PITTSBURGH — More than 50 world-class acrobats, athletes, actors and daredevils will get Pittsburgh crowds gasping as "Corteo," the latest Cirque du Soleil arena production, comes to Pittsburgh.

Seven performances by the famed circus will take place Jan. 16 to 20 at PPG Paints Arena. Tickets ranged from $54 to $155 as of Friday, January 11, and are available at at cirquedusoleil.com/corteo.

"Corteo" premiered in April 2005 under the big top in Cirque's hometown of Montreal, growing into an arena spectacle that has entertained 8 million people in 19 countries on four continents.

On a recent promotional visit to Pittsburgh, Cirque du Soleil publicist Maxwell Batista said "Corteo" is one of the circus' most unique touring productions, "starting with the stage is right in the middle of the arena, and we have the audience seating right up against both sides of it.

"It gives the audience the perspective and the point of view there's something extraordinary happening on stage," Batista said. "It's a huge stage that will fill the arena.

"It's a beautiful show that tells the story of a clown who is dreaming about his own funeral, but in a carnival atmosphere. And his friends from all over the road and different circuses will come and see him and show him all the amazing skills they have."

"Corteo," which means cortege in Italian, is a joyous procession, or festive parade. With characteristic enthusiasm, Cirque says the show "brings together the passion of the actor with the grace and power of the acrobat to plunge the audience into a theatrical world of fun, comedy and spontaneity situated in a mysterious space between heaven and earth."

For most Cirque shows, the storyline is mostly a device to allow performers to do thrilling stunts incorporating strength, balance, courage and grace, though audiences might find "Corteo" more relatable.

"You're going to see all the amazing acts happening," Batista said, "though it's a story about a human being, so it's easy to connect yourself with the story. It is a show that everyone, kids and elders, will be able to follow from the beginning to the end."

The set curtains, inspired by the Eiffel Tower, and the central curtains, which were hand painted, give a grandiose feel, creating a theatrical atmosphere for the 52 Cirque acrobats, musicians, singers and actors from 18 countries.

A few "Corteo" performers visited Pittsburgh in November to drum up publicity, including a juggler positioned on a Mount Washington overlook, whipping around an oversized yo-yo that hit speeds so fast it sounded like a whistling tea kettle. With a flick of the wrists he separated the yo-yo from its string, and with graceful pirouette, spun around and rethreaded it on the string as it dangled in midair. 

"It's important that we go and let people know we are coming to town, even here in Pittsburgh, where we always try to bring our shows and where people always get excited about it," Batista said.  "For us, it's great to have a good response from the audience. It makes the performers feel good as well. When people give a good response to what they're doing on stage, they give even more. Every time we've come here to Pittsburgh, we've had a great response from the audience, and this is the reason we keep coming back."