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Cirque du Soleil reaches into a ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’

“Kurios” will run from May 26-July 10 at Suffolk Downs.Martin Girard shootstudio.ca

Cirque du Soleil’s shows have long held the promise of unparalleled escapism, the chance to embark upon flights of fancy to realms far-flung and fantastical. “Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities,” which will open under the big top at Suffolk Downs on May 26 and run through July 10, takes that promise and makes it literal.

In the production, Cirque’s 35th in 32 years, a 19th-century inventor begins to see his steampunk-inspired world through fresh eyes as his vast collection of souvenirs and antiquities comes to life. Before you can say “mon dieu,” all manner of mechanical contraptions are springing across the stage, contortionists are twisting their bodies into impossible shapes, and a pair of trapeze artists are swinging through the air, using one another for support in place of traditional bars. Bienvenue au cirque.

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“We live in a world of abundance, but sometimes we have an attitude of scarcity,” explains writer-director Michel Laprise over the phone, of what prompted him to emphasize such acrobatic exuberance in the production, which debuted in Montreal and has been touring North America. “We wanted to create a show of the emotion and mind-set that anything is possible.”

To that end, “Kurios” is a veritable treasure box of visual dazzle and physical daring. “We went outside of our comfort zone to create something beautiful,” Laprise says. “Every time we do something that’s different from what we’ve done before, we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.”

“Kurios” marks Laprise’s first directorial venture for Cirque, but he’s worked for the company since 2000. He was also the creative director for Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl halftime show, and directed her MDNA tour.

For acrobat David Locke, originally of Natick, Laprise’s aptitude for working on a large scale made all the difference. Locke has performed in resident Cirque shows on the Las Vegas Strip, but he had never participated in a touring production the size of “Kurios.”

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“The show’s a lot more intimate in the big top,” he says. “You hear the individual reactions from audience members. When I’m up in the air, I hear them reacting to my flipping and twisting. In Vegas, my closest audience member was like 50 feet away. These ones are 10 feet from me.”

Cirque du Soleil’s 35th production in 32 years includes aerial bicycling and a tumbling act called Acro Net.Martin Girard shootstudio.ca

Gaining comfort with “Kurios” was key for Locke, who performs in one of its biggest showstoppers: a tumbling act called Acro Net. In it, acrobats dressed like aquatic creatures appear to synchronously swim through air, propelled skyward after rebounding off a trampoline 50 feet below.

“It’s still such a new act, so when I got the call [to join “Kurios”] I couldn’t really say no,” Locke says. “Maybe 10 people in the world have been on it.”

The Acro Net is a crucial part of “Kurios,” says Locke. “We represent a dreamscape in the show, a space where anything is possible. The main character goes into this dream world where up is down and down is up, small is big and big is small, and all these things don’t make sense,” he says. “It’s supposed to be this nonsensical, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ vibe where he’s lost in the dream.”

French aerial bicyclist Anne Weissbecker reaches similarly phantasmagorical heights during her act, a feat of flexibility and balance in which she performs acrobatics while hanging from an airborne two-wheeler.

“The unexpected creates such a reaction in the audience,” Weissbecker says. “The oohs and ahs are different from shows where you’re just impressed, and when my bicycle starts flying, you hear that kind of ah.”

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Laprise calls his performers the “heart” of the show. “They’re never sitting on their laurels,” he says. “They’re always working and adding new tricks to their acts.”

Such perfectionism and passion come with the territory. “That’s the Cirque DNA,” he says. “We have to be who we are, not be afraid of it, and have the courage to be truly who we are. We are a circus company; in this house, people walk on wires at 40 feet in the air. This is what we do in the house.”

That house is not for everyone. But in “Kurios,” Laprise says he’s observed an energy — and synergy — that surpasses past Cirque productions. “With ‘Kurios,’ there’s something different, a light energy that contaminates everything around it.”

Asked to sum up that difference in one word, Laprise offers two: “Pure joy.”

KURIOS: Cabinet of Curiosities

Presented by Cirque du Soleil. At Suffolk Downs, May 26-July 10. Tickets start at $35, www.cirquedusoleil.com


Isaac Feldberg can be reached at isaac.feldberg@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @i_feldberg.