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RSVP : Partying With the Greatest of Ease


The Scene: Cirque du Soleil's opening night on Thursday. The otherworldly performance under the big top at the Santa Monica Pier was followed by a party at the new Bergamot Station, a complex of galleries housed in old warehouse space that, by tricks of the lighting and carnival elan, was transformed into a moody fantasia for a celebration that didn't wind down until 1 a.m.

Who Was There: Johnny Carson, Jodie Foster, Jack Palance, Peter Guber, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Gene Hackman, Cindy Williams, Anne Archer and Linda Gray were among celebs who attended the performance. Marlee Matlin and Ed Begley Jr. also made it to the party, where the Mongolian contortionist team Ulziibayar Chimed, 10, and Nomin Tseveendorj, 9, changed from their gleaming costumes into jeans and tore up the dance floor like any young Westside girls.

The Language of Love: Mongolian, Russian, French and American performers mingled easily. The Cirque Strong Man, Rick ZumWalt, an American from Missouri, greeted Belgian actor Christian Racoux with wordless familiarity. "We communicate with laughter and gesture," ZumWalt said. Laughter and gesture was how hearing-impaired actress Marlee Matlin held forth with Russian clown Serguei Chachelev, who is deaf and just learning English signing. "I've been coming since 1987," Matlin signed. "You don't need words to enjoy the circus."

Fabio Who? Mikhail Matorin does a high-wire solo dance with a huge metallic cube that transcends geometry as well as the imagination. He's the real thing. "I went to the circus school when I was 10," he said. "In 1990, I saw the Cirque du Soleil. I developed the act with my father, who is the director of the Moscow Circus."

Chow: Wave upon wave of fresh-shucked shellfish cascaded down a long oyster bar. Trays of sushi, barbecued ribs, quesadillas and other assorted delectables were prepared by Food Inc. (It's a thinking caterer who makes sure the line to the ladies room gets served.)

Entertainment: Dance music came from Man Go Bang. Meanwhile, self-described "performance painter" Norton Wisdom, a former lifeguard, worked away, attacking his canvas with a window-washing squeegee.

Quoted: The problem with a circus, according to KCRW DJ Tom Schnabel--"When you see clowns now, you don't think of Beckett, you think of homeless people in Santa Monica."

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