Quidam, one of the few arena-style Cirque du Soleil shows, opened in Baltimore Wednesday at the First Mariner Arena. Its down-to-earth story line of a disjointed family and a bored girl’s departure into a fantastic world of imagination, exposes the audience to colorful characters with unique and astral qualities. The 52 larger-than-life performers captivated premiere-night audiences and revealed yet another side to the Cirque du Soleil franchise, proving that no matter how many Cirque shows you’ve seen, none of them are the same, each unique to their own design.
Behind the Curtain
Entering the world of Cirque before the curtain and crowd beckons is like entering an alternate dimension where amazing feats of the human body are commonplace amongst the resident performers. The production is self-sufficient with its proprietary costumes and sets – very little, if anything, is contracted out. Performers apply their own makeup; wigs are created new for each show; laundry services are done by the wardrobe department; a designated shoe painter retouches 200-300 shoes; a gym is setup for workouts and conditioning; and a Cirque-designated caterer prepares special meals, traveling with the troupe. As Quidam publicist Jessica Leboeuf states, “with our fifteen full trucks and our own gym, we just need your arena and a hotel.”
Performing in an arena is a relatively new venture for Quidam. Prior to this year, the show set up like many other Cirque shows, under the Grand Chapitaeu (the signature yellow and blue big-top) for 15 years. According to Ms. Leboeuf, the arena-format allows the show to cater to a larger audience and bring it to cities that might not otherwise be able to accommodate the big-top tent.
Man behind the Wheel
One of the first acts of the show, the German Wheel, is performed by American-born Cory Sylvester, a Montreal-trained circus performer and former L.A. stunt man who mans the intimidating 110 pound steel apparatus. One of the shows few solo acts, manning the German wheel is a testimony to the strength of the human core, the powers of flexibility, and the relevance of body alignment. For five astonishing minutes man and machine are one.
Although Cory has been doing the act for the past five years, he still practices one to two times a week to maintain the show and perfect his added flavor to the routine. “My body is used to it [the wheel] at this point but that never means that I can take it for granted and let my guard down. It is something that gets stored in your spinal cord, your reflexes for certain things – so that way it’s quicker to go from your spinal chord to the extremities rather than your brain through your extremities.”
Quidam is divided into ten acts, either group or solo – ground or aerial, and are complemented by a live six-member band. Performers represent 23 different nationalities, working 10 weeks on and 2 weeks off – 8 shows a week, from Wednesday evening until Sunday afternoon. By 9 p.m., the trucks are on the road again, off to the next city in true traveling gypsy fashion.
Behind the scenes of Quidam provides yet another dimension to the Cirque experience. A rare opportunity to learn about the performers behind the costumes and to view their physical preparation, set the stage to the grandeur that would later unfold, giving an even higher appreciation of the beauty and splendor of a Cirque show.
You can catch Quidam’s final Baltimore performances until Sunday and purchase tickets through Ticketmaster.