As March drips by in the rear view mirror, the shimmering white and gold Big Top tent takes form at Redmond’s Marymoor Park in preparation for Cirque Du Soliel’s latest show, Luzia. Billed as a “waking dream,” Luzia embodies the spirit of Mexico, land of light (“luz”) and rain (“lluvia”). In an interview with artistic director Mark Shaub and performer Kelly McDonald, they discussed the inspiration behind the show’s fragmented glimpses into Mexican culture, the connection between Mexico and Cirque Du Soleil’s headquarters in Canada, and what it’s like to perform for a home crowd (McDonald grew up in Seattle).
SS: How is Cirque Du Soleil different from a traditional circus?
Shaub: I think one of the main differences, besides that we don’t have lions and tigers, is that we wanted to take an approach that looked at all sorts of different kinds of art forms to create a new type of aesthetic for a circus. We are creating an environment and working with the music in a more collaborative way — lighting, video projections, modern performance technologies — to build something really unique.
SS: What are some of the ways the theme of “Mexico” has been woven into the show?
Shaub: Mexico was a starting point for this creation, inspired by these elements of Mexican art and culture — like the tendencies in the music, which is not just mariachi music.
McDonald: The creators chose the theme because of a love of Mexico. Latin music brings to life every act that we have in the show and give energy to the performers. The Monarch butterfly represents the connection between Cirque Du Soleil’s headquarters in Canada and the butterfly’s migration to Mexico. The butterfly character also represents the Tarahumara running tribe — these super strong women that can run great distances.
SS: (To McDonald) Are you looking forward to performing on your home turf? Does it add extra energy to your performance?
McDonald: Definitely! This is my first opportunity to perform with Cirque Du Soleil in Seattle. I’m excited to share my passion for performing and the amazing experience I’m having with my hometown.
SS: (To McDonald) How have you had to adjust to working with water as an element in your performance?
McDonald: It definitely takes getting used to and you have to get comfortable in the rain and hold on to the apparatus that you’re working with. It adds an amazing element as you fly your way through it.
SS: What do you hope audiences take away from Luzia?
Shaub: There are many things they could take away, but what I really hope is they can come to Luzia and forget about the world outside and go on a journey with us that takes them through to the end. I hope they are open to be amazed, moved excited by live performance. The Big Top environment is best way to see a Cirque Du Soleil show.