From a group of 20 street performers at its beginnings in 1984, Cirque du Soleil has brought wonder and delight to close to 155 million spectators in more than 300 cities in over 40 countries on six continents. Now in its fourth decade, Cirque du Soleil has expanded in a wide range of creative endeavors ranging from movies to apparel and from boutiques to nightclubs. Cirque du Soleil currently has 20 shows, including LUZIA, which will be making its San Francisco debut on November 16 with an exclusive premier showing at the SF Chamber’s Excellence in Business Awards. Read more about LUZIA and Cirque du Soleil from Mark Shaub, LUZIA’s artistic director.
What makes LUZIA different from other Cirque du Soleil shows?
LUZIA explores themes of Mexican art and culture, and in a way it was born mature. I think it’s one of the better shows I’ve worked on in the sense of having all of the elements really gel together. The music supports the movement, which supports the costumes, which supports the lighting, making a very beautiful, very unified statement.
And while it’s a show that draws inspiration from different aspects of culture, art and history from Mexico, there is nothing encyclopedic about it. We chose the aspects of that culture that we wanted to work with that make a beautiful show, approaching it as something that we wanted to inspire the audience and make you feel something. If you can capture that and put it on stage, it transcends any cultural boundaries because everyone can experience emotions, can see colors and hear rhythms. That’s something we love working with as our sense of direction for all of the acrobatics and choreography.
What is special about this LUZIA cast and crew?
It was important to us to have certain artists that did come from a Central and South American background, especially when it came to the musicians. But, like all other Cirque shows, the cast of LUZIA comes from all over the world. We look for artists that are the best in their field no matter where they come from in the world, so we always end up with a multicultural, multilingual, multinational cast. I take it for granted, honestly. We’re truly a microcosm of any great urban city.
What do you love about working with Cirque du Soleil?
In our daily life, I work with a team of coaches, art assistants, stage managers, a wardrobe department, and so many others in addition to the performers. All together we’re looking at this show and wondering, is it as good as it can be? Can we make that better? That keeps us going and gets us excited, and it’s that type of attitude that has allowed Cirque du Soleil to grow and be recognized. There are so many people involved in making this happen, and it’s those people around me that make these shows happen.
I started as a performer in the contemporary dance world for roughly 20 years, and once it was time to move on I was very fortunate that a job became available with Cirque du Soleil and that I made it through a grueling interview process. But I got the job and I immediately fell in love with it. My experience with smaller dance companies was transferrable to a large-scale production with Cirque du Soleil, because it’s a larger company with people that are so motivated and take so much pride in what they do.
What are the challenges of having such a large production with a setup like the Big Top?
This is the fifth show I’ve been on with Cirque du Soleil, and different shows have different challenges, especially depending on the age of the show. With LUZIA, we’re finding our rhythm and fine tuning. On a show that’s been running for 12 to 15 years, you’re looking for ways to keep it fresh and put new challenges in front of the artists and get them to dig deeper and do different things. Working with a new group of artists who understands what it means to travel and perform so many times a week and do them consistently at a level of excellence that we take pride in is the challenge.
What is your favorite part about performing and putting on shows in the San Francisco Bay Area?
San Francisco has a very vibrant circus community, but also all of the arts in general are so vibrant. I know San Francisco has changed a lot in the last 10 years, and that will always have an impact on the culture. But it’s always been a place for me that has been really rich, and you can tell there is a vibrant history of art and so many different cultures in San Francisco.