It takes a circus

A few weekends back I took C to La Nouba. It was a special night for just the two of us. I’ve had a pretty good amount of one-on-one time with N lately, and I didn’t want to miss out on getting the same time with C.

And, of course, I love La Nouba.

For those that haven’t seen it, La Nouba is Cirque Du Soleil’s permanent show here in Orlando, and it really is something special. It’s filled with amazing acrobatics, surreal visuals, and fantastic music. It even has a couple of clowns that make sporadic appearances both between and during the other performances.

That’s where C came in. For him, the rest of the show was overwhelming and, at times, scary. I think he enjoyed it, but his reactions throughout seemed to be a pretty even mix of “wow” and “oh no!” The clowns, however, were the one part that he enjoyed wholeheartedly.

During one of their routines, one clown was pushing an oversized old-fashioned baby carriage. As he pushed it across the stage, a wadded-up piece of paper flew out of the carriage towards him. He ducked, picked it up, and tossed it back. Immediately, a larger piece of wadded-up paper came flying out of the carriage towards him. It’s a pretty straightforward gag – one that I think may be a standard piece of circus fare – and no one was doing more than chuckling.

Except for C, that is. When that paper flew out of the carriage the second time, he let out the biggest guffaw you can imagine. It was halfway between a laugh and a scream and it really turned heads. At that first laugh, I saw at least five heads whip around to glare at us. Fortunately, when they saw what was happening, their glares softened into smiles. Several even pointed us out to their seat mates.

The third time the paper flew out of the carriage, C guffawed again. This time he wasn’t alone. All those people who’d turned to look earlier laughed right along with him. In fact, several were still peeking back. Others, who hadn’t turned around at his first guffaw, repeated the routine: turn, glare, smile, relax, laugh.

It spread like some sort of contagious disease, and by the end of the routine our whole section was laughing and clapping. Looking around the theater, I could see other audience members peering over at our section to try to see what was so funny.

Throughout the rest of the show, I felt like we were the show within the show. Everyone was discreetly keeping an eye on C. When scary parts arrived, I’d hear several comment (fairly loudly) to each other that it was “just pretend”. When amazing things things happened, we’d hear “wow”s and “look at that!”s. Many of those were honest commens – it is an amazing show – but it seemed like a lot were for C’s benefit. When funny things happened, however, that’s when the audience got crazy. C would explode with a laugh, and the whole section would respond with their own just a half-beat later.

On the way out, we must have had fifty people ask C if he liked the show.

Remember that African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”?

I think that might have been wrong. I think it might take a circus.

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