A Dream of Mexico with Visions of Water and Light
Cirque du Soleil is the epitome of entertainment. Yes, it’s a circus but it’s so much more. Every performance is top-notch. I had the opportunity to sit down with Benjamin Courtenay, aerial straps artist performer to find out how much hard work goes into each one of the performances in Atlanta until November 19. Grab a seat under Le Grand Chapiteau before they roll all 65 trucks out of town.
Luzia is a special rendition because of the way that water is incorporated into the show. The stage is specially perforated with holes so that the water can drain back into the pool it’s built over. The stage floor is covered in sand and then painted and that along with special shoes keeps the performers from slipping as they run and dance across the floor. The name of the show Luzia comes from a combination of the Spanish words luz and lluvia, light and rain respectively. They do some amazing things with water in this show and I won’t go into great detail at the risk of spoiling the beautiful surprises.
One of the most breathtaking performances is from Benjamin Courtenay on the straps. He works over a pool with a trapdoor that is inspired by the cenote, a naturally occurring sinkhole that the Mayans believed to be a window to the afterlife. He portrays a demigod that interacts with a realistic jaguar puppet, trying to earn the animal’s trust. It’s been Ben’s dream to work in a Cirque du Soleil production since he saw the show “Alegria” as a child.
SFL: What’s your background in acrobatics? How do you transition from doing gymnastics as a child to performing in the world’s best circus?
Ben: I grew up in Vancouver and started in gymnastics. I really enjoyed it until around age 10 when it got to be too competitive. Then I started in the local circus before going on to train at the college level at the Montreal National Circus School. At the end of the course when I earned my degree, there were auditions and I got this job with the Cirque du Soleil. And they asked me if I’d be comfortable doing what I do in water.
SFL: How difficult is it to work in the the water? How different is it from your usual work with the straps?
Ben: I was able to work the concept nearly from the beginning. It’s a completely new concept. I was able to offer tips like at first it was freezing cold in the pool. They were able to warm it up a bit. Little things like the costumes: the weight of the water makes them heavy and a little more slippery. I’ve learned to work with the water rather than against it.
SFL: Is your show the same from night to night?
Ben: I’ve been working on this concept for nearly two years and doing this particular piece for almost eight months. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to tweak the show in small ways to keep it fresh, new and interesting. I’m always trying new tricks and working them into the show. It’s lots of fun!
SFL: What are you looking forward to during the run in Atlanta?
Ben: Great food! We actually got here just in time for the opening because of delays from hurricane season. But we’ve already been to the Vortex and Mary Mac’s Tea Room.
You can’t tell at a glance but Ben is quite the fan of fried chicken. If you have a recommendation for some great South Fulton delicacies or experiences that the cast of Luzia need to try, please let me know at EMitchell@LifestylePubs.com or on our social media using the hashtag #SoFuCirque.
From the color to the music to the costumes, Luzia is exhilarating throughout, from the moment you take your seat until the applause at the end. Besides Benjamin’s poetic work, my favorite part was the Running Lady and her stunning monarch wings and the cyr hoop acrobat. It was simply beautiful, a portrait of the many facets, symbols and cultures of Mexico.