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Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM: An Adrenaline Junkie's Journey Into The Evolution of Mankind

A few years ago, after seeing Cirque du Soleil's O in Las Vegas, I pronounced the water-based wonderland my all-time favorite Cirque du Soleil show. Now, San Francisco's in luck; for a few months, the traveling TOTEM has set up tent in AT&T Park. In true Cirque du Soleil form, it is a mesmerizing show that delivers everything the company is known for: extreme acrobatics, dramatic music, muscle-ripped talent, majestic sets, terrific costumes and nature themes. TOTEM transports you back to Pandora to explore the evolution of the human species via acrobatic artistry with hints of comic relief.

Cirque du Soleil's Quidam at The Cow Palace

Ten million people have already seen Quidam, so if your show schedule requires hipster street cred, you're about twenty-five years late. Cirque du Soleil hasn't been underground since it performed on the streets of Quebec in 1984. But if people flying through the air in various death-defying ways trump any big name disdain you may harbor, prepare to be amazed.

Like neglected small fries everywhere, young Zoe concocts an imaginary world to escape boredom and distant parents. But instead of purple unicorns or vampires in body glitter (or whatever standard 12-year-old fare happens to be this year), Zoe’s imaginary world features daredevil acrobats, suspiciously boneless contortionists, and catharsis for the soul.  

Suspended from the ceiling by hoops and glorified silk scarves, the gravity-mocking aerial artists are impressive and rather scary, even as you realize they're probably really good at not falling. Also featured is the award-winning banquine act (an Italian acrobatic tradition from the Middle Ages) with agile acrobats flipping as one and forming human pyramids. Trapeze, Chinese yo-yos, German wheel, and even jump ropes make an appearance, all set to live music.

Candid Circus by Sweet Can

Master purveyors of super-intimate circus (think low-budget, homegrown Cirque du Soleil), Sweet Can’s latest offering takes ordinary objects and turns them into the randomly delightful. Garbage cans grow feet and tap dance, plates start spinning in the air, and benches become sailing ships.
 
Featuring a Gumby-like contortionist, an aerialist who cheekily defies the laws of physics, and a flying broom homage to Fred Astaire (to be clear, the flying broom is less Quidditch and more swirled over shoulders), Candid mixes traditional circus with physical theater, dance, and live music.

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