Since Cirque Du Soleil was founded in July of 1984 in Quebec, the goal — per the group’s mission statement — has been to “invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of people around the world.” It’s done this primarily by reimagining the concept of what a circus is.
There are still acrobats flying through the air, performing death-defying feats, but there is just as much art in a Cirque Du Soleil production as there is athleticism. Productions like 1993’s Mystere (which combined circus skills, dance, elaborate sets, opera, worldbeat music and street theatre-style comedy), 2006’s Delirium (a multimedia extravaganza that mixed live music and video projections in with the acrobatics), or The Beatles: Love (which reimagined the music of the Fab Four) are typical of the company’s approach.
One of the most popular productions that Cirque De Soleil has ever mounted is Corteo. Debuted in 2005, it tells the story of a clown named Mauro, who opens the show on what we presume to be his deathbed with the line, “I imagine my funeral.” What follows as Mauro remembers his life is a dazzling series of set-pieces, a mix of story and circus performance Line Tremblay, artistic director for the touring production that hits Colonial Life Arena for five day starting July 10, says fits perfectly into Cirque Du Soleil’s mission.
“You go to have your jaw dropped to the floor witnessing what human beings can do,” she offers, speaking to Cirque Du Soleil’s appeal. “This show is no different. You get to see extraordinary acrobatics blended so well with storytelling. You’re just immersed in this beautiful world, and then you get to see human beings do things that are almost impossible.”
Attendees will see “children” bouncing on beds that are actually trampolines, allowing members of the 52-person cast to do some stunning aerial acrobatics. They’ll see Mauro become a clown and join various circuses, at which point Corteo becomes carnivalesque, setting the stage for a series of juggling, suspended pole work, nail-biting group-horizontal-bar routines and all manner of other performances. At one point, a cast member (or “artist” as Cirque Du Soleil accurately calls them) spins hula hoops with every part of her body.
The original production of Corteo, created and directed by Swiss circus artist Daniele Finzi Pasca played to more than 200,000 people between April and May of 2005. In 2017, Cirque Du Soleil revived Corteo and retooled it slightly for an arena tour as opposed to a single-location big top.
“The role of artistic director is the operational side,” Tremblay says. “My job is to maintain the integrity of the original artistic creative director. It’s Daniele’s imagining, and it’s my job to make sure that we maintain that integrity through the length of the show.”
But in order to make Corteo a portable show, some minor changes had to be made.
“Corteo is one of the largest Cirque touring shows,” Tremblay says. “And with arena shows, it has to move on a weekly basis. So it’s about finding more efficiency in terms of the technical aspects of the stage and the rigging. How can we simplify it so that it can move every week?”
While the idea of a clown envisioning his death might not sound like a very family-friendly concept, Tremblay says that the tone of Corteo is celebratory, and that the show is for all ages.
“I think the subject matter has been dealt with very sensitively,” she posits. “The show is not dark, it’s very nostalgic. The opening line is, ‘I imagine my funeral,’ but then it becomes a celebration, and you see all of these people coming in to celebrate Mauro. He’s on a bed to start, but very quickly he’s up and interacting with people. So we don’t go into the death. At the end of the show when we say our final farewell to Mauro. It’s very open. It’s easy for children to watch it, and they can have their own interpretation of what they’re seeing.”
In fact, Tremblay’s own favorite part of the show hearkens back to an idea many of us have as children. Four women, representing the loves of Mauro’s life, perform aerial acrobatics on three chandeliers hanging over Mauro’s bed.
“One of the things that attracted me to the show was the opportunity to relive childhood fantasies, and to allow those fantasies to come to life onstage,” she says. “If you see a chandelier somewhere, there’s always this fantasy of being able to swing on it, and the show opens with that fantasy happening in front of you. That speaks to me personally. Getting to see that happen for real, it’s beautiful.”
What: Cirque Du Soleil: Corteo
Where: Colonial Life Arena, 801 Lincoln St.
When: July 10-14
More: 803-576-9200, coloniallifearena.com