CIRQUE DU SOLEIL
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL'S OVO SHINES SPOTLIGHT ON INSECT WORLD
We’re used to dealing with insects of all kinds in Southwest Florida. But in late September a whole new collection of winged and multi-legged critters arrives at Germain Arena.
WE’RE USED TO DEALING WITH INSECTS OF ALL KINDS HERE IN SOUTHWEST FLORIDA. But at the end of September, a whole new collection of winged and multi-legged critters will arrive in the area. Don’t reach for the bug spray, though: These costumed creatures won’t bite or swarm. Instead, their mission is to entertain. That’s because they’re the stars of Cirque du Soleil’s newest touring arena show, OVO, which will be performed for the first time in Florida this fall. After visiting Orlando from Sept. 21 to 25, the show comes to Estero’s Germain Arena for performances Sept. 28 to Oct. 2. After Southwest Florida, the production will be in Jacksonville from Oct. 5 to 9.
If you’ve seen other Cirque du Soleil shows, OVO might not be quite what you’d expect. “Most of the shows are very magical and mystical and dark,” says Marjon van Grunsven, OVO’s artistic director. “OVO has a very clear storyline that young and old will understand. It’s very uplifting, very colorful and energetic.”
OVO takes the audience into the world of insects to tell what’s essentially a love story between the Ladybug and the Foreigner, a fly who comes onto the scene toting a mysterious egg. (“Ovo” means “egg” in Portuguese and comes from the Latin “ōvum.”) “The [bug] community is very intrigued by the egg, because they don’t know what’s inside,” notes van Grunsven. “And that’s what happens to the audience, too.”
But the other bugs aren’t so sure about this new guy, so they steal his egg and make him do all kinds of tests and tricks to prove his worth for the Ladybug. The lesson they learn about acceptance applies to more than just their critter collective.
“If you don’t accept each other for who they are, rather than judge people by their colors, then life is not good,” says van Grunsven. “I think that’s the underlying theme.”
SETTING THE SCENE
This journey toward acceptance provides all kinds of dazzling displays for the audience’s enjoyment. First performed in 2009, the show—Cirque du Soleil’s 25th live production—was inspired by a German documentary that gave viewers a close-up look at insects in action. “We thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we created an environment where the audience feels like it’s zooming into this world of insects?” explains van Grunsven.
The set is designed to give the audience a bug’s-eye view of the world. It features elements such as a 30-foot mechanical flower that towers over the insects, poles representing strands of flowers that performers climb throughout the show, and the aforementioned egg—which is inflatable and measures 28 feet wide by 22 feet tall. A 30-foot-high curved wall stretches across the back of the stage, which the performers climb, launch from and even disappear into.
A cast of 50 artists from 12 countries performs awe-inspiring acts that include red ants juggling kiwi and corn with their feet, a dragonfly that balances atop plants, a juggling firefly and a spider gracefully weaving a web. The show culminates in a dozen performers trampolining and running up and across that impressive wall.
“The wall act is one of the signature pieces in the show,” van Grunsven says. “It’s an incredible, crazy act at the end of the show.”
OVO was originally performed in a big top, and its move to arenas starting in April necessitated some changes. The wall increased in size, and projections were added to bring audiences closer to the show in the new, larger arena spaces. “We knew it all needed to be bigger,” reports van Grunsven. “We also added props on the arena floor, on which our artists sometimes perform or play. They come close to and play with the audience more than before.”
While it was a challenging endeavor, the move from big top to arena has proved invigorating as well. “What’s really exciting is that every arena has been so different,” says Nathanael Rivera Drydak, a trampolinist who plays one of the show’s crickets. “They’re all different in size, and I like that you never know what to expect. We’re adapting to our surroundings, and I think we’re all doing a great job at that.”
Dressing the Part
While OVO was inspired by actual insects, the show mixes in just as much fantasy as scientific fact. Take the costumes, for example.
They evoke more than imitate the creatures they represent.
“Some of the costumes are very clear and people recognize the insects instantly,” van Grunsven says. “But if you look at the fleas, they’re stunning costumes. But people won’t necessarily know right away that it’s a flea. Fleas are usually black; these fleas are bright yellow and red. Since it’s a fantasy story, we’re allowed to say we would like the fleas to look like this.”
