What’s new under the Mayan Riviera sun? Cirque du Soleil’s very first dinner-show: JOYÀ. My friend Yasmine Khalil had been telling me about this project for a while. She’s the president of 45 Degrees, the Cirque’s Events and Special Projects company that produces the show. Poor her! I had to admit to her that all this time, I thought she was working on some circus-like cabaret show in a random restaurant…
How wrong I was! The unique 600-seat theatre was dubbed the 2015 Building Project of the Year for its innovation, engineering and use of new technologies, as well as its economic impact on the region.
The huge scale of the show was apparent from the moment we landed in Cancun – giant JOYÀ billboards greeted us at the airport and on various highways, beckoning us to take part in the experience. Once we arrived at the destination, we encountered vast installations built from scratch by the Cirque in a perfectly preserved natural setting.
First stop: Nektar, a lounge restaurant with a terrace, where you can grab a drink even if you don’t go to the show. We then headed to the theatre, a giant flower nestled in the Mayan jungle and surrounded by a magnificent natural cenote.
Before the start of the show, we were invited to the theatre’s private lounge where a magician-mixologist served smoking cocktails that were both daunting (cranberry juice is referred to as “snake blood”) and delicious. And so began the Cirque’s sensational culinary experience. The three-course menu is to die for!
The smoked fish, crab and warm goat cheese and melon caviar entrées were served to the sound of a live band that made them taste even better. Next came the meat and fish dishes, along with delightful finger foods made with dry ice that caused smoke to stream out from our nostrils! Desserts were served on open books – a hint of the night to come! Before the magic of the Cirque began, a real marriage proposal from a Mexican man to his lady (lighting, acrobats, singers and musicians included) added to the poetic ambiance.
The show is set in a “naturalium,” a place of knowledge akin to a library, filled with books. Indeed, Mexico is home to one of the world’s biggest universities. It is this culture of sharing knowledge dating back to the ancient Mayan civilization that inspired the Cirque. The show makes numerous references to art, including a huge mural painting reminiscent of Diego Rivera, the Mexican painter. It’s in this setting that we meet Joyà, a young teenager visiting her grandfather, Zelig, an old naturalist. We learn that pirates have stolen the book containing Zelig’s wisdom and entire life’s work.
JOYÀ certainly holds its own among the Cirque’s other spectacular productions. (Plus, it’s suitable for all ages – children under two years old enter for free!) The grandiosity of the performance is enhanced by the theatre’s tall and deep stage, but the proximity of the acrobats and contortionists makes for a uniquely interactive and intimate experience. In fact, the artists don’t confine themselves to the stage – they hop around the tables as well! We even had to move our plates around a few times as a sword fight unfolded just a few feet away! JOYÀ is truly a one-of-a-kind visual, auditory, olfactory and sensual experience. The show’s format has been such a hit that several dinner-shows are already being developed in different places across the globe. What a great way to discover the Cirque du Soleil – a local treasure gone international!
Different packages are offered.
Reserve in advance to get a special rate, especially for holiday seasons. Hurry!