July 19, 2016 is not your average day. For today I had the amazing opportunity to not only tour the backstage area at this year’s Cirque du Soleil but interview two of its performing artists as well!! Upon arrival at the Pepsi Center, we were greeted with a smile to begin our tour. Coming off of a 2 week break, the performers were practicing in the arena below us. The tour runs for 10 weeks on and 2 weeks off to allow the dancers and crew involved some much needed downtime and opportunities to visit family at home. Dancers are representing 20 different countries in this show with the youngest being from Canada at a ripe young age of 21, having been accepted to the tour right out of college. Denver is the 34th show since December for most of these artists, cast and crew. With each performance being around 2 hours long and a different city each week, I’m sure they all look forward to those weeks off!
The base story of Toruk takes place 3000 years prior to Avatar. A few new characters were added; all of which were approved by James Cameron himself, so you will see them sprinkled throughout along with the characters you also know. Such great details were taken into consideration upon creating the creatures and looking at them in action, you will appreciate them immensely. Toruk will blow your mind!! With a 40 ft wingspan, it takes 6 puppeteers to control him and guide him through the land of Pandora. During the show, the main performers will also be wearing suits that contain black track lighting. The lighting allows the spotlight to remain fixed on the performer; maintaining constant light focus on that specific performer eliminating the need for someone to run the spotlights up above. Venturing through to the back, we were able to check out the costume area. WOW!! So much detail in one place, so many pieces of art, all in front of our eyes to view!! You can imagine how excited I must be right now! With the backdrop now set, our two girls come into scene and we begin our interviews:
Our first interview was with the young and very talented Giulia Piolanti from Italy. She has been a gymnast since the age of 6, had a great passion and love for the arts at a young age, she pursued gymnastics until the age of 19 when she decided she wanted to attend dance school in Milano. After graduating dance school, she began to pursue her bigger dreams of becoming a dancer. I asked her who her biggest influence was in the dance world, her reply was “Sylvie Guillem.” In 2007 after 3 years of questioning herself, she finally applied to become a dancer for Cirque du Soleil and was quickly accepted and brought onto the Toruk team! When asked what she would like to say to anyone looking to do the same, her reply was “Never give up on your dreams”, I could not have said it better myself.
Second up was the lovely Jessica Ward from Australia. Growing up with a gymnast as a mum, led Jessica to have an early access to her goals in life. With proud support from her mum, she began to accomplish great things at the tender age of 4. Her dad being the “logical thinker” and her mum more of the “free thinker”, she had a great balance with her family and holds them with high regard. With their guidance and support, she was able to pursue her dream of becoming the professional dancer she grew up dreaming she would be. In 2013 after about a year of thought and quite a few talks with the parents, Jessica decided to make the big move stateside and came to Las Vegas. Such a big move, now all alone in a new world, determined to make it…. And she did!! We also spoke about her love for fashion and elements of design and how possibly one day this could all lead to a career in designing the costumes of future dancers; something Jessica says she would absolutely love to do. Her advice to those looking to become a dancer, “Don’t be put off when you are told no, because it will happen and you just have to keep moving forward”.
After spending the day with these wonderful ladies, I am left in awe. In awe of the stage, in awe of their capabilities but most of all in awe of how simply beautiful they are, beautiful both inside and out. When speaking to each one, you can literally feel their passion; their love for the art. Every performer I spoke with today was elated at having the chance to perform with Cirque du Soleil; after all, not everyone gets chosen to be part of this team.
Cirque du Soleil: Toruk will be here in Denver for 6 shows beginning Thursday July 21 and going through the Sunday the 24th, tickets are still available so get yours now and don’t miss out on seeing art in motion!
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By Bella Rage