Bonita & Estero Magazine - - FEATURES -

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.”


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.


“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?


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.

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