Published on January 29th, 2019 | by gareth0
We Talk Cirque du Soleil Amaluna With Artistic Director Chris Houston
We have always been big fans of Cirque du Soleil and try to cover as many shows as we can. Having seen shows in Seattle, Las Vegas, and Phoenix, the touring show is bringing Amaluna to the Phoenix Area and you can get tickets and information here.
We recently spoke with Chris Houston – Artistic Director about the show and what audiences can look forward to.
- What can you tell us about the show and how the show went from concept to reality?
Amaluna follows a distinct narrative based on classical literature – it’s a story based on some of the stories of Shakespeare and the Greek classics only Amaluna tells it through a female lens. We have some very unique acts to Cirque: a Sanddorn Balance act, which is an intricate stick balancing act. We also have Cirque’s only uneven bar act, not to mention our completely female band and a cast that is 60% female
- How long was the casting, rehearsal, and set design for the debut?
Our shows usually take from 9 months to one year to put together. All shows start in our creative department in Montreal where they go from sketches in a meeting to reality on the world stage. Our centralized casting department scour the globe for the best talent and then assemble the cast at our studio in Montreal where months and months of training happen to prepare the artists for the new concepts. Once the show transfers to its new home – a resident show, Big Top, or Arena – then it undergoes another 3 months of tweaking in that new space. We usually put our shows through numerous refreshes to add new acts, ideas, and talents.
- How many countries has the show been performed in?
- Cirque Du Soleil shows have maintained a reputation for high quality and innovation. What do you think is the main reason for this as with so many shows already produced it is amazing how they always seem unique and fresh.
I can only speak for myself here, but I believe it is Passion – which, to me, is talent in action. I think it is true that they say Art is a vocation. You don’t choose it, it choses you. So, when you gather a team of highly artistic individuals with a common purpose to create a new show, then it is ignited out of passion. Cirque du Soleil gives people the space and the freedom to try new things and supports ‘thinking outside the box’ – for creative people, this is gold.
- How many performers are in the cast and how many countries do they represent?
48 artists from 15 countries
- What can you tell us about the music for the show since it is always a key part of the performances?
Amaluna is a mythical island and in short, the music is the sound of the island. It is the ‘feel’, the spiritual pulse, of the island. The creators, who go as Bob and Bill, worked very closely with the artists in developing each act so that the music is married to the action – the did a fantastic job! The music is uplifting for the emotional climaxes of the show, and thrilling with the acrobatic climaxes.
- What are some of the sequences that audiences can look forward to in the show?
This show is so striking as a complete package – it would be hard to take one section out of the context of the show since it is poetic from start to finish. Some unique sections would be a Sanddorn Balance Act, which is an intricate stick balancing act which takes perseverance, precision, and of course incredible balance. We also have a thrilling Teeterboard Act, which is one of the acrobatic highlights of the show.
- Has the show changed in any ways since it was first performed?
The story of Amaluna has not changed since its debut, but new acts have been added since its inception. We always try to keep our shows fresh and sometimes this means adding new images or refreshing the acrobatic content to keep the show current.
- What are some of the greatest challenges and rewards for a touring show such as this?
Greatest rewards are traveling and seeing the world. The wonderful thing about the Big Top is that we will go and sit in a city for at least a month, often as long as three months, so you really get to experience each city – and oftentimes, we will go into a market (country) for an extended period so you can really experience the people, customs, and cultures of many countries. We also get to share this incredible creation with such a diverse demographic – and this is an important show which places women very much center stage – inspiring people everywhere.
The greatest challenges of a touring Big Top is that we are setting up and tearing down the structure and the stage numerous times per year and that comes with its own set of maintenance challenges, not to mention we are in a tent so we are exposed to the elements and this can sometimes affect the show: high winds and lightning are particularly challenging for us.
- How many more cities are planned for the current tour?
Right now, we will play Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Livingston (NJ), and Oaks/King of Prussia, and will likely continue in North America for a couple of more cities, but still to be confirmed.
- How long of a break is there usually between stops on the tour?
It depends on the distance between sites. We just had a 4-week tour break since we shipped the show from Bogota to Dallas. In North America, it will be shorter transfers of around 10 days to two weeks.
- I have always wondered what most of the cast do once the tour is complete. I had heard some become instructors and others go on to other productions, what can you tell us about this?
We do have quite a few artists who can switch between shows – this largely depends on if their discipline is transferrable to a different show. We offer the artists a yearly stipend to cross-train in other areas for the eventual retirement from the stage and we encourage them to seek opportunities within our Company on the other side of the curtain in technical specialties.
Photos by Markus Moellenberg