Shelli Epstein spreads her “butterfly wings” while running on an oversized treadmill in Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia.” The show opened March 30 at Redmond’s Marymoor Park. (Matt Beard photo)

Shelli Epstein spreads her “butterfly wings” while running on an oversized treadmill in Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia.” The show opened March 30 at Redmond’s Marymoor Park. (Matt Beard photo)

Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Luzia’ is a Mexican-inspired daydream

Giant monarch butterflies, hoop-diving hummingbirds, dancing cacti and crocodiles playing marimbas.

My sister and I saw all that and more in Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia,” which opened last week under a white-and-gold big top at Marymoor Park in Redmond.

This was our second time seeing the grand Canadian contemporary circus. We also saw Cirque du Soleil’s “Quidam” when the touring company performed at Everett’s Xfinity Arena in 2011. We loved “Quidam” and couldn’t wait to see another Cirque show.

“Luzia: A Waking Dream of Mexico,” directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, was inspired by the richness of Mexican culture.

We were immediately in awe of the design of the show: the sets, costumes and lighting link themes of nature, mythology, history and modernity. While there were numerous nods to the Latin American country’s culture — so many you won’t recognize them all — none of it seemed cliche.

Our guide on this surreal journey through a dreamlike Mexico is a clown (Eric “Fool” Koller) who was dropped from a plane without a parachute to a magical land. As he searches for water to fill his empty canteen, we see a Mexico that is both fantasy and reality.

It didn’t take long for the show’s premise to evoke childhood memories of “The Wizard of Oz” and “Alice in Wonderland.” In our minds, Koller plays a role not unlike Dorothy and Alice, who also were drop-in visitors to strange and wonderful lands.

Here are some performance highlights from the show:

A woman (Shelli Epstein) spreads her butterfly wings while running on an oversized treadmill in honor of the annual migration of monarch butterflies from Canada to Mexico. Her wings span 40 feet.

An act featuring dancers in large hula hoops below and a trapeze artist above culminates in a thunderstorm. A rain curtain pours water over the performers and into a pool hidden under the stage. The water element is a first for a Cirque big top show.

A strongman (Ugo Laffolay) performs a hand-balancing act while playing a lifeguard on a movie set in tribute to Mexican cinema in the 1920s. He balances between two tottering rows of canes that he stacks up, cane by cane, to about 20 feet.

In a nod to Mexican wrestling, a man (Krzystof Holowenko) in a luchador costume makes a 360-degree turn on a giant swing under his own power.

A straps acrobat (Benjamin Courtenay) performs an aerial routine over a pool of water. He portrays a demigod of rain and the pool represents the naturally occurring sinkholes the Mayan believed were gateways to the afterlife.

We were awakened from our dream of Mexico with a start when a performer was injured during a swing-to-swing act on opening night. The acrobat landed flat on her back after leaping 20 feet into the air from one swing to the other.

The big top fell silent as she was tended to for a terrifying 10 minutes. She was moved backstage to a standing ovation.

Thankfully, Cirque du Soleil reported after the show that the acrobat is OK. Although she had a hard landing, she didn’t require hospitalization and is expected to return to the cast in due time.

It was a somber reminder that circus performers put themselves at risk to amaze us all.

If you go

“Luzia: A Waking Dream of Mexico”

Cirque du Soleil’s 17th show presented under a white-and-gold big top is showing through May 21 at Marymoor Park, 6046 West Lake Sammamish Pkwy. NE, Redmond. Tickets range from $35 to $225. Discounts are available for families and groups. Parking is $15 per vehicle.

For more information, call 1-877-924-7783 or go to www.cirquedusoleil.com.

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