Lessons in appreciation of beauty and creativity from KA in Las Vegas


Cirque du Soleil’s KA was my first show on my first trip to Vegas. Pageantry is not generally my thing, but over the last year I’ve thought a lot about storytelling. As I watched the KA story unfold on stage, I was keenly aware of the details that went into the telling. The creativity and collaboration represented in those details have made me more keenly aware of the decisions about art and beauty all around me.

KA’s story is a simple legend of good and evil, love and loyalty, and the coming-of-age journeys of brother and sister who have been separated and must  find their way back to one another. It is presented without a lot of storytelling detail, which makes me think about early filmmaking, opera, and ballet. All those medium require less sophisticated stories and rely more on the emotional appeal and universality of the stories for the audience to connect. Marvel is currently working with Cirque du Soleil to adapt the imperial twins heroic journey into a comic book series. I did feel that, like opera, the performance could have done with a libretto of some sort.

Actors, choreographers, artists, musicians, staging engineers, lighting and sound engineers worked together to tell this story using not only the stage, but the entire theater. I found myself thinking about all the decisions that go into each scene.  For example, a couple of huge movable platforms move and tilt to becomes ship, underwater ocean, beach, mountain, and forest. An amazing amount of creativity and collaboration goes into just that detail. Ka’s technical and conceptual creativity runs from simple shadow puppets to manned bird puppets flying over the audience.

Mis en scene is a term used in filmmaking for everything the camera sees in a scene, the movement in the shot, the composition and framing of the shot-basically how space is used as part of storytelling. The design of the the theater itself allows for the stage space to include the space overhead and in the balconies of either side of the audience. In fact actors dressed as villagers of KA greet the audience in the lobby and walk the aisles interacting with them.

Featuring piano, cello, drums, and soprano and alto voices, the music is difficult to categorize to any particular culture or time period. It’s distinctively beautiful in and of itself  yet defines the mood and progresses the action on stage. Though mostly offstage, occasionally musicians appear in costume onstage or in the balconies and on various levels of the stage proper.

After seeing KA I began noticing beautiful, delightful details in the hotels and along the strip and thinking about the artists who made the decisions about what I’m seeing. The lighted choreographed fountain show at the Bellagio is beautiful. In the Venetian there is an area meant to look like St. Mark’s square in Venice with architectural facades and an amazingly realistic  sky with clouds painted on the ceiling. One of the shops that I pass to get coffee has an all white and silver display in which someone has place a glittery little elephant that makes me smile. Someone at the Wynn has chosen to make balls out of living flowers and hung them from tree branches in the lobby, creating not only compelling mis en scene but some enchanting smell en scene as well. 

Odd that I came to Vegas with a bit of an attitude about pageantry and glitz but my take away is that I am noticing more beauty and creativity everywhere. Sure I could be cynical about manipulative marketing practices or appalled by conspicuous consumption, but I’m not going there. I am simply going to enjoy beauty wherever I find it and appreciate those who create it.

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