On Stage: Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities comes to D.C.

by Editorial

Cirque du Soleil’s impressive blue and yellow big top tent will arrive in the Washington area once again with one of its newest touring shows.

By Julie Gallagher

Photo: Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

Photo: Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

From July 21 to September 18, audiences at Lerner Town Square in Tysons II will be able to enter the world of “The Valley of the Possible Impossibles,” an alternate dimension where dreams wait to be dreamt.

Acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, rola bola performers, hand puppeteers and other “possible impossible” acts will amaze show-goers as they meet The Seeker, an inventor from the late 19th century industrial revolution. The audience is introduced to other characters, including Mr. Microcosmos, a big-bellied “embodiment of technological progress” and Mini Lili, his “intuitive counterpart” who lives inside his overcoat.  The Seeker’s curio cabinet and ingenuity allow him to open up a magical universe and bring these dreams and thoughts to Earth.

The magic of the big top tent inspired Kurios’s creator and director, Michel Laprise, as he described how captivating it is to see the tent in a city from a distance. Laprise compared how stepping into Cirque du Soleil’s big top is similar to entering another magical world, which ultimately is the root of his story. He first joined Cirque du Soleil in 2000 as a talent scout and then special events designer.

Photo: Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

Photo: Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

Laprise wanted to celebrate the magic of the big top in a show that will transcend time, as Kurios, which debuted in Montreal in 2014, will likely run for 10 to 15 years. “The show is very emotional, and we wanted to create a joyful show,” Laprise said of his first production, which took two years to bring to life. “People need joy right now, and they need also to be reminded that humanity, mankind has amazing capacities in inventions and solving things.”

The show takes place in the second half of the 1800’s, the era of electricity and invention. Laprise felt this part of history was very similar to today’s craze for the internet and cell phones. The audience may truly feel as though they have stepped into this parallel world with 426 antique props made of recycled materials, the most props ever used in a Cirque show, and over 100 handmade costumes.

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Laprise said Kurios is different than other Cirque du Soleil shows because there are both human characters and creatures. “The audience really likes it because they can identify with those characters,” Laprise said.

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He also felt this connection correlated to the greater message of Kurios and of all circus performances.

Laprise said the first act after intermission, Acro Net, exemplifies an overarching theme of humanity and collaboration. At first, the anchor points in the concrete would not hold the trampoline needed in this act, because it was so large and needed so much tension. However, the engineers were able to solve the problem, but then there were concerns about how to get the acrobats to perform on this bigger net. The show’s creators then figured out the key to the right tension and energy—the performers.

“If you all go on the net, and you have six guys [in a circle] and one guy in the middle, these guys, with the power of their legs, will create an energy that will project this guy higher than he could ever do on the trampoline,” Laprise said. “So that changes everything.”

Photo: Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

Photo: Martin Girard / shootstudio.ca Costumes: Philippe Guillotel © 2014 Cirque du Soleil

The middle performer can reach as high as 40 feet, almost to the top of the tent, allowing him to do countless tricks in the air. “The show is about that –if we get together we can send each member of our community to his or her full potential of expression,” Laprise said, inspired by the civil rights and other social justice movements.

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He said he believes “if one person progresses, the whole society progresses.”

Circus performances feed off of the vulnerability of both the performers and the audience, according to Laprise. He said he does not ask the performers to be perfect, but to attempt to reach perfection, be emotionally present, and in the moment on stage. He said he asks his performers “are you taking a risk? And if you are then the audience will be drawn to you because they connect with their own humanity when they see you taking a risk.”

Laprise described the Kurios staff as a family, and recognized the audience feels that, too. “I was talking with the head of security the other day and he said what’s special about Kurios, is that the world we created is so warm that people don’t want to leave after the show.”

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