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Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia” takes us on a trip to a Mexico Waking Dream “México despertando sueño”


It is inspiring that Cirque du Soleil's new event is home to two San Francisco acrobats artists from the Pickle Family Circus. LUZIA takes you to an imaginary Mexico, in a waking dream, where light quenches the spirit and rain drenches the soul. The sparkling awe-inspiring spectacle kicked off its U.S. premiere under the Grand Tent set up at AT&T Park, and runs through the Jan 29th here in San Francisco. Then “LUZIA” makes a splash at San Jose’s Taylor Street Bridge site Feb. 9th to March 19th. Brother and sister Devin and Marta Henderson had second thoughts about the bird costumes they wear in Cirque du Soleil’s “LUZIA.” The SF natives were both interviewed by Leslie Katz for the SF Examiner and said “We’re used to diving through hoops in clothes that stay close to the skin,” says Devin, 26, mentioning how feathers and other accoutrements add as many as 10 pounds – something to which they adjusted. “The creative process was very interesting,” says Marta, 25. The Mexican themes from LUZIA are close to the Hendersons, who grew up in Noe Valley, and who scored their first professional gig in this grand event.

The two hour show is breathtaking and as all Cirque du Soleil performances have accomplished, this is the best eyecandy of the season. Forty-four artists, from 15 different countries, come together to take the audience into a world of a dream, water, color and a first rate theater experience. The program notes tell us: Inspired by Mexico, LUZIA is a poetic and acrobatic ode to the rich, vibrant culture of a country whose wealth stems from an extraordinary mix of influences and creative collisions – a land that inspires awe with its breathtaking landscapes and architectural wonders. The name LUZIA fuses the sound of “luz” or light in Spanish and “lluvia” rain, two elements at the heart of the show’s creation.

Walking into the LUZIA village begins your evening through the Cirque’s latin circus street plaza, and into the Big Top tent; the waking dream setting resembles an old travelling circus. And although the popcorn, and colours may look like a traditional circus show, nothing about LUZIA is traditional. From the moment we are seated, members of Waking Dream, fully dressed in costume run among the crowd in a gleeful manner. As the lights dim, and our main character begins to descend from above, Luzia successfully lands us in Mexico, keeping us there for just under two and a half hours.

Visionary Director Daniele Finzi Pasca, with co-writer Julie Hamelin Finzi, has a fully realized polished style that honors an ode to myths and color of the history and splendor of Mexico. The design of the show for the most part happens on a huge turntable that is turned on with huge key at the open of the show. The costume and lighting team designs by Eugenio Cabalero, Giovanna Buzzi and Martin Labrecque, are more than stunning and extravagant, but it moves you to cheers. The opening night sold out crowd was thrilled at every turning point of LUZIA.

The latin/folk inspired score by Simon Carpentier has that authentic tone yet a upbeat sound that at times keeps you moving in your seat. Co-written and directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, associate direction by Brigitte Poupart, under the guidance of Guy Laliberté and Jean-François Bouchard from the base of Cirque du Soleil. Mexico culture and art provided the inspiration for LUZIA, one of its goals is to inspire people about Mexican passion and creativity. The creative team uses many metaphors, such as the woman with large gossamer wings running on a conveyor belt and opens the show and from the get go captures your imagination.

In doing some research about the subtext of the wings, it explains a reference to the monarch butterflies that migrate annually from Canada and the U.S. to Mexico, the running was a nod to the Tarahumara indigenous people, famous for their running skills, and the fact that the runner was a woman was a reference to strong matriarchal aspects of Mexican society. It is beautiful and as the crew clears off the on stage live gardens it mesmerized the opening night audience.

Director of Creation Patrical Ruel said “noticing all the allusions isn’t necessary for the audience - We’re not trying to teach people about Mexico. We want them to get a feeling for it, to be inspired - I am so passionate about Mexico that it was very natural for me to do this project, which was very much inspired by the richness of Mexican culture,” says Ruel, “We are always looking for something new, something you have never seen before, something unseen, - that’s the Cirque specialty, the impossible.” The goal of LUZIA is to inspire audiences about Mexico, so much that the Mexican government put up US $47.7 million in sponsorship money, an investment that will help support the show’s presentation in 450 cities around the world over the next seven years. But news of the funding sparked protests from Mexican artists who argued that money could have been better spent making work by and for people within the country.

