Tag Archive: cirque

Hey, Cirque fans! If you’re interested in knowing more about the iconic entertainment company, check out Cirque Week, a series of behind-the-scenes demos and discussions of all things Cirque du Soleil. (Ticket information and a schedule is available here.)

Company executives chatted about what it takes to keep a company like Cirque going. Participants checked out costumes up close, watched rehearsals of bungee routines from “Mystere” and saw exclusive footage of the Cirque mother-ship in Montreal. These are a few examples of the breadth of programming Cirque has put on to let superfans get to know the company better.

The 10-day series is almost over, but stop by Best of Las Vegas to see my coverage of a few of the events. There’s nothing wrong with living vicariously, right?

The secret behind Cirque is yours to seek

More to ‘Love’ for Cirque Week

Cirque’s insight = serious business

Cirque coach shares secrets


Update 7/22: 

“KA” artists took a brief hiatus from their Las Vegas stage and took up the mantle on the side of a building in San Diego instead. The performance of the show’s final fight scene, adapted for comic-enthusiasts from around the world, was part of the opening festivities for the 2011 Comic-Con and fit in well with the audience of fantasy-lovers.

The scene may be a familiar one to Vegas locals, but the adaptations made by the artists were impressive. After all, there is a world of difference between an elaborate and expensive stage designed specifically for the show and a wall of PETCO Park. For footage of the performance kindly generated by Comic-Con goers in the audience, check out the video below. (More and different videos are available on YouTube, naturally.)

Original post 7/6:

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Artists and technicians from Cirque du Soleil’s show “KA” will be reproducing the final battle scene from the show for Comic-Con attendees in San Diego from July 21 – 24. For cosplay fans, this could be an acrobatic dream come true, but the circumstances present a few challenges for the performers and the tech team.

In “KA,” the battle atmosphere is projected onto an angled surface suspended above the audience, giving onlookers the perspective of watching the combat from above. Replicating this arrangement in San Diego is impossible, as the wall of the building where the scene will be performed is entirely vertical, which isn’t the case in the show.

If you want to see the show in person, you’re out of luck: badges for the convention are already sold out online. But to find out how performers are adjusting, what technicians are doing to compensate for on-site differences and for interviews with “KA” artists and technicians, follow the link here for the original video on Wired.com.

Thanks for stopping by!

Two companies rife with young talent competently mixed contemporary and classical dance with exuberant energy in a joint performance on May 15 at the “Viva ELVIS” theater at Aria. “A Choreographers’ Showcase,” now in its fourth year, showcased the ambitions and abilities of artists from Cirque du Soleil and Nevada Ballet Theatre in a performance that filled the house — and the enormous stage — respectably.

Each piece was choreographed by a dancer from one of the companies (with the exception of “Pra,” pronounced “prey,” by Rommel Pacson, a dancer who does physical therapy work for Cirque). Each choreographer stepped forward to introduce his or her work and the insight from the artists aided the comprehension of some experimental concepts.

The diversity of the show was encouraging. “Pra,” mentioned above, was a flexed-foot, modern-influenced and highly athletic depiction of pursuit. “Glo,” by Cirque artist Vanessa Convery, incorporated film to fully express the emotional breadth of the message of the piece, which was spoked with eye-catching partnering and incandescent interactions.

Story-telling was, pleasantly, in no short supply. “Vindicate,” a piece by NBT artist Krista Baker, told the story of the complicated aspects of life in a dance studio. The ensemble-work and technical aspects in the piece were wonderful and the honesty in the narrative offered a fresh take on a familiar atmosphere.

Cirque artist Greg Sample’s “Pressing Play” also revolved around a relatable central concept: hitting pause on adult responsibilities and pressing play on the spontaneous discoveries of childhood. The number featured distinct character movement that was performed well to quirky music. This combination fit the mission statement of the work and elicited giggles and warm-fuzzies from the audience.

Abstract concepts were bravely explored in pieces like “The Vertical Hold” by NBT’s Ashleigh Doede and “Dreams of Hope” by Hanifa Jackson and Israel Gutierrez of Cirque. Emotions ran high in both and the fortitude of the performers was commendable. “The Vertical Hold” was a tense, brooding embodiment of conflict and stalemates. Domineering and driving energy piloted “Dreams of Hope,” a strong jazz number with crazy partnering and the only choreographic collaboration in the show.

Perhaps the most literal interpretation of an idea came from Cirque’s Mukhtar Omar Sharif Mukhtar with “Making Sense of Movement.” The choreographer introduced his piece with anecdotes about dancing alongside performers that were blind or deaf but could still interpret music. The number was created with this in mind; each dancer bore a red mask, worn alternatively over eyes or mouth to simulate sightlessness and silence. Although the piece had a sinister ring to it at the start, the lingering message exonerated the limitless possibilities of having a fully functioning body.

