Anything is possible

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Cirque du Soleil Quidam comes to Dayton

By Stacey Ritz

Photo: Rabbit from Cirque du Soleil Quidam; Photo credit: Matt Beard

“You need to go to a Cirque show and live the experience. Even explaining what the show is about is not enough. Everybody reacts differently to a Cirque experience and that is why they want to come back. They want to understand what exactly happened. There is so much going on that they are afraid they miss something!” explained Luc Ouellette, artistic director for Cirque du Soleil Quidam. Ouellette oversees the managerial aspects of the show as he directs sixty individuals – cast and crew – while striving to maintain the artistic integrity of the show. He is “the guardian of Quidam’s original concept.” Ouellette went on to share, “The performance is for all ages. Some may say Quidam is darker. I say that it’s more theatrical. We all want to go in a magical universe at some point to run away from reality.”

Aerial performer, Tanya Burka hadn’t considered becoming a performer until recently, although she had been studying gymnastics since the age of nine. She has since performed in events across the world including the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. and also as a member of the Wonderbolt Circus in Newfoundland. Joining Quidam in 2011, Burka has continued her success.

“Cirque du Soleil is a mind-blowing acrobatic circus combined with a live concert and a theatrical show,” she added. “There’s a story line to follow if you want, but we don’t push it too hard on our audiences. So it’s totally possible to just sit back and enjoy the spectacle, but if you want to dig deeper and find meaning in what we’re doing, it’s right there. So it’s a show that anyone can enjoy and connect to on their own level.”

Founded nearly 30 years ago, Cirque du Soleil has “redefined entertainment by creating a new art form combining street performance, acrobatics, circus arts, original live music and amazing costumes and make-up. We currently have 20 different shows playing around the globe – but it all started with a group of street performers in a small French Canadian town. Everything is possible!” said Cirque du Soleil Publicist Jessica Leboeuf. “Quidam is the third Cirque du Soleil show to perform in Dayton after Saltimbanco and Michael Jackson – The Immortal World Tour. Quidam will perform 300 shows in over 45 cities in the USA, Austria, Germany and Spain.” They will be right here in Dayton from June 12 – 16 for seven performances at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.

If you have not had the pleasure of attending a Cirque du Soleil performance in the past, now is your chance. “Quidam is one of Cirque du Soleil’s classic shows and its visual aesthetics are one-of-a-kind. Audience members who have seen Cirque shows might initially wonder, ‘Where are the huge set-pieces and lavish costumes? Did they run out of money?’ But nothing could be further from the truth. Quidam just celebrated its 17th birthday and the minimal style of the set and costume design has been there since the beginning. It really puts the focus on the performers and that means that the audience can connect more deeply to who we are and feel a kinship with us. That’s what’s so unique to Quidam and what I hope our audience feels when the performance finishes,” explained Burka. Ouellette added that Cirque du Soleil Quidam is a “series of high level acts with a spectacular Banquine act to finish the show. It is a unique Cirque experience for all senses. A combination of acrobatics, drama and live mesmerizing music.” Burka went on to share, “No two Cirque du Soleil shows are the same, but some elements are always present: a live band and singers performing original music, acrobatic acts that will rock your world and clowns that shock and delight audiences of all ages. Quidam looks a lot more like contemporary theater than other Cirque shows, so the emotions run deeper and darker at times. There are moments that will bring you chills or make you jump in your seat as often as there are moments of sheer delight and wonder.”

Burka admits that her own act can be dark at times. “To hear that I’ve brought people to tears or made them feel a connection with my character and her struggles is really the best feedback I can get as an artist. Another reaction I get because I perform 30 feet in the air with no safety line- and there are moments when I look like I’m plummeting straight down – sometimes I can hear people scream in the audience when the acoustics are right!” If you are searching for a new artistic experience right here in the Dayton area, your chance to enjoy the performance of a lifetime is now.