There is no mariachi music in the score, but instead “an international sound with a Mexican vibe,” in the words of composer Simon Carpentier. But I did find the open mountain sound and what you might hear on the streets of many of the small hill top villages a more folk inspired drum driven score that really works well. LUZIA is full of emotions, it is not about a plot. It’s a series of scenes, flowing seamlessly from one to the next. Hoop diving, wheel and trapeze, hand balancing, football dance and thirteen additional grand acts. The music and culture carry the theme throughout, while the speed and powerful imagery captivates the audience. If you’ve travelled to Mexico City in the past, this is the historical city the producers have created. The sights and sounds of its mythology are delivered in a high-energy performances.

One of the added “WOW” elements in this US premiere tour is the clever use of water.. According to Company Manager, Heather Reilly nearly 2,000 gallons of water is dumped throughout the production. Their is no drought in mexico or in the creative world of LUZIA. The water becomes a character on stage - taking human form and becoming a playground for the Dutch clown Eric “Fool” Koller who acts as host. The lost traveler,Koller, is the audience’s guide to LUZIA as he interacts with audience and attempts to fill up his canteen from the many water dumps on stage. Koller is one of the funnier Soleil clowns, his stage comic timing becomes a conduit for the show’s infectious moments, as he stands awestruck at the beauty of silhouettes projected onto a water curtain. The set and props design is by Oscar-winning art director, Eugenio Caballero, and projection design by Johnny Ranger.

Artistic director Mark Shaub says “that the goal of the show was not to take any cliched view of Mexico but to introduce people of aspects of Mexican culture that they may not be aware of.” Cirque Du Soleil describes the production; “as inviting the audience into an Aztec dream where it is believable to see guitarists with crocodile heads or women draped in iguana shawls”. The skydivers who open the experience with seagulls in the air that arrive from the audience as hoop divers and the rolling treadmill bring a horse to life. The festival of sorts is in constant motion that is the brand of Cirque performances, and LUZIA brings it to an extraordinary level.

The combination of acts, and the sheer difference in the beautifully designed sets and costumes, makes it hard to look away. Especially when the contortionist takes the stage, while candles are glowing, twisting his body in unimaginable turns at such ease. But the most impressive part of Luzia is the use of rain and water in its set. From a still pool – that somehow disappears fairly quickly – Your inner child will smile at the sheer joy of fun and dare on stage, and the adult in us will marvel at the challenges of the human body.

Forget everything you know about a circus, Cirque du Soleil’s LUZIA redefines the dream, and it is taking us on a trip for a brilliant theatrical experience that on every level is impressive. As LUZIA weaves through the landscapes of Mexico, and the live music fills the tent, the event will leave you wanting more. Of course the close ends with a high kicking on stage party with the entire company that is so inviting that the audience is on their feet set to roll on stage with the players. It would be amazing to see this enage more of a community audience that could afford the ticket price but the producers do their best to make it as open as possible. “A dream of Mexico” and a night you won’t forget.

México despertando sueño

Cirque du Soleil Presents


Directed by Daniel Finzi Pasca, Writer and Director Daniele Finzi Pasca

Score by Simon Carpentier, Director of Creation Patrical Ruel

At the Big Top, Third Street, S.F.

8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 4:30 and 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays,

plus Dec. 21-22, Dec. 28-29; 1:30 and 5 p.m. most Sundays; closes Jan. 29

Moves to San Jose’s Taylor Street Bridge

Feb. 9th 2017 to March 19th 2017

Two Hours with a 30 min intermission

Tickets: $55 to $310

Photo’s by Laurence Labat



*The Hendersons interview from SF Examiner by Leslie Katz

*Creative team interviews from The Mexico News Daily | Friday, May 6, 2016

*Patricia Ruel interview from THE SAN JOSE MERC INTERVIEW By KAREN D'SOUZA

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