Behind the scenes at Cirque de Soleil

OVO breathes life in the K Rock Centre

A Cirque de Soleil acrobat performing on a thin wire at the K Rock Centre.

Cirque de Soleil has come to Kingston.

Their production of OVO, which began in April this year, is currently touring North America and stopped in town from Dec 7 to 11. The show tells the story of a newcomer, a blue fly, to a box colony through innovative circus routines. In OVO, the fly falls in love with a ladybug who is a member of his new colony.

Wary of the fly’s new presence, the colony forces him to prove his worth or be exiled.

This is a new iteration of the old OVO show that used to play beneath the big top circus tents of larger cities like Toronto and Montreal. The new arena show features an expanded story line on a different stage, with a more developed romance between the fly and the ladybug. The new stage is a massive circle painted on the sides in browns and blacks, seemingly like a tree trunk.

As I walked through the hallway that led to the stage, I passed from a dreary Kingston into this new bug-infested world. Everything that the production doesn’t want you to focus on is blacked-out, so my eyes were inevitably drawn to the spotlight where a small man was walking on a wire suspended over the tree trunk.

The wire, which the on-hand PR person informed me was mere centimetres thick, moved up and down as the acrobat twisted and flipped through the air.

After my initial shock subsided, I noticed the wall stretching to the roof of the arena abutting one side of the stage. The wall is brown, like the stage, and is decorated with two giant green and yellow dandelions, one on either end. Trampolines hidden along the bottom of the wall allow performers to fall the height of it and bounce back up without the audience seeing how — a clever optical illusion.  

As I walked around the stage, past the weightless boulders and felt vines that littered the arena floor, I emerged into a sort of mini-gymnasium. A few Russian performers stretched on blue floor mats, while a group of weightlifters occupied another corner, casually lifting weights that would make the football team squeamish.

The Russians on the floor mats were holding a smaller acrobat in the air with their feet — she was doing a handstand while transferring from one lifter to the other — as the PR person told me about the members of the show we don’t see.

Only half the people who tour with the show are seen on stage, but another 50 people behind the scenes make the show go on. Fittingly analogous to an insect colony, these people do everything to make sure the performers are able to put on their fantastic routines. Their responsibilities range from cooking, cleaning, driving performers around and making sure they stretch properly before the performance.

The four costume designers hail from four different continents. These four make sure each performer’s costumes fit to a tea as they flip and twist around on stage. The costumes are all a sort of body suit with different design panels attached, like arms for spiders or legs for grasshoppers, and are all painted in bright colours of red, green and blue.

The OVO show travels in a fleet of 19 transport trucks. What amazed me more than any of the feats put on stage was the fact that the crew manages to set up the entire production in 15 hours.  

The amount of work that goes into this show every day is awe-inspiring. Each thing that I saw made me realize that not a single performer or prop that was put on stage was not meticulously prepared and tested. After touring behind the scenes and seeing the people and contraptions that make up the show, I had a new found appreciation for the circus and its fantastical optics. 

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