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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 31, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 35
Cirque du Soleil hoists 'grand chapiteau' tent at Marymoor Park for their latest show, 'Volta'
Arts & Entertainment
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Cirque du Soleil hoists 'grand chapiteau' tent at Marymoor Park for their latest show, 'Volta'

by Sharon Cumberland - SGN A&E Writer

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL
'VOLTA'
MARYMOOR PARK
September 7-November 4


Hey, kids - the circus is coming to town! The Cirque du Soleil, that is - Canada's most fabulous gift to the world. From September 7th to November 4th Redmond's Marymoor Park will again host the famed spectacular that replaces exotic animals with humans who can do what humans aren't supposed to be able to do - fly through the air, twist into pretzels, walk upside-down on their pinkie fingers&! If you've been to a Cirque du Soleil show you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, well, you're in for a treat. But before the show can begin, the 'grand chapiteau' - the big tent - along with a family of smaller tents - has to be erected, and some of us lucky reporters were invited to watch one go up.

On a sunny Tuesday, on the vast field in Marymoor Park that plays host to the annual visit of Cirque du Soleil, a gaggle of guests donned hard hats and neon vests to follow publicist Steven Ross into a massive tent that drooped like a deflated balloon around four very high masts supporting a central ring where the ropes, chains, and other apparatus dangled. We were instructed to stay within the compass of the four masts while a gang of fifty or so men and women stationed themselves at ten-foot outer posts that had tops attached to the edges of the tent and bottoms unattached and sagging inward. On a signal, two or three people grabbed each post and dashed outward, pushing them upright into place as light flooded inside. Another stalwart worker stationed at the base of the mast busily cranked it higher to raise the roof as the posts moved outwards. The crew repeated this process around the circumference of the tent, lifting each section to the sound of posts scraping across asphalt pavement - a surprisingly musical racket, as though the tent itself had a voice that was both raucous and joyful.

Steven, our host, said that the crew placed 1,500 stakes to lift the tent, which measures 51 meters wide and 25 meters high. That's 55 yards (167 feet) wide and 82 feet high - a very 'grand chapiteau,' indeed. He also told us that the tent itself is made by hand in France at the Ferrari workshop, and that each traveling show gets its own new canvas tent that resonates with the theme. Those of us who saw last year's 'Luzia,' with its Mexican motif, will remember that the tent was white and yellow. This year's show, 'Volta,' is set in an urban universe, so the tents are designed with swirls of gray and white - a color combo that is both thematic and sustainable since the white tent requires less energy to cool or heat. Stephan, a native of Montréal where Cirque du Soleil is headquartered, said that 126 workers travel with the show, but that they hire an additional 150 local workers in every city they visit. 'Local people can answer questions about the community better than we can,' he said, 'and even though we all speak English, we often travel to places like Japan and other countries where we need local people who know the area and who speak the language to work in the box office, food service, and security.'

But Steven also said how very glad he was to see Seattle Gay News represented among the guests since, he told me, 'the show speaks to concerns of the LGBT community because the theme centers on difference, self-acceptance, and freedom.' He told me (no spoilers) that the focus character, Waz, moves from discontented attempts at conformity to self-acceptance and happiness. Both Joey Arrigo, the dancer who plays Waz, and Darius Harper, the main singer in the show, are members of the LGBT community. They and the large cast of performers enact a narrative about transformation and liberation. The show's tag line, 'Freedom is the ultimate achievement,' sets the tone for a show every bit as spectacular as past shows, but with a very strong theme addressing the issues surrounding identity and acceptance of one's true nature.

'Volta' expresses this contemporary theme with urban forms of acrobatics and music - specifically BMX cycling, parkour, double-dutch rope skipping, street dancing, and skating - and especially the introduction of electronic music, a first for the company. French DJ M83 coordinates the backtrack with five live musicians to make sure the music supports the pace of the performers, while producing the edgy, contemporary tone to this very new direction for Cirque du Soleil.

So - youngsters and oldsters, one and all - I'm here to tell you that the tents are up, the seventy vans that carry the sets and equipment are lined up in the back lot, the local hires are in training and the performers are warming up. We are days away from the first performances of 'Volta' so make your plans to see the newest entry in the long-running entertainment juggernaut of Cirque du Soleil. The 'grand chapiteau' awaits!

Cirque du Soleil's 'Volta' will be at Marymoor Park in Redmond, WA from September 7-November 4. For more information and tickets, visit cirquedusoleil/volta

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