A lifelong insect lover, costume designer Liz Vandal also drew upon her interest in futuristic superhero garb when creating the costumes for OVO. She used a variety of materials to create the effect of shells, wings and other insect parts, and techniques such as pleating to give the outfits depth and texture.
“The crickets have a really great sculptural, threedimensional look to their costumes, particularly regarding their legs,” notes Ellen Flatters, head of wardrobe for the OVO arena tour. “Visually, they’ve got a great impact.”
But it’s not just about looking cool and catching the eye. What the performers wear also helps the audience understand their characters and their role in the story.
“OVO HAS A VERY CLEAR STORYLINE THAT YOUNG AND OLD WILL UNDERSTAND. IT’S VERY UPLIFTING, VERY COLORFUL AND ENERGETIC.” —Marjon van Grunsven, OVO’s artistic director
“Costumes are always a very integral part to any show that you work on,” says Flatters. “They’re really important to telling the story, and the imagery conveys what’s going on on the stage.”
So for the beloved Ladybug, her costume is bright and cheerful. But the Foreigner’s costume represents the insects’ apprehension of the newcomer. “He’s wearing this blue and black costume with all of these amazing spik es coming out of him that’s incredible,” Flatters adds.
Makeup and accessories help complete the look, whether it’s a pair of long, pointy shoes or some kind of he adpiece. “The crickets wear these hoods with big bulbous eyes on the tip of their heads,” says Flatters. “It gives a great look to them.”
With all of the acrobatic feats that take place during the
show, the costumes have to prove as functional as they are beautiful. Most characters have two versions of their costumes, a lightweight one when performing and a more detailed version when they’re simply a member of the bug community.
And some of the insect accoutrements require a little bit of adaptation from their human wearers. “In the beginning the extra legs took some getting used to, especially when I was turning around,” says Drydak of his cricket costume. “I was bumping into things left and right at first, but now they’re kind of a part of me.”
And that’s important, with all of the jumping, climbing, bouncing and tumbling he does. “I get to be goofy,” he says. “Our characters are fun and silly. It’s fun to play such an interesting character.”
Reaching the Audience
Like other Cirque du Soleil shows, OVO features live musicians providing the soundtrack. “It wouldn’t be a real Cirque show if it didn’t have live music,” says van Grunsven.
But instead of the shows’ typically mystical, contemporarystyle music, OVO marches to a Brazilian beat, inspired by writer/ director Deborah Colker’s Brazilian upbringing. “She wanted to do something different so that people would stand on their feet at the end of the show and just dance,” van Grunsven adds.
The show also offers a different perspective on the insect world, depicting it as something to be admired rather than feared or repulsed by. “Personally, I was not a big fan of bugs,” admits Drydak. “But the show absolutely brings out the beauty of the insect world.”
Will it change anyone’s mind about bugs? Though that’s not a specific mission of the show, it is a possible side benefit. “Insects do help preserve our planet,” says van Grunsven. “So I like to think it’s a little underlying message. Maybe the next time you see a creepy crawler on the floor, you don’t immediately kill it.”
But whether they become insect lovers or not, audience members should leave OVO feeling happy and entertained, no matter what their age. “If you look at the younger generation, what I’ve seen and think is fantastic is that kids go home and want to learn how to become a cricket,” says van Grunsven. “It’s inspiring for children, because they can relate to the story so well.
“For the middle or older generations,” she continues, “it’s an unforgettable experience to just be able to forget about your daily life routine and come in and be mesmerized by these amazing visuals you get and the feeling that anything really is possible. As we get older we stop dreaming a bit. But people shouldn’t stop believing in their dreams and working toward achieving what their desires are.”
After all, if a ladybug and fly can find love, isn’t there a chance that any dream can come true?
INSTEAD OF THE SHOWS’ TYPICALLY MYSTICAL, CONTEMPORARY-STYLE MUSIC, OVO MARCHES TO A BRAZILIAN BEAT.
Marjon van Grunsven
OVO introduces audiences to a colorful community of insects that perform all kinds of awe-inspiring juggling, balancing and tumbling feats.
Cirque du Soleil’s 25th live production, OVO gives the audience a bug’s-eye view of the world and features a cast of 50 artists from 12 countries.
One of the signature set pieces of the show, a 30-foot-tall curved wall stretches across the back of the stage, providing a place for performers to climb, launch from and even disappear into.