Feature Article Vol. VIII, No. 4

 

Cirque du Soleil’s  Touring Unit is A Complex, Technical Undertaking

One of the more unique aspects of any Cirque du Soleil production is that unlike musicals or theatre plays its productions keep evolving and changing even years after their first performance. The artistic and technical teams on tour have the dual mandate of ensuring that the original concept of each show is respected and maintained, while at the same time supporting and encouraging their evolution over time. With Luzia, under the guidance of Artistic Director Gracie Valdez, changes, often slight and minor, are being incorporated into the performance to keep it fresh for both the cast and crew as well as the audience. In addition cast changes also require adjustments and changes to the performance.

A team of 21 technicians, divided into seven departments—lighting, sound, rigging, automation, props, stage carpentry and wardrobe, travel with the show to ensure its efficient operation, as well as performing the daily maintenance of all technical pieces. In addition two performance medicine therapists are also a part of the traveling troupe.  They are there to monitor the physical condition of the artists, procure treatment, develop targeted training programs and suggest modifications to acrobatic performances when needed.  Artists can also arrange for appointments with massage therapists and pilates coaches who are sourced locally.

An array of services is offered to the 115 members of the troupe who come from 19 different countries. The Tour  Services Department takes care of the travel and lodging needs of all individuals, working visas, insurance programs and provides supporting accounting services.  Two permanent chefs and a kitchen manager also tour with the company and serve daily an average of 250 complimentary meals.

Looking for a job? There are more than 40 different job titles on site, aside from the artists and artistic staff.  These include electrician, tent master, IT specialists, sales and customer experience supervisor, publicist and plumber.

One of the most dramatic effects used in Luzia is the various kinds of rainfalls,  a favorite of director Daniele Finzi Pasca, who has used it at least twice before in two productions he directed for Cirque Eloize, one of which was actually called Rain and was played almost entirely in a downpour.

Integrating the element of water inside the big top, the first for Cirque du Soleil, represented a huge technical challenge on several fronts.  The water must be filtered, disinfected and maintained at a constant 82 degrees for the well-being of the artists.  All 1,585 gallons of water used during the performance are recycled for the entire duration of a stay in any given city.

All of the metal-based infrastructure elements as well as the electrical and electronic equipment (including the lighting and sound equipment) installed close to water must be protected from electric shock. A bridge suspended 46 feet above the stage supports the water reserve and the set of 174 nozzles.  The structure can rotate 360 degrees.  The nozzles can be individually controlled to create two-dimensional images using water droplets and blank spaces.

The water in the basin is channeled to an external 660 gallon tank where it is treated and pumped up to the bridge 46 feet above the stage. The effects created by this amazing technical achievement are astonishingly beautiful.