Wednesday evening, we went to the Cirque du Soleil. Thanks to M. Fontaine who graciously offered us ten tickets, we could attend the show Totem. Each and and every act was more astonishing than the other. However, what we most appreciated was the special backstage visit led by Jean-Sébastien Gagnon. We could gain sone insight on how technology is used at the Cirque du Soleil to help produce even more marvelous shows.
Students in construction were pleased to see the freestanding giant marquee dome. Due to the high risk of hearthquakes in Japan, a conventionnal marquee would be too dangerous. To circumvent the problem, they made a partership with the company Fuji which provides them a mastless structure. All the weight of the materials hanged to the roof is then supported by the structure itself.
Another technical innovation: the illuminating, rechargeable, remotely controlled and color-changing balls. It is nice to know these balls were designed in Quebec. Hundreds of thousands dollars were spent to research the approriate material properties, the suitable brightness and all the technical requirements to ensure a flawless act.
The stage is a prowess of technology. A metallic plate was installed in the middle of the stage and could retract under as a garage door would. It would reveal a trampoline and could also serve as a storage compartment. There was also a structure weighting more than three tons that could be lifted with cables and help close to the roof while not in use. A part of the stage also had an articulated bridge that could be controlled to serve multiple purposes, such as an access ramp, a simulated boat or an entry from under the stage.
We were also impressed by all the security measures adopted to reduce the risk of accidents. The cables have a security factor of 500, meaning they can support a much more heavy load than what they have to. Numerous dispositives were put into place to ensure artists will not get hurt by all the automation used on stage.
There are plenty of really important details that we do not really notice while watching the show. When moving to a new location, the whole stage and all the accessories need to be packed and shipped by plane or boat (oftentimes more than one plane) or they will choose to store the materials for the next time perform in that country. Then, when they arrive on the new site, they will need to reajust the stage at level and recalibrate the cables zeros to ensure that they are adapted to the new stage and that the artists will be at a safe height to perforn their acrobatics.
Unfortunately time is running fast and we don’t have enough to tell you all. Whether it’s the opening stage, the rising bridge or the controller embeded in a paddle, the different acts of the show all depend on engineers’ creativity. Stay in touch for more information on our next visit, until then konnichiwa!