If you’ve seen the Grand Cha^piteau (Big Top) rising from Tokyo’s Yoyogi Stadium, you would be right in guessing a circus had ridden into town.
But this is no ordinary clown show. “Dralion” is the ninth production from Cirque du Soleil, and one that has already been performed more than 2,000 times in 45 cities across North and Central America and Europe since launching in 1999. It’s an extravaganza that’s not just for children — nor is it for the fainthearted.
Since its founding in 1984, the Quebec-based Cirque du Soleil has rewritten the circus-ring rule book, merging the curious thrill of the circus with theater, ballet and opera.
Drawing on the Chinese circus tradition, “Dralion” has an East-meets-West theme. As the official Web site says: ” ‘Dralion’ derives much of its inspiration from Eastern philosophy, with its perpetual quest for harmony between humankind and nature.”
What this actually amounts to are half-dragon, half-lion “dralions” performing against a backdrop of dream-like imagery inspired by the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. Among the attractions are the world’s first ballet performed on light bulbs; aerial pas de deux; single-hand balancing acts; and trampoline artists performing without a safety net. Troupe members represent 21 different nationalities.
“Dralion” runs through May 6 (times vary) at Harajuku Shin Big Top (tel.  5237-7120) before heading to Sendai (May 23-July 8, tel.  298-7633); Osaka (July 25-Sept. 9, tel.  6233-8890); Nagoya (Oct. 31-Jan. 6, 2008) and Fukuoka next year.
Tickets for adults are 5,000 yen, 9,000 yen and 11,500 yen (3,500 yen, 5,500 yen and 7,500 yen for children) and can be purchased online at t.pia.co.jp/dralion/ Alternatively, tickets can be purchased on the day from the on-site box office, which opens one hour prior to performance start times.