Behind Cirque du Soleil
BY ADI RAMAN '23, GRACE CHAI '23 & EMILY XU '23
Acclaimed circus company Cirque du Soleil will be holding the dazzling Corteo show from Thursday, January 12, to Sunday, January 15 at the DCU Center in Worcester. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/usa/worcester/corteo/buy-tickets.
On Thursday, The Spectrum was able to experience the performance behind-the-scenes, interview dancers, technicians, and management, and then watch Corteo’s premiere in full.
Cirque du Soleil was founded in 1984 by a group of street performers from Montreal, Canada to test and showcase the abilities of the human body—Cirque du Soleil notably does not use any animals in its acts. After relocating to Los Angeles, the company has seen continued success with headlining shows on the Las Vegas strip and international traveling tours.
The current show, Corteo (Italian for “procession”), tells the story of a clown, Mauro, whose dreams of memories and death come to life, ranging from his childhood to saintly visions of the heavens. Hand-painted curtains and live music underscore soaring aerial work, juggling, acrobatics, and more.
Following the opportunity to watch a training session, The Spectrum was able to speak with gymnast David Henderson. A gymnast since 1994, Henderson learned circus performance in 2010 before joining Cirque du Soleil. As part of Corteo, Cirque du Soleil’s current largest touring show, Henderson said that working for Cirque is “always a fun and wild ride.” From quick plane flights to frenetic rehearsals, he described there is a community in preserving the art of circus performance: “You’ve got to think on your feet and be cognizant of your body on stage while making sure you’re giving off the energy you feel to the audience.”
However, it takes a village to create and replicate each production, as The Spectrum learned when speaking with production manager Michael Wilder and technical director Kenneth Mills. Wilder joined Cirque du Soleil in 1998 after meeting a company employee and leaving the Canadian army; while looking for a temporary job while pursuing a business degree, he discovered Cirque du Soleil, which became his livelihood. Mills, who previously worked as a performance director for Celebrity Cruises, was hired by Wilder in 2017.
Wilder described the vast inner workings of Corteo: “It’s the NFL of touring. We’re a traveling show with 21 53-feet long, 9-feet wide trucks. The performance setup takes 12 to 14 hours to construct, usually from 6:30 AM to 10 PM before we premiere. The night after our last performance at a venue, we take three and a half hours to take everything down before moving on to the next show.”
Technical director Mills elaborated on the specifics of Corteo’s set design. The show has 110 performers, and six can be in the air at the same time with ropes and harnesses. Most notably, the fast-paced atmosphere of the company translates into how performers enter and exit the stage. “There’s actually a small airport-like room underneath the stage. The performers slide on dollies to get back and forth between stage left and right.” Mills further described his colleagues working on effects, costumes, and lighting as “the best of the best in the industry. You need people like that for such a grandiose production.”
Of course, Henderson, Wilder, and Mills didn’t want to give too much away: come to the DCU Center this weekend to find out more about Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo! After seeing it ourselves, we can confirm it’s more than worth checking out, especially Valentyna’s surprise!