By: Megan Carthel
The tent was raised for another Cirque Du Soleil show in Denver. “Luzia” is a hint to a classical Cirque show and acts with modern twists throughout the Mexican themed show.
Subtle winks to the Mexican culture are present throughout the two hour and fifteen minute show. Daniele Finzi Pasca, director of Luzia, lived in Mexico for ten years and was inspired by the colorful culture to create this one of a kind Cirque show. It’s a trip through Mexico guided by light and rain, paying tribute to the culture of Mexico.
“We kind of brought everything to the next level acrobatically, but also artistically,” Francis Jalbert, publicist for Luzia, said.
The show’s name is a combination of the Spanish words for light and rain, and these themes are seen throughout the show, with water elements added to acts you’d least expect. The straps act, with Benjamin Courtenay, is just one.
Courtenay is on his first Cirque show and tour. Originally from Vancouver, he studied was accepted to the Montreal National Circus School college program for Aerial straps. As a kid he competed in gymnastics, but was captivated by the circus life at a young age.
“What I really liked about circus when I joined it is it’s all up for discussion. It’s all kind of out there for personal interpretation and each artist has their own style and own way of doing things,” Courtenay said.
When Courtenay auditioned for the role, it was sketched as a bald performer with tattoos. Courtenay had shoulder length hair, and when the director saw how it reacted with the water, the hair became part of the show. Courtenay’s hair is now mid-back length and worn down during his performance, creating a natural and inspiring element to his powerful performance.
This is Courtenay’s first time working with water, an element outside his discipline. Developing the costume was a task as Courtenay dips in and out of the water. Certain fabric might weigh him down or a different material of straps might become slippery when wet. The material of his straps used in the show stick to his skin more when wet. It’s the first time Cirque has used this type of strap in the water.
“It was through out whole creation period of about eight months that I worked with an artistic director, a coach and the director of the show on how to create this number around intimacy,” Courtenay said.
Vines hanging from the ceiling as Courtenay twists and turns in the air above a pool of water, creates a personal atmosphere and sings praises to the old Mexican tradition and history of Cenotes.
“What I really love about my piece and what I think brings a little of my own personality is it’s really simple. It’s very kind of closed-off, but inviting to people, but it also does have these explosive elements in it,” Courtenay said.
A day at Luzia normally starts at 12pm with training schedules up until 6pm, and then it’s time for the show to start. It takes seven days to put up the tent and stage for Luzia. The computers that hoist up the performers have to be reprogrammed at every stop to fit the location’s needs.
“Every time we set up it’s a little bit different,” Jalbert said.
The big top allows for an intimate and close atmosphere. With a rotating stage and 2,600 seats, no seat is a bad one.
To break the show down in numbers, there are 6,000 gallons of water used, heated at 100 degrees to keep the athletes warm, 2,000 props and 1,112 costumes that take the viewers on a two hour and fifteen minute imaginary world of Mexico. The creation of Luzia took two years. Once the concept is created, artists arrive seven to eight months before opening night to learn the show and choreography.
“Once the show opens, what’s interesting about Cirque is we always keep always tweaking it and making it better because when you perform it about 260 times per year,” Jalbert said.
Artists and performers frequently add little effects or moves to their performance. Courtenay said he’s added higher-level of difficulty moves as he’s gotten more comfortable with the show.
Luzia is scheduled to be under the big top for the next ten years. Luzia first started touring in April 2016. The Denver performance is only he sixth ever and third US show. Luzia is one of six big top shows around the world.