CirqueCumcision: Zumanity Does a Little Surgery to Keep Creatively Erect

Zumanity's Aerial Dream | PHoto by Pierre Manning

Zumanity‘s “aerial dream” sequence. | Photo by Pierre Manning

Compare sexual reinvigoration techniques:

You: “Let’s do something other than missionary tonight.” Them: “Let’s have two men in red stilettos grope in a cage.” That’s why you’re you and they’re Zumanity.

Not surprisingly in a country 50 shades more comfortable with sexual expression as mainstream entertainment than in 2003, when it debuted, the Cirque du sex show has refreshed about 30 percent of its arty carnality.

Naughtier now? That’s like asking if the ocean is wetter after a rainstorm. If you’re afraid of the water, you don’t swim, before or after. If displays such as caged homoeroticism and aquatic lesbianism offend you, you shouldn’t have seen Zumanity in the first place, never mind now. But yes, it’s sexier, sometimes strenuously so, owing to such overhauls as “2 Men” with the dudes in heels.

Once more of a fight with dance overtones—suggesting skittishness in thoroughly reveling in gay attraction—it’s now a dance with hints of “manly” combat, aided by snake-charmer choreography by one of the segment’s dancers, Yanis Marshall, recruited from Paris. Culminating in a brief makeout session, this interpretation is more deeply sensual and, well, gayer. While it’s in sync with an America warming to same-sex marriage and gay rights, I wondered if, in visually feminizing the men by their footwear with drag-queen intimations, it signaled a step forward for freedom or a step backward into stereotyping.

Other notable elements: red-mohawked aerialist Brandon Pereyda, strapped into a vest of chains, twists, soars and swoops above the crowd; an accomplished (and hot) solo cellist named Mariko adds a unique musical element; a stud in scuba gear sheds it to reveal a tux, then strips on a platform before rising into the rafters, nearly nude, on a rope ladder; and much of the acrobatics and stripteases are set to a broader soundtrack, including propulsive Latin and African rhythms.

Breast connoisseurs will note that the previous topless quotient has been topped. Ardent ass fans won’t be disappointed, nor will admirers of the male physique. (No penis peekaboo, unless you count a prosthetic one for comic effect.) New dancers and singers, representing a cast youth movement, add dollops of individual personality, whereas performers once merged into a generic sexual fever dream. Perennials such as the milk-bath number and the Sapphic gymnastics in the giant Champagne glass have been puffed up—particularly the latter where, in the spirit of gay forthrightness, the ladies are even more, well, in touch with one another.

Comedy breaks have been rethought, including new carnal clowning with audience-roving lechers “Dick and Izzy.” Hostess Edie, “Mistress of Sensuality” (drag star Christopher Kenney) is still a lewdly funny guide. As for the zany, zaftig Botero Sisters, a little of their screechy shtick goes a long way.

Zumanity’s gotten a metaphorical boob job—it’s bigger and bouncier, but sometimes unsubtle jiggling it in your face, as if it’s about getting sexier, rather than simply being sexy. Whether it feels natural—as in the real world with a real pair—is a question of personal preference.

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