by Steven Doyle
With beautiful and artful leaps into fantasy, Cirque du Soleil returns once again to the Dallas area with the traveling production of Varekai. The show begins with the Greek myth of Icarus, picking up where the myth leaves off, re-imagining the story of what happened to Icarus after he flew too close to the sun and fell from the sky. In Varekai, rather than drowning in the sea below him, Icarus lands in a lush forest full of exotic creatures.
Varekai is a critically-acclaimed production that has wowed over 8 million people worldwide since it first premiered in Montreal in 2002. Since then, Varekai has visited more than 72 cities in 20 different countries around the world. Now it has landed in Frisco.
Approximately 170 people travel with the Varekai tour; 125 are employees and the rest are spouses and children. The 125 employees who travel with the tour include 58 performers, 4 full-time teachers, 2 performance medicine therapists, 1 kitchen manager and 3 cooks.
The cast and crew is an international one, representing 26 nationalities. Cirque du Soleil’s literature names various character roles in the show, including Icarus, La Promise (The Betrothed), the Guide, the Skywatcher, the Limping Angel, La Toupie, and Candide.
Deep within a forest, at the summit of a volcano, exists an extraordinary world where something else is possible. A world called Varekai.
The sky lets go a solitary young man, and the story of Varekai begins. Parachuted into the shadows of a magical forest, a kaleidoscopic world imbued with fantastical creatures, a young man takes flight in an adventure both absurd and extraordinary. On this day at the edge of time, in this place of pure and undiluted possibility, begins an inspired incantation to a life rediscovered and to a newly found wonder in the mysteries of the world and the mind.
The word Varekai (pronounced ver·ay·’kie) means “wherever” in the Romany language of the gypsies—the universal wanderers. Written and directed by Dominic Champagne, this production pays tribute to the nomadic soul, to the spirit and art of the circus tradition, and to those who quest with infinite passion along the path that leads to Varekai.
Varekai emerges from an explosive fusion of drama and acrobatics. The impossible becomes possible in stunning displays of skill and power set against innovative music and otherworldly sets, interwoven with vivid choreography that speaks to all in the universal language of movement.
The pendulum of time sweeps backward, paying tribute to the ancient and rare circus traditions of Icarian games and Georgian dance. Varekai then catapults to the future with revolutionary twists on such acts as Russian swings and slippery surface.
The exciting acts you will enjoy include the following:
Flight of Icarus : Icarus performs dives and contortions in the net that holds him captive.
Icarian games : Foot-juggling is one of the oldest circus arts disciplines. The bearer lies on his back and twirls the voltigeur on his feet.
Aerial hoop : Suspended high above the stage or flying through the air on a hoop, a young woman performs a series of movements displaying her flexibility and strength.
Georgian dance : This act takes its inspiration from the national dance of the Lezgins, popular among many people in the Caucasus Mountains.
Slippery surface : Darting and sliding on a specially designed surface, the artists fling and catch each other, creating an illusion of skating.
Solo on crutches : Like a jointed puppet, the Limping Angel dances on crutches while background performers teeter on canes in a dance that reignites Icarus’s desire to fly again.
Aerial straps : Suspended by wrist straps, two performers glide above the stage, performing original acrobatic moves.
Juggling : A juggling virtuoso handles clubs, large balls, hats and ping-pong balls, manipulating them with his hands, his feet, his head and even his mouth.
Handbalancing on canes : The performer achieves a variety of contortions and poses while balancing on a series of canes.
Russian swings : Propelled by two Russian swings, acrobats are hurled high into the air, alighting on their partners’ wrists or on a landing canvas, sometimes even flying from one moving swing to the other.
Then there is the music
To create the musical score for Varekai, Violaine Corradi drew inspiration from the vast repertoire of world music. Each piece seems to evoke a meeting or juxtaposition of different cultures, which are not always identifiable.
Violaine Corradi combined the sounds of Hawaiian rituals, the songs of 11th-century troubadours from the south of France, traditional Armenian melodies and gospel music with contemporary arrangements to conjure up the unique musical universe of Varekai.
The 7-piece band includes a bandleader/keyboard player, a second keyboard player, drummer, percussionist, bassist, violinist and a wind instruments player and two singers—one male (The Patriarch) and one female (The Muse).
In almost all of Cirque du Soleil shows, the music is performed live. Unlike musicals, the music needs to adapt to what is going on on-stage and not the other way around. To do so, the band leader, the musicians, the singers and the sound staff are in constant communication via headsets and microphones during the show.
What: Varekai- the story of Icarus
When: February 19-23
Why: Varekai was once a Big Top performance only and has now been re-worked and re-done to fit into an arena show. Varekai is Romney-Gypsy for “Wherever” and is inspired by Russian, Romney-Gypsy culture from the set to the design of the costumes. Dominic Champagne, the writer and director of Varekai pays tribute to the nomadic soul, to the spirit and art of the circus tradition, and to those who quest with infinite passion along the path that leads to Varekai. Varekai catapults to the future with revolutionary twists on such acts as the Russian swings.
Where: Dr Pepper Arena 2601 Avenue of the Stars, Frisco
Find out what it is like to be a chef for Cirque Du Soleil with this interview we did a few years ago. We discuss what the cast dines on, too!