

This show is more tightly paced then some of the other Cirque shows, such as "Ovo," making it one of the best. While you might be sitting in awe, all of the acts should inspire you to get out and get active. This could kick start you into a new exercise program. The theme for this show is evolution and has a definite nod to the reptiles among us. So gymnasts, dancers, costume designers and those in search of awe-inspiring family entertainment should go. Check and see when it passes through your area.

After Irvine, CA and Santa Monica, CA, the tour head to Portland, Oregon and then Vancouver, British Columbia. Check for tour dates.

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