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Behind the Scenes with Cirque du Soleil

It took 19 trucks, 100 crew members, and 360,000 pounds of equipment to transport Cirque du Soleil’s “Dralion” to the Bryce Jordan Center. You could say it’s a serious production.

For those unfamiliar, Cirque du Soleil is a Quebec-based performance company that boasts more than 1,300 performers from more than 50 countries. The Canadian company is known for its larger-than-life sets and creative costume designs that often create a dream-like performance.

Cirque du Soleil completed its first of six performances of “Dralion,” one of its signature shows, at the Bryce Jordan Center last night. Onward State went backstage with Cirque Du Soleil to see exactly what it takes to put on a performance.

Cirque (3 of 21)

Think of Cirque du Soleil as a circus that’s focused on acrobatics, with dream-like sets and costumes. “Dralion” has 50 performers ranging from acrobats to singers, all of whom have a unique skill set.

Each performer spends two hours, on average, warming up for a show.

“My average day getting ready for a Cirque show is — waking up, getting to the arena…then doing a rehearsal,” said Vladamir Pestov, a 20-year-old juggler from Russia. “Then applying makeup to my beautiful, lovely face, and doing the show.”

Pestov, who is a second-generation performer with Cirque, studied juggling for six years before joining the cast.

“The most challenging thing for me as a juggler is consistency,” said Pestov. “So basically for me it’s challenging to not drop the balls on stage.”

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Pestov practicing during “Dralion” rehearsals on Oct. 8.

Pestov said that he doesn’t get nervous during performances despite the large crowds.

“I just got used to performing in front of so many people,” said Pestov.

Pestov, along with all the other performers, has costumes specifically made for him in Cirque Du Soleil’s home base in Montreal, Canada. Even once the costumes are made, it’s a strain to maintain them after such intense performances— that’s where the costume team comes in.

A group of four artists are in charge of maintaining and decorating all of the costumes for “Dralion.” And that’s a major feat, considering each performer changes three to four times a show.

The costume team’s duties include washing the clothes (15 loads of laundry per show), doing all the repairs, painting the shoes, and taking care of the wigs, according to Costume Department Member Marilou Gogne.

“An interesting challenge for costumes is that we had to mix the design with the performance of the artists,” said Gogne, who got her start as a hat-maker in Montreal before joining Cirque. “On a technical side, it’s really fun and rewarding.”

The costume team is also in charge of setting up dressing rooms for the performers, who do all their own makeup. They also help performers with quick changes during the show, and remain on standby in case of wardrobe malfunctions, said Gogne.

Despite not being on-stage, the costume team still feels like an integral part of the show.

“Hearing the backstage applause from the public — when you’re back there you hear it,” said Gogne. “We like to think that part of it too comes from the costumes and all the technicians and crew that take care of the tour.”

“Dralion,” a name derived from combining “dragon” and “lion,” has been running for 15 years, which is evident in the show’s polished feel.

The show’s performances combine ancient Chinese acrobatic arts with Cirque du Soleil’s multidisciplinary style, which certainly made for a unique and immersive experience.

As is expected with a Cirque du Soleil show, the costumes and sets are colorful and captivating. The costumes each represent the four elements — water, fire, air, and earth — which fit with the show’s theme of harmony and nature.

All the music and vocals are performed live, and they are phenomenal, to say the least. For the first few minutes of the show, I hardly notcied the vocal performances because they were overshadowed by the acrobatics happening on-stage — but that’s only a testament to how incredible the acrobatics are.

If you want to check out “Dralion” for yourself, be sure to check out one of five remaining performances at the Bryce Jordan Center from Oct. 9-12.

Tickets for “Dralion” can be purchased on the Cirque Du Soleil website or by calling 1-800-745-3000.

Show Schedule (Oct. 9-12, 2014):

• Thursday, Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m.
• Friday, Oct. 10 at 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Oct. 11 at 4:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Oct. 12 at 1:30 p.m.

About the Author

Sarah Caskie

Sarah is a senior majoring in Journalism. She can usually be found at Saint’s looking up cat videos, or writing about music and stuff. She can be reached on Twitter at @classycaskie or via email at [email protected]

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