Cirque Du Soleil is world-famous for delivering the unexpected, but its latest touring show, the loud and vibrant Luzia, is particularly filled with magical moments. That part, at least, should have been expected, given that Luzia draws all its inspiration from Mexico and its magical realism, its morbid fascinations and its contagious fiesta spirit.

What audiences shouldn’t expect from Luzia, however, is lazy stereotypes. The show, which had its U.S. premiere this week in San Francisco, is a sombrero-free zone. While it would have been easy for show director Daniele Finzi Pasca to tickle American audiences with familiar depictions, Luzia chooses to go beyond the obvious. This interpretation of Mexican culture encompasses film noir, steampunk and electronic music, too.

Photo credit: Laurence Labat / Costumes: Giovanna Buzzi / 2016 Cirque du Soleil
Photo credit: Laurence Labat / Costumes: Giovanna Buzzi / 2016 Cirque du Soleil

And even though this “waking dream” of a production takes place in one very specific country, the setting is never stagnant. In Luzia, like in Mexico, the fútbol-loving metropolis is just an intermission away from the jaguar-infested Mayan jungles. And time is of no concern either, Luzia‘s Mexico is both as ancient as the Aztecs and as contemporary as lucha libre.

Luzia Cirque Du Soleil
Photo credit: Laurence Labat / Costumes: Giovanna Buzzi / 2016 Cirque du Soleil

As with every Cirque Du Soleil show, the performers never miss a beat, and in Luzia there is a heightened element of danger in every act. A seductive dance turns into a hand-to-hand encounter, as a female flyer gets flung in the air by three tall porters. A bodybuilder dressed as a lifeguard on a movie set performs balancing acts 20 feet above the stage.

Luzia Cirque Du Soleil
Photo credit: Laurence Labat / Costumes: Giovanna Buzzi / 2016 Cirque du Soleil

After a 25-minute intermission, a team of acrobats climb on vertical poles and crisscross in the air as if on a peyote trip. A Tarzan-like figure flings on aerial straps above a twinkling puddle of water next to a jaguar. Nine artists use giant metallic swings to jump 33 feet up in the air, while landing steadily on the other side. It’s heart-stopping.

Luzia Cirque Du Soleil
Photo credit : Matt Beard / Costumes : Giovanna Buzzi / 2016 Cirque du Soleil

But there are also moments of respite. They come in the form of cheeky stage personalities and silly gimmicks that offer genuine laughs. There’s also a powerful singer who shows up throughout the show to help bring down your heartbeat as the rain falls. Yes, it rained inside this circus.

Luzia Cirque Du Soleil
Photo credit : Matt Beard / Costumes : Giovanna Buzzi / 2016 Cirque du Soleil

In fact, water plays an important role in Luzia, with about a third of the acts incorporating either a small pool in the middle of the stage or the rain curtain that cascades from high above. Like the stage below it, the rain curtain can rotate a full 360 degrees. The water pumps out of 174 nozzles, which can be individually controlled and timed to create figures in the rain.

Luzia Cirque Du Soleil
Photo credit: Laurence Labat / Costumes: Giovanna Buzzi / 2016 Cirque du Soleil

Facilitating this touring water show, a first-of-its-kind for Cirque Du Soleil, was no easy feat. Before every performance, 1,585 gallons of water must be filtered and disinfected. And the water temperature must be maintained at a constant 82 degrees. After each performance, the water is recycled for the entire duration of the show’s stay in each city.

Luzia Cirque Du Soleil
Photo credit : Matt Beard / Costumes : Giovanna Buzzi / 2016 Cirque du Soleil

That makes Luzia one of the most elaborate touring productions to stem from the always-ambitious Cirque Du Soleil company. In addition to the death-defying stunts and world-class water tricks, Luzia also features a rotating disk-shaped stage with two moving treadmills so that even when the performers are running for dear life, they remain center stage where they belong.

Luzia Cirque Du Soleil
Photo credit: Laurence Labat / Costumes: Giovanna Buzzi / 2016 Cirque du Soleil

The music in Luzia is fresh and intoxicating while still rooted in traditional Mexican folk music. Composer Simon Carpentier’s original score features cumbia guitars, banda and norteño trumpets, and mariachi violins. You can get a better a sense of it by listening to the Luzia soundtrack now on Spotify and Apple Music. The soundtrack includes electro-pop remixes of Carpentier’s score by Nortec Collective’s Bostich + Fussible.

Luzia Cirque Du Soleil
Photo credit: Laurence Labat / Costumes: Giovanna Buzzi / 2016 Cirque du Soleil

Luzia will be in San Francisco until Sunday, January 29, 2017. Then the show will move to San Jose beginning Thursday, February 9, 2017 through Sunday, March 19, 2017. For tickets, go to Cirque Du Soleil’s website.

Luzia Cirque Du Soleil
Photo credit : Matt Beard / Costumes : Giovanna Buzzi / 2016 Cirque du Soleil
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