Cirque du Soleil breaks the mold with ‘Avatar’-inspired ‘TORUK – The First Flight’ at RVA coliseum 11/27
About eight years ago the minds behind the French Canadian circus troop Cirque du Soleil were invited to James Cameron’s production studio. They weren’t sure why, but the famed movie maker showed them early cuts of his movie Avatar.
Cameron told the Cirque du Soleil folks the whimsical, long-limbed, and nimble Na’vi (the aliens in the movie) were in fact inspired by the equally whimsical circus performances.
“Good science fiction isn’t about space or time in the future, it’s talking about us today,” said show Writer and Director, Multimedia Director Michel Lemieux. “It takes the form of fiction, but it’s about film reality.”
Lemieux was among the Cirque du Soleil group who met with Cameron early on.
“We are all connected… James and John expressed that in the movie Avatar,” said Lemieux who said he was personally touched by the way the movie showed the native Na’vi’s connection with the world their inhabited, Pandora.
“Everything on Pandora lit up at night, every being looks connect,” he said. “In this really visual idea, they connected to something very deep… this was reason enough for us to take years of our life and do this show.”
The final product of the Cameron/Cirque du Soleil pairing is impressively large in scale and beautifully produced. High tech lighting effects and massive hanging structures build the world of Avatar, specifically the planet of Pandora, before your eyes.
The production, called TORUK – The First Flight takes place thousands of years before the Avatar movies and focuses on three young Na’vi who go out to find the legendary bird, Toruk. While exceedingly dangerous, if you can succeed in mounting and riding the famed bird, it will help you and your tribe defend the world from destruction. While Pandora faced annihilation from humans in the Avatar movie, this time the planet faces natural description form volcanic eruptions, specifically how they threaten the “Tree of Souls”.
On their journey, the young adventurers meet other Na’vi clans and learn more about their world alongside the audience.
While this show contains many of the trademark Cirque du Soleil features – immersive music and lighting, massive props, and dancers performing amazing physical feats – it will be the first Cirque show to be so narrative focused, and it even features an narrator speaking to the audience explaining the story as it progresses.
Discover the massive performance space of #TORUK with artist Thomas Hubener. Watch more: http://cirk.me/1HuRQbQ #CirqueduSoleil #Avatar
Posted by TORUK – The First Flight on Tuesday, November 10, 2015
“We want people to be blown away, we want people to be emerged in that world of Pandora,” said Lemieux. He’s got a history of emersion – he’s been with Cirque du Soleil for four previous shows including DELIRIUM and Midnight Sun. He said the circus troop is committed to three principles when they produce a show: Provoke, invoke, and evoke.
“We want to provoke, entertain, but also invoke the invisible world, and evoke,” said the director who spoke about bringing the world of Pandora to life without redoing the movie on stage.
Part of Lemieux’s expertise is in his use of digital lighting techniques. Precisely programed light systems help change the staging area into the far off world of Pandora as the young Na’vi traverse through multiple biomes – desert, jungle, volcanic ash, and everything in between.
“The show is a giant multimedia book,” he said. “You’ll turn the pages and see images of Pandora.”
Leading us through the world is a team of famed Cirque du Soleil performers who’s onstage abilities are only surpassed by their sheer athleticism.
Nick Beyeler is one of the performers who was still in full Na’vi garb when he spoke to the crowd of journalists invited to preview the show.
Beyeler was discovered in a cabaret show in Spain and this was his first time working with Cirque du Soleil. He spoke some about the grueling practice hours, 12 hours a day, 6 days a week – “We’re still standing,” he joked – be he also mentioned how much he thought the show would follow in the foot steps of other long running Cirque productions. “It’s a timeless show, and I think its going to be around for a while.”
Dustin Walston, another performer in Toruk, this time hailing from Las Vegas and armed with a few Cirque productions on his resume, spoke some about the elaborate costumes he and his fellow dancers must wear.
“I’m used to it, and when I don’t have it, it feels like a loss,” he said about the blue tail that stretched out behind him. The tail was one of the first costume pieces the cast put on to help them get acclimated. There’s also the hour plus time it takes to do their own blue face make up.
For Walston, he was most excited to see TORUK as a combination of Cameron’s vision and Cirque’s sense of wonder. “You get have Cirque and half what you saw in the movie,” he said. “It’s going to be very creative but close to what you saw in the film.”
But he said it wasn’t all cartwheels and flips like what we saw during the preview – the complex lighting effects affect his ability to see depth and can lead to accidents or mistakes.
“You have to be very aware of the surfaces,” he said. “You know it’s there, but you’re still cautious.”
Your chance to see TORUK – The First Flight happens November 27 – 29 at the Richmond Coliseum.
From waterfalls to giant mountain ledges, we are immersed into every scene that is larger than life.November 28, 2015
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