Cirque du Soleil in Doha
Famous circus brings its extravagant show to Qatar Discuss this article
There are no elephants or bears on tricycles at this circus, but after almost 30 years, Cirque Du Soleil is pretty sure they don’t need them.
‘Cirque du Soleil is definitely not an ordinary circus!’ says Adriana Pegueroles. She’s one of the performers in Cirque’s Saltimbanco, set to perform in Doha in July. ‘All the artists are working together for a common goal, the show as a whole to be a success. All the efforts Cirque has put in staging, creating, pushing the limits further and further have made it what it is known for today.’
Started in the 1980s in Quebec, Canada, Cirque wanted to do something different, to redefine what was meant by ‘circus’, bringing together traditional circus performances with busking and audience participation. Ironically, as Canada cuts funding to the arts, it was a government grant that propped up the fledging group when they first began, and helped them become one of Canada’s most beloved exports. They set out to bring together circus arts and street performances from around the world on one stage. One stage joined with colourful costumes, amazing acrobatics, and people able to sit on their own heads.
‘Cirque du Soleil is the ultimate artistic expression through acrobatics, singing, dancing, etc. I came from Argentina to be part of a show where I could express my unique talent performing a traditional Argentinean dance,’ says Pegueroles. ‘Cirque is the ideal place to express yourself artistically, a place where talents shine, a place where everything is done so you could express yourself as an artist.’
So not clowns leaping from tiny cars then. Their shows tend to be complex, multicharacter extravaganzas, creating vivid—if occasionally esoteric—worlds for the audience to leap into. With artists allowed free range of expression, it’s pure art—and sometimes gets a little weird. After all, they are Quebecois.
Since their start, they’ve taken shows around the globe: Saltimanbanco was created in 1992, to explore themes of multiculturalism and urbanism. It’s Cirque’s longest running show, with a cast of 50 artists from 20 different countries headed to Doha. Back when it was first created, it emerged on the back of waves of immigration and the experience of people in a fast-growing, newly multicultural metropolis: seems a fairly good fit for Qatar in 2012.
‘Saltimbanco is an ode to the electricity and possibility of the modern urban landscape,’ explains Neelanthi Vadivel, the Artistic Director bringing the show to Qatar. ‘The city is where people and cultures meet, collide and unite. Saltimbanco presents its characters as unique, sometimes eccentric beings who inhabit a colorful world full of opportunity and joy.’
The show has evolved since it’s creation.
‘Urbanization was the theme when it was originally conceived in the early 90’s. Now I would say it is about cultural differences, individuals learning to work together despite all their differences,’ says Pegueroles. ‘You shouldn’t come to the show trying to understand a story. You should let yourself being absorbed by what you will see onstage.’
That’s where a Cirque show differs from other productions, be they straight dance, acrobatics, or music. The story exists, but it’s really not the whole point.
‘A conventional Cirque audience reacts with laughs, tears, wonder and awe. No audience member leaves untouched or unmoved,’ says Vadivel.
It’s the first show of its kind, and size, to come to Qatar. Is Doha ready?
‘Cirque makes waves wherever it goes. I would expect nothing less than overwhelming success in Doha,’ says Vadivel.
‘I hope that our guests will be touched, and moved by this new way of expression. I’m sure they will want to see other Cirque shows afterward since they are all different from each others,’ adds Pegueroles. ‘It is amazing to realize what the human body can do.’
About that. We’ve always wondered, while watching Cirque performers contort themselves into impossible movements and poses, how, exactly, they first realized they were destined for the circus.
‘I would imagine it is the first day you scratch your ear with your toe!’ says Vadivel.
She herself started in the dance world.
‘I was a professional contemporary dancer, who ran away with the circus and never looked back!’ she says.
So did Pegueroles, who stresses their show in Doha will include acrobatics, dance, music and much more, as well as those pretzel-people.
‘We are not all contortionists; I’m a dancer and percussionist sharing Argentinean traditional dance with the rest of the world. I’m privileged to be able to do that,’ she says. ‘All my life I waited for this perfect place where I could dance and share my talent with others. I love touching people by expressing emotions on the stage.’
She performs in a piece called Boleadoras, a mixture of dance and percussion.
‘My character has a lot of character. She has a lot of energy, and nothing can disturb her while she is expressing herself. The act that I perform with a masculine partner is about passion between two people, their partnerships, but also their confrontations. I would say that we both express sensuality and virility,’ she says. ‘Rehearsing was difficult at the beginning, but now that I have been performing for more than 20 years, it is much easier. The funny, and also dangerous thing about my act, is that you can knock yourself down without even noticing it! The Boleadoras could be a very dangerous instrument!’
That’s where Vadivel comes in. As Artistic Director, she keeps the lights on and the trains running on time, so the artists can focus on being awesome.
‘There is a careful balancing act involved in managing 50 artists through the challenges of touring life, while instilling in them the pride and inspiration inherent in a world-renowned brand and an emblematic 20 year old show,’ she says. ‘Training is a serious business that entails many safety measures and efficient preparations. But fun is an important part of it all, and we would not be here if we did not love what we do. Of course, the more salacious stories will have to remain confidential!’
Today, Cirque has 19 different shows that have performed on every continent except Antarctica, including a permanent venue in Las Vegas. They had plans to create a similar permanent show in the United Arab Emirates in 2012, but Dubai’s financial problems have put those plans on ice. Rumour has it they may be looking for another financial partner to take Dubai’s place—could the show in Qatar be signs of things to come?
That may all depend on the reception they receive in July. The first show of anything even remotely close to its kind to come to Doha, will Qatar residents get it?
Vadivel is confident.
‘I think it would be a safe bet to assume that audiences not only get Cirque, but with 20 shows running non-stop and millions of tickets sold every year, they must also love Cirque!’
Cirque du Soleil performs Saltimbanco from July 4-7 at 8pm, with matinee performances July 6-7 at 4pm, at Aspire Dome. QR130-QR175 for regular, QR250 for Silver, QR350 for Gold, QR575 for Platinum, QR650-QR750 for VIP, and QR1100 for VVIP. Available at Virgin Megastores and www.cirquedusoleil.qa.
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