Alegria means “jubilation” in Spanish. It’s also the name of world-renowned Cirque du Soleil’s show arriving in Kamloops in September. They couldn’t have found a more fitting title.
When Cirque du Soleil performed the show Mystère in Las Vegas in 1993, it was the first time for the team to adapt a performance from the Big Top to an arena—a logistically difficult challenge. Thankfully, they pulled it off.
“When they finished Mystère and went on to the creation of Alegria (in 1994), they needed really to have a show to please themselves and something that would be easy. It was important that Alegria was a release somehow,” said Carmen Ruest, Cirque du Soleil’s director of creation. “That’s why they’ve chosen this title of Alegria; it means joy and jubilation but after a lot of hard work.”
As for the show’s real story, it was chosen at a time when the world’s attention was focusing in on globalization.
From the dome that symbolizes existing institutions and the Nostalgic Birds who like to reminisce about their reign to the Broncs who challenge authority, this performance tells a story of monarchies, the transfer of power, and the exuberance of youth.
It took the team two years to prepare the show for touring. The artists and acrobats chosen at the casting arrive for intensive training nine months before the premiere.
One thing that distinguishes Alegria from other Cirque shows is the music. Arranged and composed by Rene Dupère, the show’s musical score has won several awards and was nominated for both Grammy and Juno Awards.
The music is a mix of tango, jazz and klezmer (Jewish folk music) to evoke the music of travelling minstrels. A combination of acoustic instruments and electronic effects add to the flavour.
“We work as a creative cell,” said Ruest. “All the creators are at the same table. As the concept evolves, the acrobatic skeleton is decided with the director. . . the rest of the creatives come in inspiration sessions. It’s really a collective work of creation.”
Then it’s up to the performers—whether through a fire dance, a daring synchronized trapeze act, or hand-balancing on a 1.9 metre cane—to breathe life into this concept on stage.
“This company is creatively driven and the priority is the creative content. It’s a very good experience for a new artist, but it takes a lot of discipline and hard work.”
Looking back at its humble beginnings, Ruest said she never imagined that Cirque would reach this magnitude of success.
“It was the ‘here and now’ moment, you know. (All the) energy, every work and every action taken were going toward achieving this show coming or that year’s project, so we were not looking so much way ahead.”
In the end, the dedication in making every show a success and elevating circus into an art helped earn Cirque its laurels.