Cirque du Soleil: Going behind the scenes at family-friendly Dubai show

Renowned circus company prepares for first heart-racing performance of Ovo in the city

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An excited energy is palpable at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai, as Cirque du Soleil prepares to hit the stage on Thursday.

The Canadian circus troupe are set to perform the family-friendly show Ovo, Portuguese for egg, at the 17,000-capacity venue, with performances until Wednesday next week. The performance, which is a must for little ones, portrays a vibrant imitation of the life of insects: think crickets, butterflies, spiders and ladybugs.

Featuring 100 crew members from 25 countries, the show will be brought to life by 52 performers on stage, as they tumble, jump and perform jaw-dropping acrobatics in surreal costumes.

“The butterflies are aerial strap artists flying above the stage, the crickets are bouncing off the walls via trampolines, the spiders are contortionists or climbs ropes — all the qualities of these insects will be incorporated with acrobatics,” says Janie Mallet, the show's publicist on tour. “And then there's a love story."

Cruising with 27 containers

Performers aside, Ovo features an intricately designed stage and backdrop, with all components flown alongside the team as they tour the world. From the tall poles and technical grids, which some of the lights are attached to, to the panels that make up the structure, everything is mobile.

“Everything you will see here, we travel with around the world. We take 27 containers that we put either ships or trucks, depending on where we go,” Mallet tells The National. “The set is complicated and sophisticated.”

The stage floor is made of 225 panels, and there's a large wall attached to the rear of the stage, where some of the artists perform acrobatics.

Ovo was first staged in 2009 in Montreal. It is one of the best-travelled shows of Cirque du Soleil and has been seen by more than seven million people in 155 cities in 26 countries. Cirque du Soleil has recently finished shows in Riyadh and Kuwait, and will head to Cairo after Dubai.

“The biggest challenge of staging a show like this is adaptation. We travel around the world, and it's always a different environment. We go into different venues every week, so we have to adapt to several technical aspects: what's the ceiling height? Do they have dark curtains?” Mallet explains.

Training and a travelling gym

Physical antics underscore all Cirque du Soleil shows, which require serious training and strict safety measures.

Training involves everything from cardio to strength, which is why the company also brings its own gym, complete with barbells and other fitness equipment, as well as two performance medicine therapists.

The travelling gym backstage for Cirque du Soleil performers. Pawan Singh / The National

Depending on the act, performers follow individual training routines to target specific parts of their bodies. All the artists have a professional training background, with some joining the circus as early as nine years old. The current Ovo cast also has two Olympians.

'There's everything for everyone'

The two-hour show is created for all ages, from the exhilarating jumps and tumbles to the set design and visually stunning costumes.

The music, by award-winning Brazilian composer Berna Ceppas, draws inspiration from bossa nova, samba, funk and electronic music. As a nod to Brazilian culture, there is a lot of percussion in the musical score. Ceppas also incorporates insect sounds to bring the show's theme to life.

The seven-piece band includes a bandleader-drummer, bass and double bass players, a percussionist, violinist, wind instruments player, keyboardist, guitarist and singer.

Ovo opens on Thursday and runs until January 18. Tickets start at Dh116 from dubai.platinumlist.net

Updated: January 12, 2023, 4:55 AM
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