Walt Disney World is an expansive resort complex. Most guests are familiar with the gated theme parks: Magic Kingdom , Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Disney-Hollywood Studios . Less well known, however, is the extremely wide variety of entertainment options. From water parks to bicycles built for two, Walt Disney World offers a plethora of choices beyond the gated theme parks.

Many first time visitors are surprised to find that Walt Disney World is the permanent home of a Cirque du Soleil show. Known as La Nouba, the show at Disney first premiered on December 23, 1998.

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of Cirque du Soleil, here is a beginner’s guide. Cirque du Soleil is sort of a circus for the future. The company draws heavily from such disparate influences as old fashioned tent circuses and modern/contemporary music and dance. Cirque was originally founded as a street show in the 1980s, bringing together the creativity of street performers, self-taught entrepreneurs, and visionaries. Cirque is a tribute to the dreams of youth, and while it has become a worldwide phenomenon, Cirque has never lost sight of its roots. 1% of all proceeds are dedicated to assisting youth who are in trouble, with a special focus on street kids.

Cirque also works hard toward social and cultural justice. Throughout the years, Cirque has contributed time and money to a variety of social causes. Cirque runs workshops for at risk youth, purchases art from local artists, and remains an active and involved member of the artistic community.

The Cirque du Soleil show that is performed at Disney Springs West Side is called La Nouba. The name comes from the French phrase “faire la nouba,” which means “live it up,” or simply “party.” La Nouba is a fantastical voyage through dreams and nightmares, the memories and collective unconscious that dwell within us all. The Cirque du Soleil website (www.cirquedusoleil.com) bills La Nouba as “the story of all stories,” and the show certainly lives up to the billing.

In a twist on the traditional good vs. evil of storytelling, La Nouba instead focuses on the clash between the Cirques (circus folk) and the Urbaines (who live in the world of the mundane). In a world where everything is possible and nothing is too strange to be considered, this clash is all the more intense. You will likely recognize yourself in both sets of characters, as the battle between the everyday and the fantastical is a core part of being human.

La Nouba is performed in 90 minutes, with no intermission. The lack of an intermission adds to the intensity and drama of the story. Those looking for traditional circus acts will not be disappointed. Seamlessly integrated into the storyline are several familiar acts: Clowns; Trapeze artists; Stunt Cyclists; Chair Balancing; and High Wire performers. La Nouba also introduces a myriad of new acts or twists on classics: the Aerial Cradle; German Wheel; Aerial Ballet in Silk; Diabolos; and Power Track/Trampoline will all surprise and amaze your senses. It is important to note that for a variety of reasons, Cirque du Soleil employs no animal acts.

Cirque du Soleil is much more than “just a circus.” Cirque shows draw from the best of music, dance and theatrical performance in order to tell their story. In La Nouba, prepare to be drawn in to the complicated interplay between such characters as The Green Bird, The Titan, The Dancers (whose love story is guaranteed to affect even the most stoic among us), and Les Cons. As in the world of Shakespeare, certain characters exist to bridge the gap between our reality and the reality within the show. Others are meant to represent a particular struggle or battle, or universal truth.

Particularly striking in any Cirque show is the seamless integration of the disparate elements. A Cirque show tends to overwhelm the senses with sight, sound, and energy. It is often only after the show is over that one can begin to pull the pieces apart and review the individual elements. La Nouba is no exception. Featuring exceptionally talented performers from around the globe, La Nouba is highly worthy of the legendary Cirque du Soleil name.

La Nouba is performed at 6 pm and 9 pm Wednesday through Saturday nights. There are no performances on Sundays or Mondays. Purchasing tickets well in advance is highly recommended, particularly during the more crowded summer season and, of course, holiday seasons.

La Nouba tickets can be purchased from Orlandovacation .com. You can pick up tickets purchased less than eight days prior to the show at the Will Call window, but be sure to arrive early. Cirque du Soleil reserves the right to re-sell any seat that is vacant at ten minutes prior to showtime. This is a way to attempt to buy seats on the day of the show, but of course, no-shows are never guaranteed.