'Aphelion' dazzles at Eldorado

After all the excitement of the gymnasts at the Beijing Olympics, one would think there aren't a lot of feats of balance and high-bar acrobatics that could rev up things, but the people at the Eldorado Casino in Reno thought otherwise. They must have figured the Olympics would just whet our appetites for more dazzling gymnastics and feats of strength and balance.

Their answer to our tastes for all of the above is wrapped up in the show now playing there " "Aphelion." It's billed as a cirque-style adventure "where your imagination collides with reality and the mysterious dreams beyond."

It plays in the Eldorado showroom through Nov. 17 (if the cast can survive the three months of demanding athleticism). Tickets are available from $19.95 for seniors and children and from $24.95 for adults. Dinner and show packages are available from $32.95. Room and show packages are available from $49.95. Call Eldorado Show Reservations at (800) 648-5966 or 786-5700.

The show opens in the European tradition with a mime (Kirk Marsh) wandering through the audience, stepping over occupied seats, juggling a hat and making the kind of moves that mimes have made for generations.

He is quickly replaced by three men who wring gasps from the audience with their hand stands, balancing and lifting displays, all the while a young dancer in diaphanous clothing dances along side.

Then things really start moving, with a man and woman soaring out over the audience while twisting long drapery-like white cloths around wrists and legs. And they barely begin to pant as they swing around the drapes fastened to a hook in the ceiling.

The acts come and go so fast that it's hard keep up, with the mime breaking in now and then to give cast members time to catch their breath and change costumes. Further along, a dazzling lady comes out and climbs into a net, which is fastened to the ceiling line. She writhes and twists and seemingly is just about to take a tumble to the stage but never misses a twist or a turn.

Then there's the young man in Elvis costume who really turns balance into a mesmerizing feat. High on a pylon, he gradually builds a stack of balls and cylinders " all loose, all independent " about five feet high (at one point he seems to slip and falls about 10 feet to the stage, but jumps up and builds and even higher stack of items, on which he places a board and balances much as skiers do with their Bongo Boards.

Now there's the most astounding act of the show. Three men and a woman have been tossing long-necked pins around, weaving between the pins and keeping them flashing about. But hold on " the best is yet to come.

One man stands at stage right, while the other three collect metal dinner-sized plates. Then in a flashing barrage, the three hurl the plates at the lone man who must catch them all as they fly like bullets toward him. This has got to be the most fascinating act in the show " how can he do it, catch the plates whizzing at him from three different places?

The final act is uneven bars just like at the Olympics, people flying through the air on a series of bars erected on the stage. Yes, you saw it out of Beijing, but this is close and live and with all eight men flying around at the same time, zooming out over the stage to land on foam rubber. This is the beauty of raw athletics, well staged and exciting.

From the producers and creator of Eldorado's award-winning shows, Balagan and Taganai, "Aphelion" features a cast of award-winning and internationally gravity-defying aerialists, contortionists, acrobats, dancers and jugglers. The alluring show combines Olympic-quality gymnastics and whimsical characters taking center stage in a surreal backdrop of dreams and fantasy.

"Aphelion" is a layered composition of interactive comedy acts and skillfully choreographed dance numbers. Performances are complemented with mystical sets, ingenious lighting, sophisticated staging and creatively designed costumes.

There are some oddly costumed actors frolicking about on stage, but they're there just to give an unworldly feeling to the action. The show is the athletes doing marvelous things effortlessly. It's enough to send one to the gym to see how it's done.

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