We cannot express our love in words for Cirque du Soleil here at Second Blog to the Right, but we will try very hard (& try even harder to not be biased). Tampa’s Amalie Arena hosted Cirque du Soleil: Varekai for 8 shows, August 5-9 & we were lucky enough to be invited for a behind-the-scenes tour before the opening performance.
During the tour, we got to explore backstage, met some performers, watched some rehearsals, & met with the tour’s publicist for an insider’s look at what it’s all about.
The production travels with quite the array of entourage. Varekai’s equipment is transported on 18 semi trucks…actually 19, if you include the semi that makes up an entire kitchen to feed the crew. This also includes the show’s personal kitchen crew.
- The Forest – A fabulous and mysterious hideaway the Varekai characters have made their home. Consisting of over 300 “trees” between 4.5 metres and 10.5 metres tall, the forest is also interspersed with twenty-odd “acrobatic trees” that its inhabitants can climb up to see what’s going on.
- The Stage – Extending out of the golden forest, this is the terrain on which the characters move about. It’s a golden clearing with a diameter of 12.8 metres. Specially designed for the show’s aesthetic and acrobatic needs, the stage harbours five traps, two turntables and an elevating platform.
- The Catwalk – Reminiscent of the spine of an immense bird, the catwalk is the invention of the forest’s inhabitants. It allows them to step outside, collect bits and pieces, and climb high in their quest to touch the sky. Used by artists to travel over the stage from one end to the other, this 30-metre long staircase is key to their survival.
- The Lookout – At the end of the catwalk, just above the audience, is the lookout—the centrepiece of the set. It is a link to the outside world, a lookout point to see what lies ahead. This 7-squaremetre platform also serves as a cabin for one of the forest’s inhabitants.
The show also travels with a full gym of equipment (including free weights & cardio) where you can find performers practicing & staying in shape around the clock.
We also got to take a look at the costuming department and found out some really interesting facts…
- The design of Varekai’s costumes involved finding technical solutions to ensure comfort and safety. The highly skilled costume makers fashioned the most original creations— after no less than 33,000 hours of hard work!
- Moleskin (Lycra) continues to be one of the most popular fabrics, on account of its flexible, elastic and easy care properties. Some special materials were also used, such as flexible titanium rods and sponge nylon.
- The show has over 600 costumes, shoes, wigs, hats and accessories.
- It takes a total of 250 hours a week to keep the costumes impeccable on tour.
- The artist’s make-up is so complex that it can take between 45 minutes to an hour and a half to apply and each artist does their own!
- The Varekai wardrobe team consists of 4 permanent touring staff and 2 local wardrobe employees in each city who launder, repair, iron, repaint the shoes and retouch the hats.
The act we caught in rehearsals was the Russian swing crew and we found out they are highly critical of themselves. The show is recorded every night and streamed through live feed backstage. After the show, the Russian swing crew actually watch their performance back, take notes, & critique it.Cirque du Soleil.