“Cue: Bow,” a piece by Kalin Morrow of NBT, began the show with a plucky and inventive vibe that was refreshingly light-hearted. Childish narratives and characters shone through and spoke well to the audience. “Ascension,” by NBT’s Leigh Hartley, used ballet- and lyrical-tinged choreography to tell the story of a hospital patient that, by the end of the piece, traded the hospital gown for an angelic dress. The classical note kept things in perspective and the story was satisfyingly straightforward.

Mary LaCroix, an artist with NBT, choreographed “Apres Vous,” which landed late in the second act. The number had a thread of personal experience in it, as LaCroix admitted early on, and this contributed a nice veracity. The narrative traveled from a fractured relationship to a gritty and determined coda, concluding finally with a mildly indignant resolution.

Effervescent exploration and collaboration made the show not only remarkably diverse but highly enjoyable. Not everything was as polished as it might have been with full rehearsals, but that wasn’t the point. It was encouraging to see the power and ambition of these performers and, with any luck, this annual concert will continue for many years to come.

“A Choreographers’ Showcase” will be performed at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 22 at the “Viva ELVIS” theater at Aria. Tickets are available here, and proceeds contribute to an outreach program that has allowed more than 3600 students to attend a special performance of the show.

You walk into the theater and are confronted with wrought, industrial-looking sets that frame the stage. Performers in elaborate garb survey the audience and casually drop 30 feet, then rebound on a bungee. The air is charged, the stage is filling with fog, and the show is about to begin.

Welcome to “KA” by Cirque du Soleil.

For Cirque, this particular show represents a step in a more tangible direction. A clear storyline leads the audience into the depths of the show and both featured characters and peripheral roles are easier to relate to than, say, enormous inflatable snails. A short monologue at the beginning of the show introduces two Imperial twins who, throughout the show, will face trials and tribulations in order to fulfill their shared fate.

The stage is itself a study in the unexpected, which is a common theme in Cirque shows. The central platform transforms from a stationary plane to a beach, a battleground and a plunging ship, allowing for an unprecedented dynamism that exemplifies the other-worldliness of “KA.” A hut seen midway through transforms seamlessly into an airborne craft that traverses the space with a soundless, serene soar, and a beach scene is usurped when the platform tips and sends a cascade of sand tumbling down.

The show is also not devoid of humor; the seriousness of the Imperial twins’ story is offset by clown-like characters with a European vibe. A couple of mimes in the beginning bumble through a series of shenanigans to remind audience members to silence their cellphones, and one of the most memorable scenes in the show involves a human-sized centipede, crab, starfish and turtle.

The twins perform a delightful act of shadow puppetry toward the beginning of the show, deftly manipulating their own and each other’s hands. This swirl of light-heartedness brightens “KA” and keep the overall tone from becoming too serious.

The physicality of each of the performers is exemplary. This is combined with the efforts of visionary Robert Lepage, the director of “KA,” and the results are beyond what an average person would even conceive. Martial arts are mixed with hybrids of dance, aerial work and abstract movement that conveys emotion commendably.

A pinnacle of impossibility is showcased when the stage, tipped and rotating, is studded with points around which performers can pivot. A battle scene commences, with characters sliding perilously close to the platform’s edges before snagging an outcropping and hurtling in a different direction. “Jaw on floor” is an understatement at that point.

A pantheon of aerialists twirling around gargantuan bamboo-like stalks, a lyrical baton act to emotional strings, and fliers zooming around the theater seals the deal with a signature Cirque flourish.The effect is a stunning, pleasantly mind-bending foray into a perfectly three-dimensional alternate world. If this sounds like a world you’re interested in exploring, find more information here.

Auditions a la Cirque, 2011

There’s something that happens every year that gets dancers very excited, but it doesn’t have anything to do with a fat man in a Santa suit — unless he’s auditioning for a character role. Cirque du Soleil, international entertainment mogul, holds open auditions for dancers and specialty acts every year and these are among the largest cattle-call auditions in the city.

This year’s audition series took place from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 and was held at The Rock Center for Dance. The four-day stint staked out the largest spaces at the studio and included a plethora of dance styles, from contemporary to step to freestyle to locking and breaking.

How many dancers can you stuff into a studio to learn a combination? The registration team at the audition estimated that about 300 girls showed up on Jan. 30 for the the contemporary/ballet audition for females, which is usually the most well-attended portion. All 300 of those girls were funneled into one studio and taught a combination that traveled from the corner.

Traveled. Interesting concept, when space constrictions necessitate that port de bras consists of finger twitches.

True to promises made by the artistic team at the audition, the dancers were split into groups of two and each was given a few precious counts of eight to make an impression on the casting crew and a video camera. After everyone had been seen, the cuts began.

About 60 girls showed up for the street section on Feb. 1 and a fraction of the contemporary and street groups was kept for callbacks on Jan. 31 and Feb. 2, respectively. Those that made it all the way through are now part of the Cirque database, meaning that the artist has information on file with the company and will be contacted if an appropriate contract opens up.

Krista Monson, the director of casting for resident shows, and Giulio Scatola, an artistic talent scout for Cirque, were present and pontificating at the audition. Scatola gave the combination and Monson gave the rundown on general information about the company. A couple things were new.

