The world-famous French-Canadian circus troupe Cirque du Soleil of Montreal will bring its jaw-dropping new live production, Dralion, to Raleigh, North Carolina, from March 13 to April 5. Dralion — a made-up word inspired by the show’s two main symbols: the “dragon,” which represents the East, and the “lion,” which represents the West — premiered in Montreal in April 1999. After entertaining more than two million spectators in 25 North American cities, the 2-hour and 30-minute show (which includes a 25-minute intermission) will open in North Carolina’s capital city tonight [3/13/03].

To house Dralion, Cirque du Soleil will erect its striking state-of-the-art trademark blue-and-yellow Grand Chapiteau (Big Top) in the parking lot at the brand-new Triangle Town Center, located near the intersection of Capital Boulevard and the Outer Loop (I-540). The Grand Chapiteau contains more than 2,500 seats, which fan out — like a Roman amphitheatre — for 270 degrees around a central, circular revolving stage.

According to its pressbook, Dralion celebrates life and the four elements that maintain the natural order: air, water, fire, and earth. “Suspended in time between the past and the future… Dralion propels these four pillars of the universe into a futuristic dimension,” writes the publicist, “soaring to new heights as it defies the laws of nature. Fusing ancient Chinese acrobatic tradition with the avant-garde approach of Cirque du Soleil, Dralion is Cirque du Soleil at its purest: a dynamic performance that transcends the boundaries of the imagination and leads us into a dreamscape with a new and sparkling perspective.”

In praising Dralion, the Los Angeles Times wrote, “In Cirque du Soleil’s winning ‘Dralion,’ fanciful creatures and a bit of self-parody infuse the troupe’s acts with new life… entrancing as ever… impeccable.” Another Los Angeles Times article noted: “You won’t see dancing bears or elephants — there are no live animals in this theatrical spectacular — but the title character, ‘Dralion,’ should suffice: It’s part dragon, part lion. But, as usual, the most amazing animals are the humans, who balance, swing, jump and contort in remarkable fashion.”

Lawrence Van Gelder of The New York Times reported: “Literal smoke and figurative mirrors lie at the heart of this ornate, atmospheric production, which, as usual, makes the most of eerie, moody lighting, eclectic music that wails and chants and throbs, exotic dancing and flamboyant costumes.”

The cast for Dralion includes more than 55 performers from 10 countries (Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Ivory Coast, Russia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States), including 37 Chinese acrobats. These multitalented artists will perform a mind-boggling series of high-flying and death-defying acts, including “Hoop Diving,” “Clowns,” “Dralions,” “Skipping Ropes,” “Teeterboard,” “Double Trapeze,” “Aerial Pas de Deux,” “Single Handbalancing,” “Bamboo Poles,” “Juggling,” “Aerial Hoop,” “Ballet on Lights,” and “Spirits.”

The creative team for Dralion includes creative director Gilles Ste-Croix, director Guy Caron, choreographer Julie LaChance, clown act co-designer Michel Dallaire, set designer Stéphane Roy, lighting designer Luc LaFortune, costume designer François Barbeau, composer Violaine Corradi, and sound designer Guy Desrochers.

“The breathtaking futuristic set is an immense technological sculpture whose every component serves as an accessory to the acrobats throughout the show,” writes the Dralion publicist. “One of these components, hanging close to the dome of the big top, is an aluminum structure made up of three rings, each of which has a particular function. One ring, called ‘the sun,’ serves as an acrobatic apparatus, another as a catwalk, while the third is used for technical purposes and houses an enormous lantern. The metal wall acts as backdrop and orchestra pit, in addition to being used by the artists during the performance.

“The costumes, created exclusively for Dralion, are in four colours representing the elements: blue for air, green for water, red for fire, and ochre for earth,” according to the pressbook. “The iridescent colors of the costumes are reflected in the metallic glints of a decor that comes straight out of the cinéma fantastique. The Dralion score is a fusion of music from around the world. The music borrows from more traditional sources, and then bursts into an electro-symphonic realm of a world yet to come. The wide range of influences includes Hindu melodies and the sounds of instruments from Andalusia, Africa, Central Europe, and the West.”

The Phoenix, AZ edition of the About Guide rated Dralion a five-star production. “If you have never been to a performance of Cirque du Soleil,” claimed the About Guide, “you might not really know what to expect. Dance? Music? Theater? Acrobats? Comedy? The answer is a resounding yes to all of those. It is a spectacular display of color and sound and amazing performances. This is a thoroughly professional company. The Cirque du Soleil company travels on tour with its own stage, seating, and equipment so that the audience can be assured they will be treated to the optimal performance. The set, the costumes, the music, and the performers are intricately interwoven into ‘Dralion’s’ theme of the earth’s elements and the quest for harmony between humans and nature. The acrobats are truly amazing…. [T]hey made some of the remarkable acts look so easy that the one or two missed feats brought the audience back to the reality of how difficult and dangerous their movements are.”

Cirque du Soleil presents Dralion Thursday, March 13 and 20, at 8 p.m.; Friday, March 14, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 15, at 4 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, March 16, at 1 and 5 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, March 18-19 and 25-27 and April 2-3, at 8 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, March 21-22 and 28-29 and April 4-5, at 4 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 23 and 30, at 1 and 5 p.m. at the Triangle Town Center, near the intersection of Capital Blvd. and I-540, in Raleigh, North Carolina. $45-$65 adults and $31.50-$45.50 children aged 2-12 (except $40.50-$58.50 students aged 13-17 and seniors 65+ Tuesday-Thursday and Friday at 4 p.m. and $165 VIP Packages for adults and $115 VIP Packages for children). 800/678-5440 (800/450-1480 for groups of 40 or more adults) or visit