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Contortionists Julie Bergez, Natasha Patterson, and Dasha Sovik

Clowns, terrific music, dazzling costumes and amazing feats combine to create KOOZA, Cirque du Soleil’s latest big time production to play under the big top at Denver’s Pepsi Center. (Pics)

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All under the big top

The name KOOZA is inspired by the Sanskrit word “koza,” which means “box,” “chest” or “treasure,” and was chosen because one of the underlying concepts of the production is the idea of a “circus in a box.” The thrills that come out of this show’s box are countless.

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The Innocent (Stephan Landry – L)  and The Trickster (Mike Tyus – C)

The story from writer/director David Shiner involves The Trickster (Mike Tyus) bursting onto the scene like a jack-in-a-box right in front of The Innocent (Stephan Landry), whose journey brings him into contact with comic characters including a king (clown Gordon White), a pickpocket (Lee Thompson) and an obnoxious tourist and his bad dog (a large puppet). All of this takes place in front of a traveling tower called the Bataclan, designed by Stéphane Roy, which alters the configuration of the performance space as it moves. It also houses the terrific band (Seth Stachowski, leader) and singers performing Jean-FrançoisCôté’s music.

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Clowns and acrobats (there are 55 performers in the show) interact with audience members and round out the action which is thrilling.

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Contortionists Julie Bergez, Natasha Patterson and Dasha Sovik give new meaning to the word flexible and put the “ow” in wow! (My back hurts just thinking about one move they did).

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Jimmy Ibarra and Carlos Marin Loaiza

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Jimmy Ibarra and Carlos Marin Loaiza defy gravity and death in a dual spinning “Wheel of Death.” Their feats are so breathtaking that you might miss some other really excellent skills demonstrated, like the perfect toss to them of the jump ropes which they skip while whirling over your head.

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Unicyclist Yury Shavro and Diana Aleschenko

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There’s a high wire act, a trapeze, a duo unicycle act, a balancing act atop a tower of chairs, teeterboard tumbling and a juggler (Anthony Gatto) who has to be seen to be believed. “No way!” was the common response of audience members to his feats.

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The Domínguez Brothers from Spain performing on the high wires

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In addition to the demonstrations of physical skills, the ensemble numbers, special effects and costumes are dazzling (Serge Roy heads the creative process. Clarence Ford , choreography; Rogé Francoeur, props; Danny Zen, acrobatic equipment and rigging designer; Marie- ChantaleVaillancourt . costumes; Florence Cornet; makeup; Jonathan Deans and Leon Rothenberg, sound).

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Yao Deng Bo and his amazing chair balancing act

In one number, the group wears percussion instruments made out of molded carbon for “skeleton” costumes. They look and sound like bones when the performers hit them against each other to create a musical rhythm. In another scene, a “Rat Cape,” a costume made up of 150 fake fur rats with crystal eyes to catch the light creates the illusion that rats are running down a performer’s body before disappearing into a trap door (it’s very creepy).

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Using the Teeterboard to launch him into the air

KOOZA runs through September 27th at the Pepsi Center grounds in Denver. Tickets start at $45. For tickets, visit the show’s home site at http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/.