The Varekai stage in the Grand Chapiteau, 2011.
|Company||Cirque du Soleil|
|Show type||Touring show|
|Date of premiere||April 24, 2002|
|Director of creation||Andrew Watson|
|Set designer||Stéphane Roy|
|Costume designer||Eiko Ishioka|
|Lighting designer||Nol van Genuchten|
|Sound designer||François Bergeron|
|Makeup designer||Nathalie Gagné|
|Aerial acts designer||André Simard|
|Rigging designer||Jaque Paquin|
|Clown act creator||Cahal McCrystal|
|Artistic director||Fabrice Lemire
(as of December 2012)
|Preceded by||Dralion (1999)|
|Succeeded by||Zumanity (2003)|
Varekai is a Cirque du Soleil touring production that premiered in Montréal in April 2002. Its title means "wherever" in the Romani language, and the show is an "acrobatic tribute to the nomadic soul".
The show begins with the Greek myth of Icarus, picking up where the myth leaves off, reimagining the story of what happened to Icarus after he flew too close to the sun and fell from the sky. In Varekai, rather than drowning in the sea below him, Icarus lands in a lush forest full of exotic creatures.
Set and technical information
The set, created by Stéphane Roy, includes four major components: the forest, stage, catwalk, and lookout. The forest consists of over 300 "trees",[clarification needed] of which around 20 are climbable. The trees range from 4.5 metres (15 ft) to 10.5 metres (34 ft) in height. The stage is 12.8 metres (42 ft) in diameter and has five trap doors, two turntables, and one elevating platform. The catwalk is 30 metres (98 ft) in length and allows performers to cross over the stage; it ends at a lookout which is 7 square metres (75 sq ft).
Cast and crew
Approximately 170 people travel with the Varekai tour; 125 are employees and the rest are spouses and children. The 125 employees who travel with the tour include 58 performers, 4 full-time teachers, 2 performance medicine therapists, 1 kitchen manager and 3 cooks. During each engagement in a city, over 150 people are hired locally for temporary jobs including ticket takers, ushers, janitors, and receptionists. The cast and crew is an international one, representing 26 nationalities. Cirque du Soleil's literature names various character roles in the show, including Icarus, La Promise (The Betrothed), the Guide, the Skywatcher, the Limping Angel, La Toupie, and Candide.
- Flight of Icarus : Icarus performs dives and contortions in the net that holds him captive.
- Icarian games : Foot-juggling is one of the oldest circus arts disciplines. The bearer lies on his back and twirls the voltigeur on his feet.
- Aerial hoop : Suspended high above the stage or flying through the air on a hoop, a young woman performs a series of movements displaying her flexibility and strength.
- Georgian dance : This act takes its inspiration from the national dance of the Lezgins, popular among many people in the Caucasus Mountains.
- Slippery surface : Darting and sliding on a specially designed surface, the artists fling and catch each other, creating an illusion of skating.
- Solo on crutches : Like a jointed puppet, the Limping Angel dances on crutches while background performers teeter on canes in a dance that reignites Icarus's desire to fly again.
- Aerial straps : Suspended by wrist straps, two performers glide above the stage, performing original acrobatic moves.
- Juggling : A juggling virtuoso handles clubs, large balls, hats and ping-pong balls, manipulating them with his hands, his feet, his head and even his mouth.
- Handbalancing on canes : The performer achieves a variety of contortions and poses while balancing on a series of canes.
- Russian swings : Propelled by two Russian swings, acrobats are hurled high into the air, alighting on their partners' wrists or on a landing canvas, sometimes even flying from one moving swing to the other.
- Acrobatic pas de deux : Two lovers dance and perform acrobatic stunts, showing their love, trust, and respect for each other.
- Water meteors : Three young acrobats twirl ropes with metal cups attached to the ends, simultaneously performing virtuosic acrobatic feats.
- Triple trapeze : On an elevated trapeze apparatus, four young women perform a series of striking acrobatic moves.
Varekai's costume designer, Eiko Ishioka, set out to design the costumes to heighten the sense of risk and danger the artists face while performing their acts. The designs are an approach to give the traditional leotard a new shape. Eiko drew inspiration from the natural world: plant life, reptiles, land animals, marine life, wind water, fire and wood. While there are over 130 costumes in the entire collection, over 600 elements combine to make the entire wardrobe of costumes, shoes, hats, and accessories. During the tour it takes a 250 hours a week to keep the costumes in a state usable for performance. This includes repairs, cleaning, pressing, repainting (shoes), ironing, and other related tasks.
One of the primary materials used throughout the wardrobe is lycra, primarily for its ease of care, suppleness, and elasticity. Other materials used throughout include titanium rods, nylon sponge and other types of fire-retardant materials. La Toupie's costume, for example, is made from lycra, and the tentacles are made from polystyrene foam. In addition to textures and structures being created for the costumes, digital screen-printing was utilized for some pieces. The costumes for the Russian swing act were inspired by volcanic eruptions. Pictures were taken, scanned, processed and then digitally screen-printed to give the characters their bright red, explosive appearance. The foliage seen on the heads and backs of some characters is made from crinyl and cristalette, which are both extremely light-weight materials. Some of the translucent carapaces seen on some performers, including La Promise, are made from stretch netting mounted on a structure made of boning.
The live music is performed by seven musicians and two singers. Composed by Violaine Corradi and directed by the bandleader/keyboard player, the music features many different genres and energies. Violaine combined the sounds of Hawaiian rituals, 11th-century French troubadour songs, traditional Armenian melodies and gospel music with contemporary arrangements to create the sound of Varekai. While some songs are quiet and sorrowful, others are more upbeat and exciting.
