Last Week, South Florida saw the return of Cirque Du Soleil, which set its Big Top Tent up in Miami Gardens on the grounds of Sun Life Stadium. Hotspots was granted exclusive backstage access to sit down with several members of the production, to see what it’s like in 2013 to work traveling with the circus, and to see just how much work goes into brining a first rate show like Totem to our area…
Last Week, South Florida saw the return of Cirque Du Soleil, which set its Big Top Tent up in Miami Gardens on the grounds of Sun Life Stadium. Hotspots was granted exclusive backstage access to sit down with several members of the production, to see what it’s like in 2013 to work traveling with the circus, and to see just how much work goes into brining a first rate show like Totem to our area.
It takes 64 tractor trailers to haul all of the equipment around the country, as well as 8 days just to set it all up. There are 165 people on tour with the show, including 52 performers. Many of the crew have their families along with them, so the tour has its own school for the 36 children who are on the road with Totem. Behind the scenes, the performers have quite a few perks to help make living on the road a little easier. Besides first rate gym equipment and work out facilities, Totem travels with professional chefs that cook for the cast and crew almost around the clock. Everyone lives in hotels or in short term apartments while they are in a city, so it’s not like they are camping in the stadium parking lot. As mentioned above, many bring their families along with them, so that also helps to lessen the burden of always traveling. The company also pays for airfare to travel between cities, and since it takes several days to dismantle the show and 8 days to reconstruct it in the new location, there is some down time built into the tour for the performers. They are able to travel on their own, visit family members, or vacation between shows.
Totem, in typical Cirque fashion, includes a story line to tie each of the acts together, and just like any of the 21 shows that they are producing right now, it does not disappoint. Written and directed by Robert Lepage, Totem traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly. The characters evolve on a stage evoking a giant turtle, the symbol of origin for many ancient civilizations. Inspired by many founding myths, TOTEM illustrates, through a visual and acrobatic language, the evolutionary progress of species.
Somewhere between science and legend, TOTEM explores the ties that bind Man to other species, his dreams and his infinite potential.
During Rehearsals for the show, I got a chance to sit down with several members of the cast to chat about Totem and what it’s like to be on tour with Cirque Du Soleil. Alevtyna Titarenko and Gael Ouisse are two of the performers in The Rings Trio, which is one of the most dangerous and high flying acts of the show. It features Bollywood-inspired music that accompanies two men as they compete against each other on the rings—until a woman arrives and shows them how it’s done. Their graceful movements, sheer physical strength and superb physiques take to the skies above a summer beach.
Six words popped in my head as soon as I saw Alevtyna Titarenko: Oh My God, what a body! Titarenko, who is originally from Ukraine, started her career with Cirque du Soleil in September 1997, but it wasn’t until 2009 that she started performing on the rings, a gymnastic event that was typically a men’s event. However, from the very first step she takes on the Totem stage you know she definitely has what it takes to hang with her male co-stars on the rings. Her physique is put on dazzling display as she flies high over head flirting with both guys starring opposite her. She worked on various shows, including “O”, Saltimbanco, and LOVE before joining the new production TOTEM in 2010. After a few years in Las Vegas, Alya was ready for a new challenge—the touring life! When asked what the best part about this particular show was, she said “it’s a happy, great show. There is fun music and our scene is fun, and really gets the crowd going every night.”
In addition to her career with Cirque, Alya has twice won the title of World Champion in Sport Acrobatics and in Fitness. As one of the main female characters in TOTEM, she displays her charisma and lithe figure in various roles during the show, but is in the spotlight during her primary rings trio act.
I also spoke with Gael Ouisse who was born in Saint-Brieuc, France, joined Cirque du Soleil in 2005 with the creation of LOVE. He stayed in Las Vegas for four years prior to joining the cast of TOTEM in 2009.
Gael started gymnastics when he was eight years old and competed at a national level. He studied physical education in university and was also a firefighter for three years. His first show credit was with Tarzan at Disneyland Paris. Like with his female counterpart in the show, your eyes are immediately drawn to his body, and the costume designers have left little to the imagination, leaving the shirt out of the wardrobe for his character. His fine abs and chest are on display causing hearts to flutter when he comes on stage.
The Artistic Director for the show is a 15 year theatre veteran named Tim Smith. Tim has been with Cirque Du Soleil for 3 years, and has worked on Totem for the last year and a half. Before joining the Cirque team, the Virginia native and James Madison University grad was a theatre actor on Broadway, with rolls in Grease, Aida, Annie Get Your Gun, Sweet Charity, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Dream. He mentioned that 75% of his job as Artistic Director is making sure the artist/ performers are happy and that they have what they need to go on each night. He is in charge of all 52 performers and makes sure they are healthy so they can perform at such a high level night after night. It’s clear from his interactions with the performers behind the scenes that he is well liked and does his job really well. Tim is openly gay, and has a partner who lives in New York City. He said that working on tour has added some stress to their relationship, but he is thankful that they are able to travel to see each other often, and are together while the show is in Miami, because let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to get out of NYC for a couple of weeks in the dead of winter? When asked about the hardest part of being on tour, Smith said “ The hardest part is being disconnected from what everyone else’s reality is, it’s having to adjust and try to be flexible to the new areas, trying to be happy and focused [while in a new place].”
Totem has been extended in Miami and will show through February 24, so make sure that you get a chance to get down to Sun Life Stadium and check out the show. From start to finish, you will laugh, and remain open mouthed at the amazing feats and acrobatic sensations the performers are able to pull off. From Unicycles and roller skates, to the Russian Bars, you will gasp at some of their tricks. The special effects are second to none, and you are guaranteed to forget that you are under a tent. This stage is state of the art, the music is performed live and is incredible, and every single performer risks life and limb to entertain. For ticket info, please visit http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/totem/default.aspx