Cirque du Soleil ‘Luzia’ Sept. 14 – Nov. 19
The big tents are up next to Atlantic Station, and that can only mean one thing that Cirque du Soleil is back in Atlanta. ‘Luzia, A Waking Dream of Mexico’ is the latest in the Cirque du Soleil lineup. ‘Luzia’ opens up at Atlantic Station Sept. 14 and has an extended run through Nov. 19th.
Through a series of grand visual surprises and breathtaking acrobatic performances, ‘Luzia’ takes audiences on a surrealistic journey filled with wonders, playfulness and striking artistry. Smoothly passing from an old movie set to the ocean to a smoky dance hall or an arid desert, ‘Luzia’ cleverly brings to the stage multiple places, faces and sounds of Mexico taken from both tradition and modernity. Rich in awe-inspiring moments, ‘Luzia’ enchants by incorporating rain into acrobatic and artistic scenes – a first for a Cirque du Soleil touring production.
Recently I sat down and talked with Gracie Valdez, Artistic Director, and two football (soccer) performers Laura Biondo and Abou Traore, who perform an act of freestyle football in the show.
So tell us about the show.
Gracie Valdez: ‘Luzia’ is a brand new big top show that we are proud to bring to Atlanta. It’s a new twist on shows we have done in the past. We bring new technologies all the time to Cirque du Soleil to take people on different journeys. This is a waking dream of Mexico taking the audience to a different time, places representing an imaginary Mexico with a voyage through time and space.
How do you balance the imaginary Mexico with the real Mexico in the story?
Gracie: The full intention of the show is an ode and tribute to the culture of Mexico and its environment. It’s not set in modern time, but rather a dreamlike, almost foggy sense of imaginary Mexico. It’s heavily drawing from history, from the climate and influences of Mexico.
What are some of the areas of Mexico that ‘Luzia’ inspiration from?
Gracie: One of the aspects of the show is a giant rain curtain that is derived from some of Mexico’s crazy weather patterns like big storms in the middle of summer. We also have a desert scene, and one section is based in the plains of Mexico.
How many performers are in ‘Luzia’ and what kind of variety can we expect in the show?
Gracie: We have forty-four artists from fifteen different countries around the world with an emphasis on Latin America. We have classic acrobatic acts with a technological twist. We have a hoop act; we have the fastest juggler in the world. We have our football dancers, Laura and Abou, which is a new act to Cirque. We have an indescribable contortionist who is one of a kind. He is the best in the world and what he does is breathtaking.
Why did you decide to incorporate the football freestylers in the show?
Gracie: Football is so important to the Mexican culture and heritage. It’s a vital part of Latin culture, and now, even in the states, soccer is played by almost every kid. The act is a mixture of soccer and new technology because we added water to the performance. The water adds flair to the act.
Is there one central character going on this journey?
Gracie: We have a couple. There is one central character going on this trip but we do have a couple of guides helping tell the story. You are losing yourself in their world and going on a journey with them for two hours.
What was the creative process for ‘Luzia’?
Gracie: The writer and director for ‘Luzia’ spent the better part of ten years living and traveling in Mexico. He wrote it with the intention of showing what he experienced in his travels there. The smells, the tastes of Mexico and its culture. It’s really layers of his world that he created from those experiences.
So you extended the run of the show here in Atlanta?
Gracie: We love Atlanta! This is the seventeenth show we have brought to Atlanta, and we always have a warm reception and amazing audiences. We could help but extend the run here. You guys love Cirque, and we love coming here! We have a big fan base here in Atlanta.
You have had water in other shows but not like this, right?
Gracie: Exactly. It’s not just a pool; it’s a rain forest in a touring environment. The rain is contained and doesn’t splash all over the audience. There isn’t a ‘splash zone’ at ‘Luzia.’
How you guys as performers feel about the rain? Do you get nervous?
Laura Biondo: Definitely not nervous. It’s exciting because it’s something new and never been done before. How do you perform and adapt to it, giving your best performance on a wet floor with water pouring down on top of you?
Did you guys think in your wildest dreams that you would be in Cirque du Soleil when you were playing soccer in your hometown?
Laura: Personally no, I never thought I would be here. I didn’t know what Cirque du Soleil was. I really admire that it’s an environment where the best of the best perform. When I got the first email from Cirque, I was thinking; they have great acrobats and other amazing preformers and all I do is kick a soccer ball. So it’s surreal and exciting at the same time because I get to share with the audience every night what my passion is. Through our performance, people get to know a different side of soccer.
Tell us about the freestyle world of soccer.
Laura: It’s a big community where everyone knows everyone else. Even though you might perform freestyle by yourself, it’s still part of the freestyle community and feels very communal.
Are you looking forward to spending some time in Atlanta?
Laura: Definitely. We love exploring the cities we visit, going to museums and festivals. Experiencing the local foods and music of this town is going to be fun.
Have you enjoyed the experience of Latin culture and its love of soccer?
Adou Traore: Yes, I’m from West Africa and have enjoyed getting to know the Mexican culture. Getting to know them and their love of soccer has been great. I love performing freestyle on stage and feel like I am an ambassador for the sport each time I perform. I try to give the best of me each time I walk on stage.
Is your act choreographed or do you improvise on the spot during your performance?
Laura: There is a structure to our performance, but because you add the aspect of water on stage, we do have the flexibility to change a thing or two in the performance, which is cool because some of the acts have to do the same thing overnight because of the dangerous nature of their performance.
Adou: And we have to be in sync with the music. It’s like dancing, which I love. We mix a bit of dancing with soccer in our performance.
Thank you for talking with us and enjoy your stay in Atlanta!
Cirque du Soleil ‘Luzia’ is at Atlantic Station from Sept. 14 until November 19th.
For tickets and more information go to www.cirquedusoleil.com/luzia
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