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Cirque du Soleil to make Fargodome debut

No sooner has the Shrine Circus packed up and left town than another circus, of sorts, sets up shop.

Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian theater troupe that combines acrobatics with innovative staging, dazzling costumes and swelling music, swoops into the Fargodome on Tuesday for a three-night run of its spectacle "Dralion."

The show will be the first Cirque production at the dome, and even building staffers can't find the words to describe the touring extravaganza.

"It's kind of one of those hard-to-explain things," says Fargodome General Manager Rob Sobolik. "You just have to see it."

He adds that you can catch videos online, but he's looking forward to catching parts of the show throughout the stay.

"What's great about these arena shows is that we get to come to communities like Fargo and be able to give people the experience of Cirque," says James Santos, artistic assistant on "Dralion."

So what exactly is the Cirque experience? Here's a primer:

What the heck is it?

Cirque du Soleil (French for "Circus of the Sun") started around 1984 as a mixture of circus styles and street performances in Quebec. Instead of using animals, like a traditional circus, the troupe focused more on themes and stories from around the world.

"Dralion" (pronounced "DRAH-leon") is an example of the pan-cultural events.

"It's like fusing the 3,000-year-old tradition of Chinese acrobatics with the avant-garde of Cirque du Soleil," Santos says.

The production focuses on the four elements, each representing a region of the world.

Dressed in flowing blue, Azala is air and the most European. The African Gaya represents earth in muted brown and red grasses, while Oceane, in rippling light greens, reflects water. Yao, the only male element, sports red and yellow and symbolizes Far Eastern cultures.

The Dralion character is a cross between a dragon (representing the east) and a lion (the west), reflecting harmony, the overall theme of the show.

If it's multi-cultural, will I understand what they're saying?

No. And that's the point. Singers perform in an "invented language to which only Cirque du Soleil holds the key," according to the show's website.

So what is the Cirque experience?

"Invoke. Provoke. Evoke," Santos says, quoting the Cirque mission statement. To "evoke the imagination, invoke the senses and provoke the emotions of people around the world."

"Each show brings together the world. Thirteen or 14 different countries are represented in our show alone," he says. "Also bringing together different disciplines, like acrobatics, singing, dancing and musicians. That's so unique, that experience."

If you go

* What: Cirque du Soleil's "Dralion"

* When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday

* Where: Fargodome, 1800 N. University Drive

* Tickets: Tickets range from $24 to $70, available at