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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 28, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 22
Cirque du Soleil's Adam Miller - SGN unearths the artistic director's dazzling vision
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Cirque du Soleil's Adam Miller - SGN unearths the artistic director's dazzling vision

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Cirque du Soleil's
Kooza
June 3-July 2
Marymoor Park


Beautiful bodies twisting with acts of daring acrobatics can only mean one thing: Cirque du Soleil is coming back to Seattle. Cirque du Soleil, the famous entertainment troupe, is self-described as a "dramatic mix of circus arts and street entertainment," but is more commonly described by one simple word: breathtaking. As the latest French/Canadian styled circus makes its way back to Seattle, the SGN spoke to artistic director Adam Miller about the latest traveling presentation: Kooza.

Eric Andrews-Katz: How long have you been working with Cirque du Soleil?

Adam Miller: I've been with Cirque since July 8, 2008, but didn't start with Kooza until this past January.

Andrews-Katz: How many people does it take to set up/perform a Cirque du Soleil show?

Miller: Kooza has about 125 people that travel with the show. There are 53 artists who perform, including five musicians and two singers.

Andrews-Katz: What is your personal history of dance?

Miller: I've been a professional dancer for over 20 years. I was a featured dancer in Seattle [Pacific Northwest Ballet] for six years from 1980-'86. The last few years I've been a choreographer.

Andrews-Katz: Your title with Kooza is "artistic director." What does that entail with Cirque du Soleil?

Miller: The main sort of mandate is the overseeing of the quality and integrity of the show. You have to see that all of the various elements - from artistic view, wardrobe, music, and physical therapist - & remains true to the vision that David Shiner had when he created Kooza. There's a great deal of responsibility with that.

Andrews-Katz: What are the origins of Cirque du Soleil?

Miller: Cirque celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Founder Guy Laliberté reached public sensation with the show Nouvelle Expérience. The signature element was that it wasn't just chaining together a bunch of acts; he created a concept with a beginning, middle, and end. All the theatrical elements apply including costume design, set design, story design & to form what is called a narrative thread that leads the audience through the stories with a certain excitement attached to it.

Andrews-Katz: Is there a storyline to Kooza?

Miller: It's a journey. There are two main characters: the Innocent, who isn't necessarily a child, but someone who has not seen outside their small scope, and there's also the Trickster, who introduces and brings the Innocent through a magical world of the Kingdom of Kooza. The journey includes both a dark and a light side. The traditional circus celebrates the act, but we try to celebrate the sophistication that the human body can do.

Andrews-Katz: How long of a training period do most Cirque performers complete before going into the show?

Miller: That can vary. Most of the artists have come from long lines of circus families. Our high wire act comes from six generations. Many of our ensemble artists come to a general formation conference in Montreal, where they will have a circus boot camp. They get trained for a particular show and usually specifically to the acts they'll be performing. The training continues to teach dance, acting, and makeup. Then they come onto the performing site to reintegrate themselves into the show and eventually perform. Usually it takes 8-16 weeks, depending on the individual and their particular performances.

Andrews-Katz: What's the most common background training for Cirque performers?

Miller: That depends. In the ensemble, they will usually have gymnastics and acrosport training. [Acrosport is a competitive variety of acrobatics and gymnastics that is very popular in European nations.] The featured acts usually come to us from previous circus training. Their acts are developed further in Montreal.

Andrews-Katz: Where do most Cirque performers originate?

Miller: We get a lot of people from countries in the former Soviet Union - Ukraine, Moldavia, Czech Republic - and from over 16 different countries.

Andrews-Katz: How long does it take to set up the Cirque Village?

Miller: It takes about a week for the Big Top to be set up and several days to be dismantled. We travel with about 50-60 trucks - each show varies. The only thing needed on-site is a running water source. We have our own generators.

Andrews-Katz: One of the main attractions of Kooza is "The Wheel of Death." Can you describe what that is?

Miller: It's not actually a wheel. It's two circular cages with a balancing connector between the two. They rotate completely from the human power of walking and rotating the wheel. Two men do tricks on it, which is absolutely breathtaking.

Guy Laliberté and Daniel Gauthier founded Cirque Du Soleil in 1984. Their first show, Le Grand Tour du Cirque du Soleil, became a huge success with its elimination of performing animals and concentration on artistic performance. Achieving celebrated status with Nouvelle Expérience in 1990 allowed the troupe to branch out and create other shows. To celebrate their 10th anniversary, Cirque du Soleil opened Mystére at Las Vegas' Treasure Island Hotel and Casino. Since then, more than 20 different Cirques have been created, including four different shows playing simultaneously at different hotels on the Las Vegas Strip.

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