Cirque du Soleil has always been awe-inspiring to me. Having grown up watching special performances that Cirque would put on for award shows and televised specials, I was drawn in to their magical world and quickly became hooked. I would plan trips to Las Vegas to see Cirque du Soleil residency productions and even purchased movie tickets to see Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away when their dreamlike 3D movie was released in theaters last year. I never had anything less than exceptional to say about Cirque du Soleil, other than I wished I didn’t have to travel as far to see their live productions.
Well, I’m officially out of anything to say that could be improved upon, as Cirque du Soleil’s traveling production TOTEM will be visiting California, Oregon and British Columbia during their remaining 2013-2014 tour. To say I was thrilled to hear the news is an understatement, and even more-so as I was invited to visit the Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro for an Advance Media Day to meet with Cirque’s company manager Jeff Lund, TOTEM’s publicist Francis Jalbert, and one of the many talented performers, Eric Hernandez to find out how Totem captures the classic essence of Cirque du Soleil so well.
As many shows are taking up residency in Vegas, or being based on musical talents such as Michael Jackson, Elvis or the Beetles, TOTEM differentiates itself by going back to the basics in more than one way.
Written and directed by world-renown multidisciplinary artist Robert Lepage, TOTEM traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly. Using the theme of evolution as a guide, TOTEM illustrates, through a visual and acrobatic language, the ties that bind Man to other species, his dreams and his infinite potential.
“TOTEM has all the signature elements you would expect from a Cirque du Soleil production.” TOTEM’s publicist Francis Jalbert proudly stated at the media event. “It has amazing acrobatic acts, lavish costumes, and incredible set and lighting designs all under the big top where as soon as you step in, you forget about your own reality and let yourself dream with us.”
Throughout the two-and-a-half-hour show, stepping into TOTEM’s fantasy is easy to do. All of the acts elegantly perform a special element that represents the journey of evolution: from a trapeze duo that portrays the mating dance, to ten artists performing feats of strength, balance and acrobatic movements on Russian bars depicting human nature’s desire to escape the Earth’s gravity.
One of the more unique acts to come from Cirque du Soleil is the hoops dance. Introducing Native American culture for the first time in Cirque, Amerindian artists perform a narrative dance, using hoops to create static and dynamic shapes to evoke various animals and images in a ritual that symbolizes the endless circle of life.
Myself and other media personalities were treated to preview this part of the show, that’s both captivating and awe-inspiring.
“Performing the hoops dance live is always a great feeling,” performer Eric Hernandez told me after the demonstration. “I’ve been doing this since I was 10 years old and to introduce so many people to Native American culture, a first for Cirque du Soleil, it’s wonderful.”
Drawing on the theme of evolution, Eric is able to alter his performance to allow the hoops dance to adapt and evolve as well.
“Being an Amerindian performer, I’m one of the few acts that gets free range on how I perform on stage. Other acts like the bars or trapeze duo have exact moves that they have to perform at the exact time but for me, sometimes I do something a little differently, mostly on accident, and when I get off stage, I’ll get told that they liked how I was a little more center or off to the right because of it, and let me know to keep it up. I get to have fun on stage and I think the audience picks up on that.”
TOTEM’s company manager Jeff Lund agreed, saying that although the show is fairly set to be consistent, the performances have been slowly changing and evolving over the past three years for a variety of reasons.
“Beyond a performance like Eric’s, where sometimes he has to take the stage twice by himself, the production as a whole evolves and will probably never be the same two nights in a row. Likewise, depending on where you sit, there truly isn’t a bad seat, with each [different] view providing a different and unique take on the show no matter if this is your first, second or third time seeing us.”
Audiences sitting up front, Lund says, can see the intricate details on the costumes, and the emotion expressed from the performer’s eyes while those sitting further back can take in the complete scope of the show and see the grand scale of the production.
While the experience is exceptional for all seats, Jeff Lund pointed out that there are a few ways of getting the ultimate experience of TOTEM.
Available for a limited number of guests at an additional cost, Cirque du Soleil is offering the opportunity for the public to get an insider’s look at the fascinating universe of TOTEM including a complete visit of the backstage area, a meet and greet with the artists after the show and access to the VIP Rouge that presented by Infiniti, will include delectable food and wine served with Cirque du Soleil flair, festive atmosphere and complimentary preferred parking.
To find out more on the production, tickets, and to see where TOTEM will be visiting, visit www.CirqueduSoleil.com.
Photos used with permission by Cirque du Soleil