Cirque du Soleil has long stunned audiences with the sheer human effort on display at its shows. Now the company rediscovers its origins with its eighth Big Top show to tour Australia. A return to the intimate and fundamental human elements of circus, KOOZA combines heart-stopping acrobatic performance with the art of clowning. Steering the international cast of 50 acrobats, musicians, singers and actors is artistic director Ron Kellum, who has made a move from away from his professional roots to join the thrilling world of circus arts. Blank GC’s cultural editor Natalie O’Driscoll asked Ron a few questions in the lead up to their Australian show dates.
You have quite a diverse background. What unique touches do you think your experience brought to the production?
In many ways, I’ve been preparing for this job since I was a kid: I did gymnastics and cheerleading before becoming a professional performer, so to now find myself referring to all these skills I’ve picked up over the year and applying that knowledge in my capacity as the Artistic Director is just incredible. So I understand the human body in movement so well and can relate to artists, who are really the best in the world at what they do, and provide them with the support they need to deliver a great production.
Coming from a predominantly sports entertainment and musical theatre background, what surprises did the Cirque experience hold for you as a director?
Cirque Du Soleil has been around since 1984, so this company is a very well-oiled machine with their own unique procedures and daily operating manners, many of which are based in tradition. So when my team and I, along with the artists, are setting up and tearing down the site at the beginning and end of each city, it comes as quite the surprise just how hands on everyone is while on tour with Cirque – we are one big family and we all muscle in together.
What are some of the behind-the-scenes challenges that the public may not realise go on in the making of a show such as this?
The show will often have last minute changes due to the nature of live performance with acrobats at the peak of their game – so while the show must start at 8pm, I could be reorganizing an entire act just minutes before the curtain goes up. We always deliver the best show possible, however, and this rapid change environment is what makes this job so interesting in fact.
Can you still sit in an audience and get lost watching musical theatre or circus, despite being familiar with the inner workings?
Absolutely. When live performance is done right with exceptional talent, it can be transcendental; a night at the theatre can be a life changing event, hugely inspirational and transformational. This is what we aim to accomplish on Kooza and our stellar cast manages to take 2,500 individuals on that journey with every show.
How would you describe KOOZA to someone who may have never seen anything like a Cirque production before?
Kooza is a hark back to traditional circus. We take acrobatics and clowning and infuse them with some Cirque magic: dramatic lighting, amazing musical accompaniment with an eight-member live band, incredible costumes and sets, and jaw-dropping, gravity-defying acrobatic feats which will just leave you astounded and asking how on earth that is humanly possible. Over the past 30 plus years, we have found the groove of putting together game changing shows, KOOZA is an homage to our traditions while being a lens through which we can see how far we still have to go.
KOOZA comes to Brisbane from November 24 2016, Skygate Brisbane Airport (near DFO)
Tickets at www.cirquedusoleil.com/kooza or by phone on toll free 1800 036 685.
IMAGE (c) Pablo Albarenga