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Dubai: When acrobats transform to bugs, crickets, butterflies and more

Art, music and magic await at Cirque du Soleil’s show Ovo, a performance themes around insects and a tribute to the beauty of biodiversity

Dubai, are you ready to create a unique and immersive experience for all the senses? Think bewitching acrobatic feats and creative costumes, with artists playing insects — bugs, crickets, butterflies, et al — and aspiring to create a hypnotic ambience and taking audiences on a dreamlike journey to celebrate the beauty of biodiversity. For Cirque du Soleil’s show Ovo has made its way to (11-18 January) Dubai (Coca-Cola Arena), and it's interesting to note that since its opening in Montreal, Canada (in 2009), Ovo has been seen by more than seven million people. Cirque du Soleil , the contemporary dance and circus performance,has redefined how the world views the circus; from small town talent to a household name. What to expect from Ovo? Learn from the excerpts from our conversation with Janie Mallet, senior publicist on tour with OVO by Cirque du Soleil.

Overwhelming numbers

  • To complete the look, each artist learns how to apply their character makeup, which takes them between 30 to 90 minutes every day

  • The production travels with 27 containers to bring the show around the world.

  • They employ 100 local crew/stage hands to load in and out of each venue (as you can imagine, it is an immense operation that requires detailed logistics)

  • The large stage is covered in video projections and lights, with a seven-piece live band playing during the show

  • And yes, overall, there are 52 artists on stage… something to please everyone in the family

Acrobatic feats and creative costumes, how do such shows come alive?

Interestingly enough, many of our challenges are also driving forces and highlights of the show. For example, our show is themed around insects. One of the unique features — and also one of the biggest challenges — was discovering ways to transform our acrobats into bugs! After a lot of research, we created multiple characters that each have their own unicity inspired by different species: our crickets are tumblers and trampolinists that bounce everywhere, our butterflies are aerial straps artists that fly above the stage, our spiders contorts in their web as contortionist and rope artists! Another challenge is one that is closely tied to the first… and it’s the costumes. Not only were they inspired by the different insects, they also needed to be well adapted for each circus discipline. For example, while a clown may be able to wear a large headpiece and full costume, an aerialist will need a light costume that doesn’t weigh much and keeps bare wrists or ankles. Each costume is made at our (Cirque du Soleil) headquarters in Montreal, Canada and is custom fitted for every artist.

How are the artists selected to be part of the show?

All of our 52 artists are professionals in their fields, whether that’s being an acrobat, a singer, a clown, or a musician. We hold auditions throughout the world and many of them have used our online database to submit their portfolios and show interest in working for the company. Our artists need to be very versatile as they sometimes take part in choreographies on stage, need to be able to improvise, to move well, and learn to apply their own makeup. That said, as we are always looking for innovative and creative acts, it sometimes happens that a video seen online will catch the attention of our casting department.

I think there is space for many different types of art, but I do believe nothing can replace live performances. When you come to see this show, you will hear the acrobats breathing, and giving each other cues as they are high up in the air above the stage. This proximity, and the fact that you can’t press ‘pause’ adds a lot of excitement for the audience. Seeing kids with stars in their eyes as they leave the building just proves that there’s something magical when you experience an immersive live performance.

Janie Mallet, senior publicist on tour with OVO by Cirque du Soleil

Live performances are a whole lot of sweat and real-time vs. productions we see on OTT platforms. As artists, who perform live in front of an audience, what is their take on the rise of OTT platforms?

That’s right, a lot of sweat and hard work goes into our live performances, both on stage and backstage. For our artists, this is a way of life. Many of them started training at a young age and continue training every single day. Sharing their hard-earned accomplishments, their passion and their art with the audience is their reward and often, the dream of a lifetime.

What can the audiences take home from this show?

Our mission is to invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of people around the world… and I dare say that’s what we hope you will take away when you come to see us in Dubai. We hope everyone is inspired by this journey into our vibrant and colourful colony, that our acrobatic bugs leave all speechless with emotions, and that everybody creates lasting memories.


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