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Cirque du Soleil’s Totem Show in Ottawa: This Local’s Review

High bars act, Cirque du Soleil, Totem

Totem was my introduction into the world of the Cirque, and circuses in general really, since they’ve gone out of fashion with the greater awareness around humane treatment of animals. I felt like I knew what to expect, having following this Canadian success story with interest over the years. But really, as we all know, a video clip simply cannot compare to an in-person experience. And like the true origins of the circus experience, I feel like I was transported to another world, if only for a few hours last night.


I believe that’s why the phrase “Run off to join the circus,” came to exist. The travelling world of the circus troop really is its own other world. And in the case of Cirque du Soleil, it is a world so magical, and so beautiful, that I feared that both my 11-year-old daughter Stella and I would have no other choice but to run off and join them after last night’s show. She was concerned, however, that her skills might be lacking. I told her that was nonsense and that at her age we could certainly train her up rather quickly.

circus tent

A integral element in creating this other worldly experience is Totem’s music — it was like an auditory version of the best kind of chocolate, melting us into the performance itself. In fact, as I write this, I’m listening to the infectious beats because Stella had been so taken the sounds that we bought the CD and immediately pulled off the wrapper and popped it into the car stereo for our ride home. So of like a little bit of methadone to come down off this amazing high from Totem.

Because it really was a high. I really don’t think I’ve ever since Stella enjoy anything so much. She was hooting with sheer joy and gasping with utter amazement throughout the show.

My favourite act was the hoop dancing by Eric Hernandez; I just couldn’t take my eyes off of him. Stella had a hard time selecting a favourite, but when it came right down to it, she fell in love with the antics of the the clown act, as performed by Pippo Crotti. I can’t fault her in this choice. I think everyone of all ages and genders fell a little bit in love with him. He is just that charming (and that talented in his comic skill).

coffee with julie in front of totem banner

At times, some acts ran a little long and our interest waned. While in a couple of acts, Stella didn’t appreciate the sexual chemistry that was portrayed. I wondered if perhaps the show could have been tightened up a bit and the intermission cut out entirely. I suppose, however, the intermission is a necessary money-maker for the Cirque, allowing guests to buy memorabilia and refreshments. From our end though, a show that ends around 9:30 pm (rather than 10 pm) and does not require lining up for a visit to a temporary toilet stall would be a parental plus.

All of the acts were interwoven, or at least billed to be, around the them of “the odyssey of the human species.” The opening act was a spectacular vision of organic life and animal origins (see the opening photo above), but after that point, the link to this theme was weak. But that wasn’t really the point of the evening. The theme is simply a launching point for showcasing the talents of the troop and in this regard, it served its purpose.

Stella and Julie

As an evening out in Ottawa, it is one of my most memorable. Although Stella and I decided not to run away and join the circus, you can bet that we will be running off to catch every Cirque du Soleil performance that we can from now on.


Family needs: The show starts at 7:30(ish), has one intermission, and ends at 10pm. All material is appropriate for children of all ages and there are no scary or frightening scenes. Family toilets are available. The intermission area is not air-conditioned, but the seating area is. There are soft-cushioned booster seats available to help children see.

Costs: Regular tickets are classified into five price ranges, 1 through 4, plus Premium. Price range 4 is on the sides of the stage and at the back and an adult ticket is $63.50, while a child (age 2-12) ticket is $53.50. Premium seats are $138.50 for an adult, and $128.50 for a child. There are really no terrible seats in the venue. Parking is available on site for a fee of $12. For more info or to buy tickets, visit this site. For me to take my daughter to this show, I considered it good value for money. However, for our complete family of four, the cost would make me pause and I’d likely opt for the price range 4 seats.

Dates: Totem runs in Ottawa from July 11 to August 4, 2013.

Photos: No cameras allowed inside, but you can see some great images here on the Ottawa Citizen site as well here as on the Cirque du Soleil site.


  1. I have always heard GREAT things about about cirque shows!

  2. I really enjoyed it – it was also my first experience with Cirque – I hadn’t really had an interest before – however, now that I have been – I would definitely buy tickets next time!

  3. That looks like an awesome show!! I’ve never seen one but have heard that it is amazing!

  4. Wow, looks cool! I’ve never been to a Cirque show but my aunt and uncle have seen all of their shows and LOVE them. Maybe this tour will come to Victoria and I can finally go to one! Thanks for sharing. :)

  5. oh I love that they have booster seats, my kids can never see when we do stuff like this and then they are stuck on our laps for 2 hours! I would love to see this someday

  6. Great review, Julie! It was wonderful to meet you and your daughter there that night :) Such a fantastic show!

  7. I saw the ads and wanted to go…may still have a chance to get tickets…I had the same feeling as you the first time I saw Cirque in Australia – I want to go back! Sounds like a good show….the one I really want to see – O in Vegas.

  8. I’ve seen Cirque so many times in the past 18 years. My sister worked for them 2 seasons, one of my past employer was a key sponsor so I had a chance to go to 5 different shows for free! I’ve also seen them here in Ottawa. Love it!


  1. […] While other reviews haven’t been as fond of the sexual chemistry in the show (perhaps from a family audience perspective), this couple’s trapeze scene was our absolute favourite part. […]

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