The first time Cirque du Soleil rolled into town, the travelling circus ended up staying an extra month.
The famous Grand Chapiteau stopped traffic outside Dubai’s Ibn Battuta shopping mall and more than 80 shows sold out over two months. There were even plans — eventually victim of the economic downturn — to give the animal-less circus troupe a permanent home in Dubai on the Palm Jumeirah. 
Four years after the 500-strong cast and crew of Alegria packed up and waved goodbye, tabloid! can reveal Cirque du Soleil is back,  this time with something from the East: Dralion.
Cirque du Soleil’s 12th touring production, which premiered in Canada in 1999, will be staged at the Dubai World Trade Centre from February 6 for 10 days, with a daily evening show as well as weekend matinees, although the schedule was not available at the time of going to press.
Fusing the 3,000 year-old tradition of Chinese acrobatic arts with the usual Cirque du Soleil magic, Dralion draws inspiration from Eastern philosophy and a never-ending quest for harmony between humans and nature.
The name Dralion is derived from the dragon, symbolising the East, and the lion, symbolising the West.
Cirque spokeswoman Aneka Rao said the team were “excited” about Dubai because the show will be the first international stop with an arena version in more than two years.
“Dralion is the first Cirque du Soleil show to visit Dubai since Algeria in 2009 and Quidam in 2007,” she said. “Both of those were under a Big Top, so this will be our first time in Dubai in an arena.”
“We are very excited to bring the biggest entertainment show in the world to Dubai,” added Mac S Far, managing director of event organisers Alchemy Project. “I advise the fans to buy the tickets as early as possible to avoid disappointments since this will be a sellout.”
Acts include single-hand balancing, bamboo poles (in which five acrobats twirl and throw eight-metre poles for other acrobats to jump over), juggling, hoop diving, contortion, skipping-rope routines, gravity-defying ballet and aerial acts.
But perhaps the most impressive stunts are those which are performed from an 18-metre metallic wall of giant perforated aluminium tiles, giving it the appearance of medieval armour or a futuristic Chinese temple.
Acrobats launch themselves from the top of the wall onto three giant concentric aluminium rings suspended in mid-air, providing those heart-stopping moments Cirque is known for.
“It’s how everything, including costumes, make-up, music, acrobatics and dance, comes together that makes a Cirque du Soleil show so awe-inspiring,” Rao said. “Every show is unique and Dralion is no exception. Audiences will feel like they are entering a distinct universe, a magical bubble where amazing things are happening all around them.”
Directed by Guy Caron, Dralion arrives in Dubai just weeks after the troupe’s first feature film ‘Cirque du Soleil: World’s Away 3D’, produced by James Cameron, hit cinema screens.
While Rao tells tabloid! it was a separate project, some reports suggest the inspiration for parts of the film came directly from Dralion.
More than seven million people worldwide have experienced Dralion since its premiere, something which Rao says doesn’t surprise her. “Every time I see Dralion, I am blown away. There are so many details which fit together seamlessly, and there’s always something new to discover no matter how many times you see a show. One time you might notice the acrobatics, another time you might notice the costumes or the make-up, another time you’ll appreciate the dancing. There’s so much going on.”
More than 100 people will roll into Dubai when the Cirque family comes to town early next month, including performers, technical crew, a wardrobe team, chefs and more.
By Kelly Crane