By  on February 1, 1994

ATLANTA -- The lights go down. The music swells. From somewhere in the mists a voice addresses the assembled crowd. "Flash photography is strictly forbidden," intones the apparition who doubles as master of ceremonies, "because of the extreme danger it poses to the people of our world."

"Our world" is Cirque du Soleil, an extraordinary, almost surreal entertainment that combines theatrical elements with traditional circus acts. This year's production, "Saltimbanco," juxtaposed mysterious characters, intricately painted backdrops and elaborate costumes under a yellow and blue big top tent that rolled into midtown on Nov. 18.

The parties surrounding the opening were almost as glamorous as the performance itself. On the first night, guests shuttled to the Nations Bank building penthouse on Peachtree Street and were treated to French and Italian food, champagne and candlelight provided by caterer Gloriosa. Even after a nearly three-hour production, the cast had energy to spare, launching an impromptu stunt show on the crowded dance floor.

The next evening, AID Atlanta raised more than $100,000 dollars during a three-part benefit chaired by John Oetgen, Betsy Pritchett and Candy Sheehan and coordinated by more than 100 volunteers. Party-goers started off with hot dogs, Glorifieds and Frosted Orange Specials from The Varsity Junior Restaurant. Then after the Cirque du Soleil performance, they were treated to an all-white celebration dubbed "Star Night, Star Bright" and catered by The Ritz-Carlton.

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