Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011
How Dralion artists make it all look so easy
By Emily Henagan
Men balance upon each other while jump roping in unison, acrobats bounce to and from high-rise planks to low-level trampolines with the slightest of ease that even Spider-Man would envy, and a majestic woman levitates over the stage with just a cobalt satin ribbon keeping her from landing on the ground: It’s just another day at the Cirque du Soleil Dralion traveling show.
But it’s not just another day for me.
I tag along with the performers for the day, failing at blending in because my charcoal blazer and highlighter-yellow notebook are dead giveaways that I am not one of them. I survey the tour bus as they glide into their seats, and I eavesdrop upon their conversations in Mandarin, French and Spanish that I can neither translate nor understand. Clad in T-shirts and sweatpants, some listen to iPods while others sing songs that I do not recognize while others converse about their Chinese culture. With infectious energy, they leap off the bus that transports them to their latest arena destination where they will be performing a physically grueling, three-hour show for hundreds of Houston locals. Neither the day ahead nor the looming performance seem to daunt them. This is their normal.
“At the beginning, it’s kind of weird, because everyone is different,” reflects Barcelona native and trampoline acrobat extraordinaire Alejandro Cuenca about first joining the Dralion show around three years ago. “Everyone has a different culture, a different language, many different styles. But after a while, we become a family. We are all in the same ship together. So, we’re doing the same thing every single day pretty much. We are touring together; we are trying to have fun together. We are a family.”
And this Dralion family consists of 52 performers who hail from 15 different countries, 26 of whom are from China. Ranging in age from 19 to 36, many of these entertainers professionally competed for their homelands. Now, they compete for audiences’ attention with daredevil stunts that include flipping in and out of hoops and unbelievable body contortions that consist of balancing their entire bodies on one hand. In this particular Cirque du Soleil show, the entertainers relay stories of cultures colliding.
“Every show has its own theatricality, own music, own performers,” says Julie Desmaraias, a Montreal native who tours with the performers as Dralion’s public relations liaison. “But this particular show is a meeting of East and West where we blended traditional Chinese acrobatics with the Cirque du Soleil avant-garde style of doing the circus. The show combines the four elements, which show that there is a balance between human and nature. So, the four elements are water, fire, earth and air.”
The character of Little Buddha, who gracefully dances throughout the show’s entirety, controls the four elements. A petite Australian who has piercing baby blue eyes and natural blond hair, the artist portraying Little Buddha only provides her stage name, Charli G. Although she lives out of a suitcase and is oceans’ distance from her family and friends, Charli G. says it is a minor price to pay for having this gig.
“Obviously you miss your family, your pets or whatever,” says Charli G., who started dancing at age 6. “But we’re in this because we love to do it. Obviously, it’s not because we have to. We’re here because we want to be here. We love it, and we’re passionate about it.”
They are also passionate about ingesting cuisine that is equal parts nutritious and flavorful. As I trek into their makeshift cafeteria in the arena, aromas of freshly sautéed bell peppers and well-seasoned shrimp congest the air. It is “make your own stir fry” day in the area where a catering company, which travels with the show, previously filled the rice cooker with jasmine rice and the chaffing dishes with innovative entrees. Donning elaborate stage makeup they did themselves, they flock toward the stir-fry station and often request chicken and shrimp. “I need my protein,” one of the women performers says, justifying her double heaping of meat and seafood. They also reach for the moist vanilla cupcakes subtlety filled with a cake center that tastes like an Oreo cookie’s exterior. They need their sugar, too.
After feeding their hearty appetites, they focus their attention toward the show that is less than an hour away. They wiggle into their costumes, which are custom made with unorthodox materials ranging from horse hair to metal to emu feathers to Styrofoam to bubble wrap. The lights dim and the crowd roars. The performers step back into their normal.
“I love what I am doing,” says Cuenca, the 36-year-old Spaniard, who professionally competed for 20 years prior to joining Cirque. “I love jumping around. I love the adrenaline I get in front of the audience when we are doing shows. People in the audience are giving to us an energy that’s just awesome. I cannot explain it. I love a loud audience. ... a crazy audience that is clapping and screaming and yelling. We love it. We need it.”
Cirque du Soleil’s Dralion
Tickets available through Ticketmaster
For more: CirqueDuSoleil.com
In this letter to the editor, Lafayette Parish School Board member Shelton Cobb (the board's former president) weighs in on the difficulty behind this year's budget process, calling out a number of his fellow board members over their inability to drop their power struggle with the superintendent and make the interests of the students a top priority.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.
"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
A refreshing twist at a Lafayette institution comes served with a black bean salad stuffed avocado
Marijuana source of disputes for HOAs; experts say still safe to fly; Russian-supported attacks on Ukraine and more national and international news for Friday, July 25, 2014.
Louisiana's 21 casinos took in $203.5 million statewide in June, edging up one-half of a percentage point from a year earlier.
Three bedroom Sunset Victorian or three bedroom Opelousas Acadian home
Louisiana designer commissioned for NYC Awards gift
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.
Business First Bank has announced plans for a Baton Rouge market expansion through a merger deal with American Gateway Financial Corp.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The latest meeting of a south Louisiana flood board that stirred political turmoil with a lawsuit against the oil and gas industry is taking place amid uncertainty over the future of the lawsuit — and the board's own membership.
The photos taken nearly a mile under the Gulf of Mexico are so clear that small holes are visible in a lifeboat that may have gone down or been scuttled when a passenger ship was sunk by a Nazi submarine in 1942.
Advocate columnist and Jindal shill Quin Hillyer has been against the New Orleans levee board lawsuit from day one, but a recent piece targeting author/activist John Barry prompted the perfect rebuttal from the board’s former vice-president, who takes Hillyer to task on just about every distorted claim he’s made on the issue.
INDEats and EatLafayette want to give one lucky foodie and friends the most memorable meal — here’s how you can win
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Three bedroom traditional Lafayette home or three bedroom Breaux Bridge home
Style market slated for old Artesia
The city prosecutor has released the case file for Lafayette Parish School Board member Tehmi Chassion’s simple battery complaint against Superintendent Pat Cooper, and the seven witness statements given to police illustrate two very different scenarios.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Citing conflicting witness accounts, the city prosecutor will not pursue Tehmi Chassion’s allegation of simple battery against Superintendent Pat Cooper.
Smoked meat, fresh sides and the best boudin around