Who’s Backstage at Cirque
Posted by APATA | Jul 11, 2019
Everyone’s heard the line ‘running away with the circus’ but I’ve always asked – what are they running away from? Looks to me like there’re running towards global adventure!
Take for example post-Olympic Games athletes. In 2018 seventeen Olympians, from gold-medal-winning synchronized swimmers to ski jumpers headed to Cirque Du Soleil, the avant-garde, Montreal-based theatrical production company where talents and skill provide a stage not only for performing artists, but also retiring athletes to use the skills and talents they have spent years and decades, honing.
Circus has a mandate to renew content and wow people with amazing feats that leave audiences gobsmacked and awe struck. Interestingly as well as shopping in the performing arts, talent scouts from companies such as Cirque Du Soleil are also at Olympic meets, surveying grass arenas, Olympic pools and wintery slopes, particularly for those athletes competing in new adrenaline-fueled events.
The circus is a growth industry. After a slump in the 90s when circuses were closing, a quick review at the touring calendar reveals several circus performances touring a country at any one time, and theatre-based spin offs in most of the main centres globally being presented in particular a growing representation at arts festivals.
Success of the circus has surged over recent years even though there’s an abundance of choice in the live entertainment arena for audiences to choose from, but circus it seems has a special place and while not everyone can afford to travel to see a show, the great advantage of the circus is the entrenched practice of touring – a show is sure to be coming to a town near you!
Regardless of scale, every performance has something for everyone. The sheer variety of acts in circus delivers that element of surprise for all ticket holders as a performance weaves its way in story telling from FMX bikes, human canons, acrobatics, aerial, freakish twisting, contorting and tumbling to the beat of unique soundscapes adding to the design and atmosphere that steels your breath away. Added to the spectacule of it all is the costuming and make-up, lights and effects, insane set design and props that matches the talents displayed by artists on stage. Circus knows how to retain excitement, deliver story, steel a punters breath away and slip in some humour for all ticket holders.
So that got us thinking…who’s backstage at the cirque?
Flying outside the big top of every Cirque Du Soleil tour are several country flags representing every nationality in the cast. Count of flags on the last tour around Australia sat at eighteen nations and one was Australian proudly waving among others for local teeterboard flyer Laura Kmetko.
Melbourne born and bred, Kmetko enjoyed the rare experience as a touring circus performer with incredible aerial acrobatics skill. Having studied ballet from the age of six and gymnastics from eight to eighteen, combining elite gymnastics with the Victorian Institute of Sport and studying circus arts for three years at the National Institute of Circus, Kmetko applied everything from ballet to choreography, artistic presentation and expressive circus to achieve a life-time dream.
Brisbane talent Daniel Crispin also achieved his passion donning blue body paint as the principal actor in Cirque Du Soleil’s Avatar. Working across classrooms and as an acrobatic instructor at Flipside Circus, Daniel vigorously trained for his role in Toruk – The First Flight. It had been a dream and goal of Daniel’s for a decade to work at Cirque Du Soleil. As a child Daniel was drawn to all things acrobatic, practised Taekwondo, and a move from competitive sports into performance eventually leading to circus and in particular acrobatics. Training undertaken at the National Institute of Circus further propelled Daniel towards achieving his life ambitions. Stepping away from the stage, the physical demands of acrobatics beginning to wear on the body, Daniel now travels to new cities with the largest theatrical producer with aspirations to work as a creative and artistic director at Cirque HQ.
Taking a glimpse of the elite athletes backstage at the cirque demonstrates an impressive list of Olympic Champions. Lee Brearley represented Britain competing in trampoline at the Olympics and on retirement suited up with Cirque Du Soleil in full zoot suit to perform double flips in ‘Paramour’. Russian Olympic Champion in gymnastics Svetlana Khorkina retired at 25 years of age with a swag of gold medals, World and European Championships to join Cirque Du Soleil continuing her career as anartist with the largest theatre organisation in the world to perform gravity defying stunts and highly skilful and athletic manoeuvres. Jenna Randell a former two-time Olympian in synchronised swimming thoroughly enjoys her retirement as an Aquatic Artist in ‘O’ a water-themed stage production by Cirque Du Soleil which runs permanently at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.
Many dedicated hours behind the scenes are required to create the unimaginable and unexpected at Cirque Du Soleil. From performers and artists across athletes, acrobats, dancers, musicians, singers, choreographers, and stage experts working across technical production and production design everyone is essential to realise creative genius and performance excellence.
Cirque Du Soleil has 1,300 artists hailing from 55 different countries. Each individual show features anywhere from 50 to 100 artists. 35% of the cast come from sports disciplines such as rhythmic and acrobatic gymnastics, as well as trampoline, tumbling, diving, synchronised swimming and urban acrobatic disciplines. 34% come from circus arts disciplines, while 31% come from various artistic backgrounds such as dance, music, physical theatre and street arts.
Furthermore, exploration across textiles and technologies where the costume workshop is always on the lookout for new ways to incorporate vision and creativity into live performance adds to the visual experience plus teams of designers working across set and stage equipment an integral component in conveying the theme and atmosphere of the Cirque signature performance.
Performance is complex, rigorous and multi-faceted discipline requiring an entire network of experts working across numerous disciplines to deliver new life to the stage. For many the opportunity to reside and experience all elements of the creative process is life changing and certainly a very good reason to run away with the circus!