The only remaining original musician and the only cast/crew member to perform in every one of Varekai's 4,000 shows without missing a single performance is drummer Paul J. Bannerman.
Instruments used in the show include keyboards, bass, drums, percussion, violin, and various wind instruments. There are numerous instrumental solos, with the violin, flute, and accordion among the instruments heard. When these occur, the musician comes into view, still hidden in the trees but slightly visible to the audience.
There are two distinct voices in the musical score. The primary voice belongs to a male singer called the Patriarch (currently played by actor/singer Craig Jennings). He is dressed in a dark purple outfit and sings in all but two of the acts. He is almost always visible onstage, emerging from the 'forest' set to sing solos. His range is from high tenor to bass.
The other voice belongs to a young female singer called the Muse. Her outfit is light purple. She has two solos. For seven other acts, she either blends with the Patriarch or sings a small part of the song. During these acts, she is either next to him or concealed among the trees. Her range is from low alto to high soprano.
During the triple trapeze act, there is a third voice, blending with the Patriarch. The voice belongs to the wind instrument musician, hidden in the trees behind the Patriarch.
Returning from her work with Cirque du Soleil's Dralion, Violaine Corradi wrote the Varekai score, which was released as a CD album on January 7, 2003. Rather than creating a literal soundtrack, Cirque du Soleil collaborated with Nitin Sawhney to produce a CD with themes and sounds from Varekai but quite differently arranged. The CD features the vocals of the two original singers of Varekai, Zara Tellander and Mathieu Lavoie; the soundtrack also includes the vocals of world music artists Natacha Atlas and Tina Grace, who were not in the production, simply featured on the album. Many of the CD tracks are dramatically different from their live counterparts.
In late 2003 Cirque du Soleil created an 'Exclusive Premium Edition' CD, which featured the original CD as well as a bonus CD and DVD containing 6 live tracks, two remixes, and 2 music videos.
- Aureus (Spoken word)
- Rain One (Interlude)
- Le Rêveur (Solo on crutches)
- Vocea (Flight of Icarus)
- Moon Light (Handbalancing on canes)
- Rubeus (Spoken word)
- Patzivota (Wedding interlude and setup for Russian swings)
- El Péndulo (Aerial straps)
- Gitans (Opening)
- Kèro Hiréyo (Triple trapeze/Aerial Hoop)
- Infinitus (Spoken word)
- Lubia Dobarstan (Water meteors)
- Emballa (Juggling)
- Oscillum (Russian swings)
- Funambul (Cloud interlude)
- Resolution (not in show)
Below are the live tracks, in order as they appear on the Exclusive Premium Edition bonus CD. Listed after each track title is the act associated with the track.
- Célébration de l'Errance (Opening dance and finale)
- Acrobatic pas de deux (2002 - 2003)
- Aerial hoop (2004 - 2013)
- Euphoria (Icarian games)
- Sun Drum Fun (Body skating)
- Mutationis (Handbalancing on canes)
- Movimento (Georgian dance)
The bonus CD also contains two tracks that are remixed versions of "El Péndulo" and "Emballa". In addition, the DVD features two videos with nature and recording footage, set to the CD version of "Patzivota" and "Moon Licht".
Here is a list of all of the singers in Varekai, since it's premiere in 2002.
Zara Tellander (2002 - 2004)
Isabelle Corradi (2004 - present)
Mathieu Lavoie (2002 - 2003)
Craig Jennings (2003 - present)
The experiences of the initial cast during the creation of the show were portrayed in the television series Fire Within (featured on the Bravo Network). Fire Within won the 2003 Emmy Award in the "Outstanding Non-Fiction Program" (Alternative) category.
Varekai completed its first North American tour in Vancouver, Canada on July 23, 2006. It debuted in Australia in August 2006 and arrived in New Zealand in early 2007. Later that year, Varekai finished its Australian tour in Perth, and moved on to its first European tour. At the end of 2007 the show had its European premiere in Antwerp, Belgium. It had its UK premiere in 2008 at London's Royal Albert Hall and again on 5 January 2010, marking the 25th anniversary of Cirque du Soleil. Varekai got transferred to an Arena format in December 2013, it's first stop being Bossier City, LA. The logo was changed from red-text to golden-text for the Arena format.
Varekai has been seen by more than 6 million spectators around the world, and has reached many milestones to accomplish this.
- 1000th performance in Dallas, Texas, in 2004
- 1500th performance in Seattle, Washington, in 2006
- 2000th performance in Perth, Australia, in 2007
- 2500th performance in Seville, Spain, in February 2009
- 3000th performance in Ostend, Belgium, in August 2010
- 3500th performance in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in February 2012
Varekai's last Grand Chapiteau tour was in Mexico City, and it was transferred to an Arena format show in Bossier City, LA.
The following colorboxes indicate the region of each performance:
Europe North America South and Central Americas Asia/Pacific Oceania
Grand Chapiteau tour
- "Varekai: Press Kit" (PDF). Cirque du Soleil (Press Kit). Retrieved 2012-12-06.
- Clément, Ronald (2009). Cirque du Soleil 25 Years of Costumes (in CN, EN, FR, JP). Canada: Dépôt légal, Bibliothèque et Archives Canada. pp. 68–73. ISBN 978-2-9803493-4-8.
- "Varekai: Characters". Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
- "Varekai Acts". Cirque Tribune. Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2012-12-06.
- "Varekai Music" (PDF). Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 2011-02-19.
- "Cirque du Soleil: Varekai". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-02-21.
- "Varekai: Tickets". Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 2011-02-19.
- "Varekai (Tour Schedule)". Cirque Tribune. Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2012-12-06.