Yesterday evening, thanks to strong connections with the Cirque du Soleil community, all 29 Smirkus troupers, their counselors, and a handful of Smirkus staff were able to see the show at the Marine Industrial Park in Boston. Troupers were impressed by the precision and tremendous amount of talent exhibited by the cast of 52 performers in the Cirque du Soleil’s “Totem.”
“Totem” is one of Cirque du Soleil’s 21 productions and one of six worldwide touring shows. The official website describes the live performance inside the towering blue and yellow tent as “a fascinating journey into the evolution of mankind.”
Following the performance, Creative Manager Jeff Lund and juggler Greg Kennedy met with Smirkus troupers in the house auditorium where they answered questions about the professional lifestyle, the working atmosphere of Cirque du Soleil, and some of the intricacies of a professional traveling circus often not privy to the public.
Mr. Lund and Mr. Kennedy also explained the audition process. All performers submit audition tapes for review by the creative team well in advance and then select candidates for live auditions. Many of the performers on tour with Totem are on a one-year contract due to the strenuousness and intensity of the performance.
“We are looking to take not only new talent but also talent to replace the 52 performers onstage.” Mr. Lund said.
Following the Q-and-A session, both Lund and Kennedy invited their guests from Smirkus backstage for a seldom-seen glimpse inside a world-famous traveling circus. After walking around the massive stage and rigging towers, Smirkus troupers and staff were escorted into the immediate backstage area where performers warm-up, change into costumes, relax, and even receive any necessary care and attention by the two full-time physiologists that travel with the troupe.
Totem is a massive mobile operation with 120 touring employees and 50 accompanying members (spouses and family), meaning a total of 170 people on the road around the road. Considering the amenities needed for this number of people, Cirque du Soleil provides all of their touring members with doctors, kitchen and laundry facilities, and even a school of three teachers for the six children traveling with the tour. “It’s a small village,” Mr. Lund said.
Mr. Kennedy was highly complimentary of the systems in place for him and his family.
“It was actually the most pleasant surprise,” he said. “My kids are getting a full education and are even learning French now. They’ll be bilingual.”
The Smirkus party had their picture taken backstage with performers. Before leaving, Mr. Lund told the young troupers: “You guys are the up-and-coming talent that we’ll need,” he said. “And if that’s what you want then go for it.”
While walking back to the vans, trouper Bekk McGowan described his experience, saying that after hearing what other professionals had to say, he felt more confident in the direction he hopes to take his talent.
“It’s Cirque du Soleil, so there’s always so much to expect.” He said. “But they take anyone with any kind of dance or gymnastic background and teach them all kinds of things. At Smirkus, we’ve got a great background in so much more.”