Montreal Gazette: “Behind the Scenes at KURIOS”

Behind every Cirque du Soleil show, there’s a village bustling with activity. Kurios — The Cabinet of Curiosities is no exception. During a recent backstage visit down at the Old Port, we spoke with a juggler, a percussionist, a conductor, and Michel Laprise, director of Kurios.

Entering the lounge and workout room behind the stage, we walked past Colombian acrobat James Gonzalez Corre, who was balancing on a board on top of a cylinder while standing on a swing. Others were stretching their muscles or testing equipment.

Percussionist Christa Mercey, from Elmira, Ont., offered a look inside the show’s tiny “percussion pit” filled with multiple tools to set the beat. On the way, I spotted four Siberian contortionists rehearsing their act and took a sneak peak at the invisible man, or rather the costume that suggests his presence. In Kurios, Mercey, a graduate of the University of Toronto (in percussion performance), plays the role of Bella Donna in a group act that combines drumming (on various objects, like suitcases, chairs and tables) with juggling. This is Mercey’s first circus, but she’s no stranger to the road. “For the last eight years, I’ve been on tour with a group called Scrap Arts Music from Vancouver,” she said. “I toured all over the world with them.” As Bella Donna, she wears a side-angled Victorian hat that requires multiple pins to stay in place.

Juggler Gabriel Beaudoin said he spent nine years training for his craft, five at the École de cirque de Québec in Quebec City, then four at the École nationale de cirque in Montreal. Joining the circus wasn’t his childhood dream, Beaudoin said. “I just wanted to find a passion. That’s what my parents wanted me to do, too. Circus is a good mix of everything. It’s athletic, it’s also really creative. It’s a mix of art and sport. That’s what I needed.” At 21, Beaudoin is the youngest performer in Kurios. Now he has a two-year contract that’s going to take him around the world.

Of 46 performers in this cast, 14 are Russian, six Ukrainian, and one is from Belarus. The man who plays the central character of Le Chercheur (Antonio Moreno) refused an interview, indicating he spoke neither French nor English, only Spanish.

In the narrative of Kurios, as told by Laprise, Le Chercheur, a scientist, is on a quest. He creates a machine to travel into another dimension to find the place where the possible and the impossible meet. Only his plan backfires. “The reverse happens,” Laprise explained, “And we have people from the other dimension who come into his world and they transform his world into poetry.”

It’s the mystical side of Kurios that appeals to conductor Marc Sohier, as well as the music itself, composed by Raphaël Beau and two guys named Bill and Bob. Sohier spent 14 years touring as band leader for the Cirque’s Saltimbanco. “I did 3,600 shows, everywhere on the planet, almost,” he said. What he likes about Kurios is that there’s a move away from synthesizers and soundtracks. “The style of the music is electro-swing from the beginning of the century,” he said. “It’s a bit jazzy. Nice music for musicians because you play for real. They want real stuff now, acoustic instruments. There’s violin, cello, accordion, acoustic guitar, banjo and a real drum instead of an electronic one.”

{ SOURCE: Montreal Gazette | }

And it all adds up to a circus named Kurios.