“Our reception in the U.S. has been truly wonderful, especially when we’re the first Cirque show to visit a city. When locals tell us they’re going to drag all their friends to the circus the next time Cirque visits, we know we’re doing our job right!” Burka added.

The hope is that the show will continue for many years to come, and with the feedback they receive while traveling to and from various cities and countries around the globe, all indications point to a very long life for the show. Ouellette hopes the show will have a “long life, since it is a very good show.”

Burka continued, “I hope that the show will continue to tour for several more years in the arena format and particularly so that we can continue to open in new cities for Cirque du Soleil. The big top can’t go into smaller towns, so the arena tour is particularly special in that we get to bring high-quality contemporary circus to new audiences. I believe very deeply in the circus arts as a way to inspire people – it’s more than just entertainment. It makes you rethink your limits as a human being.”

As audiences leave the show, being speechless is a typical response. Ouellette explained they are “speechless … they just want to go and ask themselves what happened? I say often that it is an experience more than just a show. You can make your own story and you are allowed to react as you wish.”

Burka countinued, “I think often the biggest reaction is just delight mixed with disbelief.” Often Burka hears audience members share, “‘I couldn’t believe those things were possible! How were you able to do that?’ But Quidam is centered on the human quality of its performers, and that makes our audience members feel especially inspired as well,” she said. “We’re not lizards, or peacocks, or mysterious creatures of the night. Onstage we play people that the audience can connect to emotionally – people with values and feelings similar to their own. So, when they see us do the impossible, we want them to think that they can, too! There are so few limits on what we can achieve if we’re open to new experiences, and that’s really what Quidam is about at its heart.”

Cirque du Soleil takes a creative approach, built on “deep convictions and values which rest on a foundation of audacity, creativity and imagination. Ever since it started to present shows around the world, Cirque du Soleil has chosen to be involved in communities with social initiatives,” says the organizations website. Cirque du Soleil Founders Guy Laliberte and Daniel Gauthier have “created new shows and expanded to new horizons. Cirque du Soleil has now carved out a unique niche in the entertainment industry and has brought wonders and delights to more than 100 million spectators in over 300 cities and continents. Shows are built around the same elements: a combined work of performers, directors and backstage crew to create a unique experience.”

With every performance, dreams are inspired and both audience and performers are reminded that everything is possible. Burka’s professional profile says, “It was during a one-month internship at the San Francisco School of Circus Arts during her senior year of high school that the idea of a career in acrobatics first took hold. But, at the age of 18, Burka wasn’t quite ready to abandon her childhood dream of working for NASA. She attended MIT where she received a degree in nuclear engineering. During all four years she was a mentor of the women’s Division III gymnastics team and during her senior year she applied to circus school.” Sometimes you never know how your dreams will be born, but if you follow your heart and do what you love, amazing feats can occur. For Burka, after much success in utilizing her acrobatic and aerial skills for performances around the world, she joined Quidam in 2011 and continues to accomplish her dreams.

Ouellette is excited about bringing the performance to Dayton. He explained he is most looking forward to “witnessing the encounter between the Dayton audience and Cirque du Soleil. The show has been touring for quite a while, so Quidam is solid, mature and in fantastic shape.” Ouellette added he is most excited about being involved with Cirque du Soleil Quidam because he gets to help in “influencing artists to get better at what they do.” Ouellette enjoys watching each of them become better overall artists, while at the same time watching the audiences delight in the experience of an amazing, one-of-a-kind performance. If you are searching for an entertaining evening that will leave you inspired to chase your own dreams, Cirque du Soleil Quidam is a performance you can’t afford to miss.

Cirque du Soleil Quidam runs June 12-16 at the Ervin J. Nutter Center, 3640 Colonel Glenn Highway in Fairborn. Tickets start at $35. For more information, visit cirquedusoleil.com/quidam.

Contact DCP freelance writer Stacey Ritz at StaceyRitz@DaytonCityPaper.com.


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