In a circus where there are officially no stars, brothers Marco and Paulo Lorador, two Portuguese musclemen, are Mystère’s showstoppers. Stripped to the waist, they appear on a dome that emerges from the stage. As the band plays something sad and operatic, Paulo tenderly grasps hi brother’s hands. Slowly, he lifts him up until Marco is overhead, upside down, balanced rigidly on Paulo’s hands. With one heroic pose melting into the next, the brothers pilot each other through a slow-motion pas de deux. Their bodies, cantilevered in space, form a mobile sculpture. At one point, Paulo lies prone on the stage, and Marco performs a handstand on his brother’s outstretched heels. There is a gasp
from the audience as Paulo’s legs gradually, impossibly, rise from the floor. You can sense the audience holding its breath, muscles sympathetically clenched. At the end, the men are carried away, like fallen gods, by a funereal platoon of grey, druidic figures.
With its austere, homoerotic beauty, the hand-balancing act provides Mystère with some of its most powerful moments. But the Lorador brothers—who worked for Ringling Bros, before Cirque du Soleil made them an offer they couldn’t refuse— talk about it in the most matter-of-fact terms. Sure, they say, the Cirque repackaged their act with costumes and music.
But hand-balancing is one of the oldest circus arts. Marco, 31, and Paulo, 32, learned it from their father as the family moved around Europe with a travelling circus. “It takes a lifetime," says Marco, explaining that their body-builder physiques have nothing to do with the skill itself—“that is just for show.”
The brothers worked for dozens of circuses before joining the Cirque six years ago. "Here, they pay more than other shows,” says Marco, "and they give you great conditions.
In other places, you have dirt on the floor, holes in the tent. If it rains, it’s muddy. The costumes you’ve got to make and clean yourself. There's no comparison.”
Then, with a hint of disdain, he adds, “Most of the performers here are ex-gymnasts. They’ve never done circus. But now it would be hard to go back to tradi tional circus. This is Club Med.”
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