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Cirque Du Soleil: Varekai

Marc-Anthony Thomas is the Artistic Coordinator for Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai – a challenging role which involves keeping the show integrated despite a lengthy tour and changing artists, and yet ensuring that it’s always fresh. Here he talks to OUTinPerth’s Zoe Carter about the magic that has made Cirque du Soleil one of the world’s leading circuses.

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OUTinPerth: What does an artistic coordinator do for Varekai?

Marc-Anthony-Thomas: The artistic coordinator is like the artistic director. We are on the road full time. I work with the artists in keeping their show as high a quality as possible. We work with the artists on developing new tricks. When we bring in new artists, I’m the one who has to integrate them into the show.

OiP: Tell me a little about Varekai and what makes it special?

MT: High energy. The colours and costumes are quite bright – everything about this show is brighter than if you went to the last show that came through, Quidam which had a beautiful strong story but it has more of a darker texture to it compared to Varekai, which is brighter and more aggressive. 

It is kind of hard to say the highlights because if you see the acts themselves all of the acts can stand on their own because none of them are similar, from the aerial acts to acts that are on the ground. Each one is so strong in their own position. If you are more into dynamic and emotions and feeling, you will like some of our slower-paced acts that have more flow to it. If you are more into sports, you will like Icarian Act and the Russian Swings and the juggling act – the ones that are more up tempo and aggressive.

OiP: Do you have a personal favourite?

MT: Actually I don’t. I love them all for particular reasons. It is very hard for me because each one of the artists is so strong in their expertise. I love aerial acts because that’s my background – at the same time all the Acro things and the Russian swings are quite strong and mind-boggling. So, they fascinate me as well.

OiP:  I suppose you have to eat lunch with them all, so you can’t say…

MT: [laughs] That’s true. I work with them all, so it is hard to like one better than another when you are one of the initiators helping them create their acts to be stronger and better. You have to love them all because you are part of the evolution of them. The show does evolve constantly. It doesn’t stay the same and that is the joy of touring full time with them. If you see the show 4 or 5 months from now it will be different to what you see today.

OiP: What’s a day in the life of the circus like?

MT: When I come in usually at about 10, it’s just to do meetings on what’s happening for the next city as well as the rest of the tour and then meeting with all the coaches and physio people to see how everyone’s doing and if they’re feeling better and able to go back into the show, what we can do to get them to feel okay, meeting with other doctors etc. Then we do rehearsals, because to keep them up to the advanced acts that they do they have to constantly practice. Then there are the artistic and training exercises. Then it takes 3 hours for some to get their makeup on, and then they have to warm up for each one of their acts at least an hour minutes before they go on.

OiP: What impact has Cirque du Soleil had on production,theatre and circus around the world?

MT: Cirque du Soleil still has the components of a live circus show, being semi-in-the-round and having specialty acts. Looking at other circuses, I think you can see them realizing that they need to have more of a theme and not just the razzmatazz. It has to be more than that. I also think circus has brought into the entertainment or theatrical world an element of being able to do things to the extreme, allowing the mind to be broadened a bit. A lot of our songs are not in one language, so it really forces to allow themselves to imagine what is being said, what are the thoughts, what is really actually happening through their own interpretation.

OiP: Is there a real buzz around opening night and closing night?  

MT: There is definitely a big buzz on opening night. I would say Perth is kind of an exciting city because we have two of our staff are from Perth. Everyone is excited about taking the show to a town where people that we work with are from. So, there is already one large hype on that, the excitement on that. Also, just because it is our last city in Australia. We started in Sydney which was exciting because we were starting in Australia. To realize it’s over a year we have been here and it is finally wrapping up is kind of a milestone.

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