x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Performers enjoy the high life

It may be their last stop on a long, exhausting worldwide tour but the performers of Cirque du Soleil look forward to their time in the UAE.

A Cirque du Soleil artist performs during a rehearsal of Alegria at Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai.
A Cirque du Soleil artist performs during a rehearsal of Alegria at Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai.

DUBAI // It may be their last stop on a long, exhausting worldwide tour but the performers of Cirque du Soleil are looking forward to their month in the UAE. Their showcase of gravity-defying acrobatics begins its Dubai run tonight in the big top at the Ibn Battuta Mall. Already the show has played to more than 10 million people in the decade and a half since it was launched.

"The week before a new show, we have three days of training and then a dress rehearsal," said Ken Futamura, a Canadian acrobat who is part of the "Power Track" segment of Alegria, a trampoline-based act featuring more than a dozen performers. "This time we have had 10 days off since the last city, so I took a vacation to the Philippines, but it can be quite a fast-paced lifestyle, always living out of suitcases.

"I've been with Alegria since 2004, and before that I was with another show, La Nouba, touring for six years. I think I'll maybe stay on the road for another year, and then I'd like to move into training and coaching. Cirque is always adding new shows and looking for new artists, so if I could use my skills to help new performers, I'd love that." Before coming to Dubai, which will be home to the cast and crew of Alegria throughout March, the show was touring throughout Asia, most recently in Taipei.

"You see the world, and each time you stay for five or six weeks, so we always make an effort to see the sights, meet local people and eat local food during our time off," he said. "Each city and audience has a different energy, which is really exciting for us. On the other hand, you are far away from your family and a stable life - but this time my parents are coming out to Dubai, which will be great."

Cirque du Soleil first came to the UAE in 2007 with the show Quidam, and is setting up a permanent, new show at a custom-built venue on the Palm Jumeirah that is likely to open in 2012. The Montreal-based circus company, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, already has permanent shows in Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida. Milan Rokic, Cirque du Soleil's vice president of marketing for the Asia Pacific region, said that for audiences who saw Quidam two years ago, Alegria would provide a different experience.

"Both shows were created by the same director, Franco Dragone. Alegria was created to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Cirque du Soleil in 1994, and it is a show about joy and celebration, while Quidam, which was created just before the millennium, is a darker, more introspective show, looking towards an unknown future," he said. "Alegria features some great aerial stunts, and it has one of the best soundtracks of all our shows."

After Dubai, the show is to be scaled down. It will be performed in stadiums, in smaller cities, and for no more than a week each time. "Setting up the big top each time and moving all the equipment is very expensive; playing in smaller venues allows us to reach different audiences and reduce the number of people travelling with the show from 130 to less than 100," Mr Rokic said. "For Dubai, we are mainly focusing on the permanent show, but there could well be other tours coming here in the future.

"Quidam had a great response here and, although there are tickets still available, we are hoping that Alegria will be sold out for most of the run." gmcclenaghan@thenational.ae