Photos: A taste of ‘Cirque du Soleil’ at the Franklin Institute

Cirque du Soleil performers wowed Franklin Institute visitors Tuesday, in a tease of “Varekai,” their touring show that will come to Philadelphia this September.

As open-mouthed kids visiting the “Circus! Science Under the Big Top” exhibit watched, acrobats performed the denouement of Varekai, in which Icarus, played by Raphael Botelho, 18, after losing his wings, encounters his “promised one,” played by Alona Zhuravel, 22.

“You have to live it, you have to believe in that fact, that you’re not yourself,” said Botelho, of Brazil, who has a background in capoeira and breakdancing. “You can just not use the technique, the acrobatics. That’s the difference between circus and sports — in gymnastics, they do amazing things, but there is no passion, no art.”

Alona Zhuravel, 22, of Russia, played the role of “La Promise,” whose love gives Icarus the strength to reform his identity, as publicist Vanessa Napoli put it.

“I’m not someone who likes attention in general, but its what I’ve been training for,” said Zhuravel, who has been a hand-balancer since the age of 6.

The duo said that sharing stories with audiences motivates them to perform.

“You need to make the audience believe the story from your body,” Botelho said. “It’s hard. We have our problems. Some days we are sad or happy — but we use this to make the performance”

“I take this energy from her to be this character on stage. It’s like food. We can believe we are strange creatures,” he said.

“It feels very magical,” said Michelle Papachristou, 42, of West Philly, who was visiting the Institute with her kids and caught the performance by coincidence. “When I was a kid you went to see a ballet or a musical to see dance. I think this is more accessible.”

Seven performances of Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Varekai’ will be held at the Wells Fargo Center, Sept. 10-14.

Founded in Quebec by 20 street performers in 1984, Cirque du Soleil is now the most prominent circus arts organization in the world.

Varekai “pays tribute to the nomadic soul, to the spirit and art of the circus tradition, and to those who quest with infinite passion,” according to Cirque du Soleil.

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