Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Luzia’ is a stunning tribute to Mexico
Playing in Boston under the white-and-gold Big Top at Suffolk Downs now through August 12.
Each show is completely unique. We want to give the audience an escape from reality,” says artistic director Gracie Valdez, of Cirque du Soleil’s 38th original production, Luzia.
The mesmerizing and beautifully-crafted show easily accomplishes this goal and then some. Described as a “waking dream of Mexico,” Luzia was written and directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca who lived, worked and traveled in the country for more than 10 years. “It’s kind of an homage to everything that he saw,” says Valdez. “It’s really a story of sights and sounds and colors as opposed to a literal one-directional story of ‘there’s this man and he goes here.’”
Playing in Boston under the redesigned white-and-gold Big Top at Suffolk Downs now through August 12, Luzia opens with a parachutist who free falls towards a land of memories, where he ends up in a field of yellow marigolds surrounding an enormous metallic key. Out of curiosity, the traveler turns the key and is taken away on a magical journey through time and place, somewhere between dreams and reality.
Set against a backdrop designed by Academy Award-winning Mexican set designer Eugenio Caballero (Pan’s Labyrinth), Luzia introduces audiences to a vibrant and surreal world filled with music, brightly hued hummingbirds, a butterfly, life-size horses, aerialists, trapeze artists, a contortionist, Cyr wheel artists, and more. The show also incorporates rain into the acrobatic and artistic scenes, which is a first for a Cirque du Soleil touring production.
On adding the element of water, Valdez
says that the company is “always looking to add new technologies and to push the limits and to push boundaries to see what we can do.” The show embraces the concept of combining technology with artistry throughout the production. Audience members will be amazed at seeing the human hummingbirds, complete with wings and beaks, jumping through hoops while performing the remarkable feat on two repurposed massive
treadmills from a mining company in the U.K.
It typically takes two years for a Cirque du Soleil production to go from concept to the actual premiere of a show. Luzia’s touring cast and crew includes 115 people, of which 45 are performers representing 19 different countries including: Belarus, Canada, France, Guinea, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Russia, the U.S., and Venezuela.
As Artistic Director, Valdez manages the 45 performers on a daily basis, along with a crew comprised of stage managers, coaches, and performance medicine therapists. “As a team we really manage the artists and help to motivate them and make sure that anything that needs to be changed from show-to-show is taken care of and any new artists are integrated and can maintain the initial quality and the integrity and the intention of the show, and of the story.”
For Valdez, who has been with Cirque du Soleil for 10 years and began her first production in Boston as a stage manager, all the shows have some sentimental value to her. “Cirque has a really beautiful way of opening shows. And this one is no different. When [the traveler] turns that key and we start and all the colors of the butterfly and the birds and the music starts, it really gets us going. It gives me chills every time I watch it. I’ve seen it hundreds of times and it still gets me.”