“Deep within a forest atop a volcano, exists an extraordinary world, where anything is possible: Varekai… From the sky falls a solitary young man, and the story begins. On this day at the edge of time, in this place of all possibilities, begins an inspired incantation to life rediscovered.”
In other words, get ready Philly and the entire tri-state area because that pulsating phrase above that describe Cirque Du Soleil‘s truly incredible production of Varekai which will no doubt be captivating audiences at the Liacouras Center for a special engagement beginning tonight through this Sunday, November 26th.
And while we may not know just what spectacular stunts and aerial wonders lie in store for us thanks to Cirque’s legendary and delightfully unpredictable entertainment prowess, we can all get a little closer to the wondrous truth by getting tickets right here and by also getting to know Bruno Armagnec, the mega-talented artistic director of this truly incredible show.
Mr. Armagnec was kind enough to stop by Philly Mixtape for an exclusive chat where he spilled about his role in the production, the show’s most important elements and just where, oh where they find the incredible athletes and acrobats that are guaranteed to make your dreams come alive all week long.
And it all begins….right now.
Kicking off our spill, and I truly thank you for taking the time to chat with Philly Mixtape, tell everyone about your role in the show and ho you keep it all together! I’m the artistic director of Varekai. [I’m the] person with the artistic team who is in charge of the artistic quality of the show. And everyday we have to make sure we have the best possible show. I started on Varekai a little bit more than a year ago and I look after all of the artists with what they do on stage with their rehearsal. In collaboration with the head coach, we are a circus [whose stories] are told through acrobatics so we need a specialist, someone who knows acrobatics. I’m coming from dancing so my background is completely different. I actually consider myself the nanny of the show making sure that everybody’s happy and that they have what they need. There are 48 artists traveling together [spread among] thirteen different nationalities, if I’m not mistaken. So you have to make sure that everybody lives in good harmony and I must say that in Varekai, that’s the case. It’s good. Also, when there is a new artist joining the troupe I make sure that this person is well-integrated in the group and the act that [they] to do. And in case of a last-minute change or there might be someone sick or an injury, I must be able to rearrange the show and coordinate with everybody. It’s all so that at the end of the day, we have a good time and that we’re all on the same page.
How do you personally do with the danger element of the show? I can imagine that it’s a grand task. There is no improvisation because things can go wrong. It’s [not like] when actors miss a line, everybody will be safe. Here there is the danger aspect which is very important and powerful for the show that we must absolutely control. I must make sure that’s the case all of the time!
Do you feel a lot of pressure doing a show of this caliber? I can’t say there is lots pf pressure. But we do have meetings before each show. And in these meetings, the therapists, who are part of the artistic team, tell us who can do what. That gives us two hours to reorganize the show. Varekai is a production which is fifteen years old. So, there have been lots of times to put in place many different versions. If someone is missing, okay, we know what to do. Each main character has a backup in the cast. So, let’s say that the female lead character calls out, there is another female lead who is trained to do this part and who can jump in at anytime. We are ready for every possible scenario and that makes the pressure a lot lighter when you know you always have a “Plan B.”
I can imagine that team work is also a key factor in bringing it all together…. It’s immersed. As I said earlier, we all have to be on the same page. Let’s say if the left hand didn’t know what the right can do, then that’s we can have accidents. And when I say everybody, that’s when I mean everybody from the artists on stage to the technicians to the riggers to the light technicians. The team work is on going and we all depend on each other.
I just have to ask, what’s the “audition” process like for Varekai? Of course, it depends on which type of artist we are recruiting. It’s not the same process as singers and musicians. For [them] it’s kind of the classic way to audition. For acrobats, a lot are coming from the sport world from competition. We have a group from Montreal who go to the different sport competitions and look for people and athletes. They approach them and see if they’re interested in working in show business. It’s very, very different–sport and show business. For those who’re interested, we bring them to [our headquarters] in Montreal and from there it can take a few months, but we teach them how to perform their skills with emotion because that’s what we want to do. Yes, we are a circus and yes, we are using acrobatics, but each person on stage is a character and must be able to show and express this character. So, the athletes [we recruit] are going through workshops, classes, dancing, music and miming so they can deliver their artistic skills. And yes, the process can be longer or shorter for some and when they are ready we send them onto the show! And it can take some time to integrate them into the act because it is a big shift in their way of thinking because when you are doing sport competition, you have to be excellent at one moment. Here at [Cirque Du Soleil], they have to perform everyday. It might not be the same level of risk, but there has to be consistent and real artistic expression.
So, how does someone of your caliber like to relax during down time? I read. Reading is my thing. And physically, I used to be a dancer so I still have a certain discipline about that and still do different exercises and stretching. I do my own thing by mixing all that I have learned in my life including yoga and dancing. I mix up my own “cuisine” of exercise, I should say.
One last sip, what is the one thing you hope the audience will take away when they come see Varekai this week? Varekai is a show which tells a story but we don’t use words. So, it leaves a door open to everyone’s imagination. And a child, an adult or a senior are not going to understand the story the same way….and this is what I like. When everybody leaves the show happy and having the feeling they’ve seen something exceptional, but in each of them it triggered something different. For me, that’s beautiful.
For your tickets to go witness Cirque Du Soleil‘s Varekai in all of its high-flying glory, go right here, right now. And you better hurry because it’s only here until Sunday and this is one show you and the whole family do not want to miss out on!!