Cirque du Soleil’s LUZIA is in Calgary for the next four weeks (until September 22). The show takes the audience to “an imaginary Mexico, like in a waking dream, where light (‘luz’ in Spanish) quenches the spirit and rain (‘lluvia’) soothes the soul.” In classic Cirque style, the show offers both dazzling acrobatic feats and an immersive experience, guided by set and costume design, light and music. The show is beautiful, family-friendly and reasonably-priced, with tickets starting at $49.99.

I got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Cirque du Soleil tents before the show premiered, and I learned SO MANY interesting facts about Cirque, LUZIA, and what it’s really like to run away and join the circus. (Check out Emma’s story highlights on Instagram for more behind-the-scenes content). 

1, There is way more going on under the Big Tent than you think. First of all, the site is huge and is actually comprised of several tents of various sizes. The biggest tent is the Big Top, where the show is performed. The rest of the tents are smaller, but are just as important. Besides amazing performers, here’s what else you can find under the tents:

  • A training facility with treadmills, trapezes, open space for floor work and more
  • A costumes department with four full-time designers 
  • A kitchen and dining area with four full-time chefs
  • A laundry facility with dozens of washing machines, which are used for costumes and occasionally by cast and crew
  • A backstage, where musicians perform when they’re not on stage and where artists prepare for their next act
  • A lobby, where the audience can take photos and buy merch, snacks and drinks before going into the show

Basically the only thing *not* under the tent is cast and crew accommodations. They stay at nearby apartments. The whole tent city requires 67 transport trucks to move it between cities, and it takes eight days to set up and three to tear down. Check out this video of the LUZIA Big Top being raised.

2. It’s all about the water. We told you back in February that LUZIA is Cirque du Soleil’s first touring show that features water. Well, it doesn’t just *feature* water. The entire show has been designed and produced around the water. In addition to the tanks, pools and rain curtains that cycle the 12,000 litres of water throughout the show, every component of the show has taken the water into consideration. Artists’ shoes have special grip to keep them from slipping, and the paint used on stage was mixed with sand to help with traction. Every piece of electric equipment has been waterproofed, and the cyr wheels, which are made of aluminum, have been fitted with custom rubber treads so artists don’t slip during their act. 

3. It’s a big but tight-knit team. There are 125 members of cast and crew, including artists, chefs, physiotherapists, coaches, musicians, technical directors and more. Cast and crew work on year-long contracts, but it’s not uncommon for members of the team to stay with a show for the long-haul. 

4. Life in the circus isn’t all hoop-diving and contortionism. A touring Cirque show does eight to 10 shows per week, for four to 16 weeks in each city. The cast gets Mondays off and about a week off when the show moves to the next city. The crew doesn’t get quite the same break, because as soon as one run ends, they’re tearing down, driving the convoy to the next city, and starting set-up all over again. Everyone gets about a three-week break once every year.

5. The cast is diverse in their talents and their backgrounds. LUZIA’s 46 artists hail from 17 countries, including six from our own great northern nation. About half of the artists trained in gymnastics, and the other half came out of circus school (cool, right?). 

6. The costumes are as custom as you can get. A show’s costumes are used for every single performance for the duration of a show’s run, which is usually 10 – 15 years. That’s thousands of wears, so the costumes have to be meticulously maintained. After every single show, costumes are laundered and repaired, sequins are sewn back on, and shoes are polished. Cirque custom makes most of their own fabrics, because they’d be hooped if they ever needed to repair a costume several years into a run, only to find a supplier had discontinued the required fabric. 

I had an amazing experiencing the ins and outs of Cirque du Soleil’s LUZIA, ad if you want to see what it looks like when it all comes together, the show is in town until September 22nd with tickets starting at $49.99.

Emma Stevens