For anyone that’s confused about what exactly is going on with the impending Michael Jackson experience, take note that Cirque actually has two shows slated for creation. One will be a touring arena show that will hit major cities for a few days to two weeks at a time. The other, as promised, will be a resident show in Las Vegas that will begin in 2013.

For Vegas dancers, hitting up a Cirque audition is almost a rite of passage and being on file with the company is certainly commendable. Keep an eye out for 2012 audition dates and it may be a good idea to bring along a single white glove.

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Note: None of the photos associated with this post are of the audition space, creative team or any audition material whatsoever. For official photos of Cirque shows, cast members and artistic directors, check out their website at the link above. For a sneak peek of audition combinations … go to an audition, yo.

Flame-spinners, magicians, contortionists and babes with big voices got together for January’s “Karnival,” held at the Onyx Theatre on Jan. 4. As the first show of the new year, the performance represented an auspicious start. As an installment in the ongoing “Karnival” series, it constituted a step in a dynamic and highly enjoyable direction.

One of the strongest attributes of the show was its ability to showcase new talent while still keeping audience favorites alive and well. The recurring “Mama” character was present in voice if not in person; a voice-over was broadcast because, as the story goes, Mama was in Costa Rica during the show. (Stephanie Castellone, Mama’s alter-ego, was in the show this time around and no walker was necessary.)

Instead, Mama’s sister Girdy (played by J P Nomi Malone and pictured below) fulfilled the role of hilariously outrageous accoutrement. Coupled with emcee Vivianne Dumonde, the drag queen filling in for Ginger Grant, the show was well-spiked with comedy of the same brand but of a different flavor.

The talent continued along this vein as well, with a mix of classic acts and newcomers. Spade of Hearts started the show in proper Broadway fashion with a cheeky character, a masked rabbit in a tux, sly magic tricks and a fabulously belted version of Jefferson Airplane’s  “White Rabbit.”

Leda Las Vegas and Lou Lou Roxy took the audience from Wonderland to a cabaret … or, rather, “Cabaret.” Leda, mic in hand, sat coyly at a table downstage while Roxy, clad in black fringe and dark lipstick, preened and shimmied her way through the act. The number was both understated and outgoing, with Leda’s expressive voice defying the role of simple accompaniment.

Two other voices stood out in the show as well, proving that while “Karnival” might be playful at times, the performers themselves aren’t playin’. Isabella Ivy and Ianroel Gargantiel (pictured left) sang the title track from “Phantom of the Opera,” complete with an opera gown on Ivy (but, strangely, no mask on Gargantiel.) Ivy’s soaring soprano and the seriousness of Gargantiel’s character were transforming forces for the small theater and added a note (or several) of seriousness to the show.

Bellydancer Resa Alhena, accompanied by John Dark on accordion, and Miranda Glamour held down the dance fort with two different but catchy acts. Alhena and Dark (both pictured below) performed a sweet and sultry duet at the top of the show, rife with details from fingers and belly alike. Perhaps the most enjoyable facet of the number was the conversational nature between the two and Alhena’s serenity and quiet smile were infectious. Glamour took another route altogether, stepping into “Toucha Toucha Touch Me” track from “Rocky Horror Picture Show” with all the personality and bubblegum sass that the song requires.

A magician, a fire-spinner and a Cirque contortion act ushered in the quintessential side of the circus a la Las Vegas.

Kyle Marlett (pictured left), a self-proclaimed nerd magician that has yet to turn 21, razzle-dazzled the audience with unique illusions to a track from “Chicago.” Ripped paper that became whole, a never-ending sugar packet, and a one-sided conversation with the audience transcribed into a composition book set up Marlett’s grand finale: a demonstration that he really does have the best mouth in Vegas (their words, not mine.) Into that mouth went dental floss, followed by a number of small objects. By the end of the act, Marlett was pulling the floss back out of his mouth with each of the objects tied, in cherry-stem-style, to the string.

Oh, my. Marlett’s illusions were excellent and his Michael Cera-esque demeanor was both endearing and impressive.

Contortion and fire ended the show in style. Cirque contortionists (of whom Castellone was one, explaining the absence of Mama) twined over, under and around each other in a number originally performed in the touring Cirque show called “Nouvelle Experience.” The ease with which the performers maneuvered was astounding and the smiles that interspersed the act were the cherry on top.

Who loves a flaming stage? Maybe not the stage manager, but Chris Staefe (pictured above) has it under control — it was only on fire fora few seconds, after all, and it really was intentional. Staefe’s choice of music, a dramatic instrumental track from “The Lion King,” paired with the act well and accentuated the “wow” factor of watching balls of fire on a string spinning around.

And all too soon, the performers were stepping forward for their final bow. I don’t know if a New Year’s resolution at the Onyx was to ramp up the entertainment value of their shows, but if it was, mission accomplished. Hopefully the extreme talent and variety continues.