Cirque du Soleil enchants with ‘Amaluna’ (Photos)

Ukrainian contortionist Iuliia Mykhailova plays Miranda, a young maiden who falls in love with a shipwrecked man named Romeo.

(Courtesy Cirque du Soleil)

WASHINGTON — Imagine an island entirely inhabited and ruled by goddesses. Then imagine what would happen if a group of young men is suddenly marooned there.

That’s the theme of Cirque du Soleil’s latest production, which comes to National Harbor July 31.

“Amaluna” is the circus’ first foray into an unapologetically feminine world. The inhabitants of this mysterious island are all women, with the exception of one trickster lizard named Cali. The band, too, is composed of all female musicians — another first for the Quebec-based company.

“The show is about promoting the strength and power of women,” says Artistic Director Rachel Lancaster.

Guided by the cycles of the moon, Amaluna is a place of calm and balance. The queen, Prospera, is a shaman-like character with magical powers who urges her young daughter, Miranda, to find her own way in life.

But balance is disturbed when Miranda, played by Ukrainian-born Iuliia Mykhailova, falls in love with Romeo, one of the shipwrecked men brought to the island by a storm of Prospera’s own doing.

Show director Diane Paulus drew from various traditions to tell the tale of Amaluna, including Greek and Norse mythology, Shakespearean romance and even Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

To play the part of Miranda, Mykhailova says she drew on her own experience as a teen fighting to grow up.

“Miranda is a girl becoming a woman,” she says.

The mother of a young daughter, Mykhailova says she just tried to remember what is was like to be 18 years old and falling in love for the first time.

But when Mykhailova was the same age as her character, she was already attending the Kyiv Municipal Academy of Circus and Variety Arts in her home country. Mykhailova says she first become interested in contortion since she was a small child, and always dreamed of joining an international production such as Cirque du Soleil.

In 2010, Mykhailova submitted a video of herself to Cirque and was invited to join the North American tour of OVO, in which she played White Spider.

She has been touring with the company ever since. And like her character Miranda, Mykhailova is also trying to balance duty with her passion. Mykhailova says she hopes her 8-year-old will one day become a performer as well.

Watch a video of Mykhailova talking about her family below:

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