There is silence. The audience is holding its breath. Maybe the artist is, as well. And then the impossible happens: turning around, high up in the air, holding on with just one hand, he contorts his body into unimaginable positions, and jumps even further. There are gasps and sharp intakes of breath all around, sounds which express the essence of circus, an art which overcomes physical limits. This is Totem, the Cirque du Soleil production in Malaga. The company is known for its impressive staging, enveloping music and impeccable lighting, but Totem is more: acrobatics, balancing and risk. Circus in its purest state.
The Grand Chapiteau opened its doors in Malaga for the first time in ten years, and the show will continue until 1 July. In the marquee, the history of humanity and evolution of the species is told with a succession of numbers which defy all laws of the physical and go beyond even that.
The artists at the Cirque du Soleil seem to have superpowers: they do things that would seem unthinkable for any mortal, and make them look simple. A contortionist looks to one side and the other with her head between her legs in a posture which is almost painful to look at. The acrobats perform high up in the marquee with no protection and trusting their entire weight to a single hand. And the monocyclists smile as they throw bowls onto each other's heads. If they drop one - because they are only human, after all - they just keep trying until they succeed, to huge applause.
The show includes an Amerindian dance with hoops, trapeze artists who launch themselves into the air from bar to bar, skaters who speed around a tiny platform, all synchronised with the music. And of course, Totem has clowns, but with special skills like turning a plastic bag into a swan in one second. The aim is to surprise, and this show certainly does that.