Last Thursday, I was invited to a backstage tour of Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk: The First Flight, an acrobatic performance inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar. As I mentioned in the story I wrote about my tour, seeing the Mall of Asia Arena without the bells and whistles of the show was like looking at a penguin enclosure, as it was just a massive gray slab. But when the curtains were pulled back during opening night, I was left breathless.
The first thing you notice about the show is the amazing landscape Cirque du Soleil produced. They used digital projections to transform the Arena into Pandora, from lush forests to peaceful streams, arid deserts, colorful gardens, and even a volcanic Armaggedon. The projections were so believable and precise that during the scene where the arena was turned into a lake, the water parted when it met boulders.
The attention to detail is not surprising considering the source material. Cameron created an 80-page treatment of Avatar as early as 1994, but refused to make it right after Titanic‘s completion as the technology needed to create Pandora was not yet available. This same level of commitment is also present in Toruk, as Cameron was consulted throughout production.
You don’t need to be a fan of Avatar to appreciate Toruk. Toruk: The First Flight is set thousands of years before the events of the film. Here, three young Na’vi try to stop an Armaggedon that will wipe out the entire race. Keeping in mind that this is a Cirque du Soleil performance, the actors flawlessly executed their flips, jumps, and choreography. They were unbelievably graceful (and flexible) as they contorted their bodies in ways I can only imagine. It would take years of yoga for me to be able to do it.
There was a total of 40 performers, one singer, and one storyteller. Everyone spoke Na’vi, but the storyteller narrated the story so we would understand what was happening. Of course, the performers also portrayed the story through their movements.
Another breathtaking thing in Toruk: The First Flight is the titular Toruk, a dragon with a 40-foot wingspan. It’s so big that at least five puppeteers have to maneuver it around, and it moved with such elegance across the stage.
Toruk: The First Flight literally takes you on a journey across Pandora. The show is an immersive spectacle, one that will draw you in with colors, dance, acrobatics, and more. It actually felt weird stepping out of the Arena to face Manila. It suddenly looked lifeless compared to the world I saw minutes before.
Globe Live is the official partner of Toruk: The First Flight. This tour and story were made possible by Globe and Cirque du Soleil. Toruk: The First Flight will be staged from June 23 to July 2, with performances at 1PM (Sundays), 4PM (Saturdays), 5PM (Sundays), and 8PM (Fridays and Saturdays). Globe customers get 30% off on tickets. For more information, visit the Globe website.