Cirque Artistic Director Reveals the Magic Behind CRYSTAL

Cirque du Soleil’s artistic director has spoken about the thrills, challenges, and behind-the-scenes antics of their latest groundbreaking show CRYSTAL.

Brisbane-born Rob Tannion, who has spent 26 years overseas and recently returned to his roots, expressed immense joy at the company’s grand return to Oz.

It’s been a remarkable journey since their last Sydney performance of KURIOS back in 2019.

‘Everything’s going well, rehearsals are on track, and everyone’s in high spirits. It’s bucket-list moments for many,’ he told Daily Mail Australia. The show, specifically created for arenas, promises an immersive 270-degree viewing experience, ensuring there’s not a bad seat in the house.

Tannion promises a show designed to encapsulate the entirety of the audience. ‘It’s about the connection between the performer and the audience,’ he shared. But this isn’t just any show – it’s Cirque du Soleil’s very first acrobatic show on ice, making the stakes extraordinarily high.

With performers doing risky acrobatics on ice, the challenge is magnified. ‘There’s a perceived danger,’ Tannion explained. ‘We’re doing high-level acrobatics on ice, and all shoes have around 40 spikes underneath to help them. The integration process for performing over ice is complex.’

‘Imagine being told to execute complex acrobatic feats on ice. The danger is always there, and it’s a challenge our artists have risen to splendidly,’ he chuckled.

Having joined the company in 2019, Tannion has dedicated his heart and soul to Crystal. Later this year, he’ll transition to a ‘big top’ show, offering a different perspective on the Cirque experience. The magic doesn’t solely rest on the aerial acrobatics or death-defying stunts, but in the narrative of the show and the universality of its appeal.

‘You can be anywhere in the world and still be able to tell a story,’ Tannion beamed.

With 25 nationalities and 23 language groups involved, the rehearsal could be in English, Spanish, or French. ‘We all speak circus,’ Tannion said, a testament to the universality of their art.

But what goes into maintaining the magic?

‘My role as the Artistic Director is really ensuring the show’s quality,’ he added. From managing technical glitches to sudden injuries, Tannion’s role is to ensure that every performance is nothing short of spectacular. A true backstage maestro, he has multiple show versions ready to adapt to any unforeseen challenge.

Asked about the challenges and pressures, Tannion admitted the stressful moments are backstage and the goal is to remain calm, clear, and ensure seamless communication with the entire team. When the curtains close and the audience leaves with awe in their eyes, that’s the real reward for him.

Given Tannion’s rich dance background and experience in choreography and direction, he’s no stranger to the performing arts. ‘[Joining the circus] was an accident,’ he laughed. ‘But working with a giant like Cirque du Soleil, the ability to weave narratives that transcend boundaries and languages is a remarkable experience.’

Tannion also shed light on his role as Artistic Director, one that sounds just as thrilling as the high-flying stunts on stage. ‘It’s about ensuring that every performance is seamless, spectacular, and of the highest quality. There are times when we have mere seconds to adjust and adapt, but when the audience leaves with ‘that was amazing’ on their lips, it’s all worth it.’

Indeed, the circus may seem like pure magic, but for Tannion and his team, it’s a combination of meticulous planning, an intimate knowledge of the show, and, of course, a whole lot of passion.

Dazzling acrobat Harley McLeish also spilled the beans on the magic behind the show, his icy adventures, and a journey that began with a school newsletter. For Harley, the acrobat, slipping into ice skates was a chilly challenge. ‘Everybody’s tried ice skating at one point or another. And you think, yeah, I can do it,’ Harley chuckles. But meeting the figure skaters made him realise, ‘We don’t know what we’re doing.’

Thankfully, their icy counterparts were more than willing to help. ‘It’s a fun thing to add into the repertoire,’ Harley beams, reminiscing about the couple of months of skating classes they had.

Juggling Dreams: Circus Calling from Childhood!

The call of the circus echoed early for Harley. Starting with juggling and walking on stilts in a youth circus at 10, it wasn’t long before he was trading university dreams for global circus tours. ‘By the time I finished high school, that’s it,’ he recalls. China to Montreal, Harley’s circus journey has taken him across continents and amidst some of the best talents. ‘It’s an amazing team that we have,’ he enthuses.

Ice-Tumbles, Show Jitters, and Behind-the-Scenes Rituals!

For all his prowess on stage, Harley candidly admits that it wasn’t always smooth sailing. The anxiety before performances was real, often leaving him feeling sick. But the magic begins the moment he steps on stage. ‘Once you’re out there, you don’t have time to be stressed,’ he says, emphasising the importance of training and repetition.

Oh, and for those curious about those icy falls? Harley admits to a few slips but credits his shoes with spikes (crampons) for preventing any major tumbles. ‘My job is to stand on the ground and stop other people taking big falls,’ he grins.

{ SOURCE: The Daily Mail }