The critically acclaimed Cirque du Soleil is bringing Quidam to our area next month. The captivating extravaganza which has toured five continents and been seen by millions over its 17-year history, will be at the Patriot Center at George Mason University.
Last week at Georgetown’s newest restaurant and event venue Malmaison, I had a chance to chat with Jessica LeBoeuf and Cirque’s newest performer, William Wei-Liang Lin, the company’s 24 year-old diabolo act who hails from Taiwan.
LeBoeuf, Quidam’s publicist, described the complex logistics of moving the production from city to city via fifteen trucks loaded with the set, costumes and equipment to stage a show consisting of fifty-two world-class performers including singers, acrobats, musicians, and characters from twenty different countries and staging it in an arena. “The show has been redesigned for an arena from the usual Big Top. But it’s the same show, just under a different roof. It’s theatre-style seating, which gives us five hundred to a thousand more seats, still with the sound of a live concert. We take about a third of the stage area, think of a hockey rink, for the backstage where there’s a gym, all the props, costumes and a place for the performers to warm up, plus the band pit and the garage. The stage comes out nearly to the front rows,” she explained.
“There are a lot of aerial acts in the show, though we don’t use a safety net or safety line. We use the Teleferique (the French word for cable car). It’s an arch that comes halfway across the arena and stops above the audience and then there’s a cable car system on each of the five rails where we fly the performers in and out on their apparatus. It’s all sheer human power.”
For William Lin the journey to Cirque stardom has been as circuitous as it has been auspicious. As a schoolboy his aim was to study tae kwon do, but when the hoped-for class was filled he wound up studying ‘diabolo,’ a technique evolved from the Chinese yo-yo that incorporates string and one or more axles that are spun and tossed.
Eventually Lin developed tremendous expertise, winning first prize over all the acts at the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain in France, an international competition akin to the Oscars for the Circus Arts. Soon after he was discovered in England by Cirque’s scouts. Although he curtailed his university studies, he still needed to complete mandatory military service. Even so he had to wait a year until a spot opened up in the company this January. “Cirque du Soleil is my dream,” he beams. “My work is my diabolo. I love learning new tricks. Many of my ideas come from videos and movies. For me the possibilities are limitless.” Lin has become wildly popular back home in Taiwan where he is flooded with requests for TV interviews.
In a story of a young girl bored by the world and her apathetic parents, young Zoé seeks to fill the void of her existence with the imaginary world of Quidam, which offers characters that encourage her to free her soul. The show is notable for its poetic transitions and beautiful acrobatics that create an exhilarating sensory experience.
As LeBoeuf puts it, “The performers need to keep their bodies in good shape for eight shows a week while performing at the same level. They do Pilates, stretching, yoga, dance classes, conditioning, and cross training. To keep them interested and involved local dance teachers are often invited in to do demonstrations. In Detroit we had a famous dancer come in that did hip hop. It was very cool for the foreign performers to learn hip hop. The contortionists said, “I don’t understand how you move!” It was pretty funny coming from them.”
Quidam will hold seven performances from July 17-21, 2013 at the Patriot Center at George Mason University – 4400 University Drive, in Fairfax, VA. For tickets, purchase them online, or call (703) 993-3000.
Originally appeared in Whisk and Quill.