The latest Cirque Du Soleil show, Luzia, opened at Marymoor Park in Redmond March 30th. The day before opening night, I had the opportunity to tour backstage, watch rehearsal and talk with one of the stars. I brought my kids with me, who were very excited to see behind the curtain!
This experience did not disappoint! Our guide, show publicist Francis, first showed us a studio filled with colorful costumes, from one of the 20-foot silk monarch wings used in the show opening, to huge puppets, including cockroaches and grasshoppers. These puppets attach to the shoes of a performer and allow them to “dance” with the bugs. Speaking of shoes, each of the 140 pairs are custom-made and painted by hand, and need to be repainted weekly.
Luzia also uses the biggest puppets ever in a Cirque show, a horse and cheetah that each require three people inside to work them.
Inside the theater itself, the stage is a round platform with over 94,000 holes in the surface and a hidden basin underneath. Luzia uses “rain” onstage and this specially-designed stage drains the water- which must be filtered, disinfected and kept at 82 degrees Fahrenheit for the performers. The same water is reused for the run of the show in each city. After the water scene, Zamboni-type machines drive around, drying the stage with an absorbent fabric.
Shelli Epstein, who plays the character “Running Woman” and is an acrobat in the swing to swing act, stopped by to chat with us. The 23-year-old started out as a gymnast, competing internationally in the United Kingdom and Israel until age 12. After that she began training with a studio that focused more on acrobatics and artistry. At age 18, she joined her first circus, a show in Macao. This is her first job with Cirque.
How many hours do you train per day during the run of the show?
Shelli: I do my own personal training everyday which includes cardio, conditioning, strengthening and maintenance. That at least takes me at least two hours. Then I have required training two hours a day.
Shelli explained that the four hours a day plus performances are less that what she does before the show opens. While getting ready for the show, she had swing to swing training four to six hours a day, plus workshops in dancing, acting, singing and music.
Do you bring something different to the show each time?
Shelli: I do, and on top of that sometimes you get thrown into deep water where it’s like okay, you’ve got to do this today and it’s different because someone’s out, or you’re replacing someone. So this keeps the energy going. So it’s always fun. You can also increase difficulty level by training and then putting that into the show, which keeps the show fresh.
Shelli points out the Russian swings, which allow acrobats to fly 33 feet in the air, on the stage and explains how they work.
Shelli: There are three options, you fly from one swing to the next, fly from one swing to the same swing or to a mat. There are three pushers that create the pendulum motion. The catcher on the other side who catches and stops the swing, each swing has a pusher and catcher. When the flyer calls “allez” they pull the swing back and give us the push we need in order to fly.
PS: As you’ve probably heard, on opening night, an acrobat fell hard onto one of the swings during this act. According to a press release from Cirque, the performer was evaluated and it was not necessary to take her to the hospital. So it sounds like the injury wasn’t too serious, but it does highlight that even with the best training and safety measures, accidents can still happen.Seeing what goes into a Cirque show, from the extensive training to the hand painted shoes also explained why the tickets are expensive. Read Maegan Blue’s review to see why she thinks this show is worth splurging on: