The home of La Nouba at Downtown Disney
|Company||Cirque du Soleil|
|Show type||Resident show|
|Date of premiere||December 23, 1998|
|Location||Downtown Disney, Lake Buena Vista, Florida|
|Creation director||Gilles Ste-Croix|
|Composer and musical director||Benoît Jutras|
|Costume designer||Dominique Lemieux|
|Set designer||Michel Crête|
|Lighting designer||Luc Lafortune|
|Sound co-designers||Jonathan Deans,
|Artistic Guide||Guy Laliberté|
|Make-up designer||Nathalie Gagné|
|Preceded by||O (1998)|
|Succeeded by||Dralion (1999)|
La Nouba is a Cirque du Soleil show in residence in a custom-built, freestanding theater at Downtown Disney's West Side at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. It is a contemporary circus performance featuring acrobats, gymnasts, and other skilled performers. The show's creation was directed by Franco Dragone, who also directed many of Cirque du Soleil's earlier shows. Its title derives from the French phrase faire la nouba, meaning "to party" or "to live it up".
La Nouba is about the meeting of two worlds: the Cirque (circus people) and the Urbains (urbanites). When these two worlds come together, something magical comes to life. It is an attic of make-believe, a moment when dreams and nightmares come together. La Nouba which recollects both individual and collective memory, creates this unforgettable journey into a world where antithesis comes to life. La Nouba is a daring world that is threatening and exhilarating, frightening and familiar. This world of La Nouba provokes us to uncover our lost and forgotten passions, and to relive our childhood dreams where extraordinary transforms and overcomes the ordinary.
Cirque du Soleil premiered an all-new production, La Nouba, in a brand new theater custom-designed and built for Cirque du Soleil on December 23, 1998. With an international cast of 67 artists, Cirque du Soleil welcomes more than 1,650 spectators ten times a week. The venue is located in Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort, and is the third resident show created after Mystère (Cirque du Soleil) and O (Cirque du Soleil) in Las Vegas.
La Nouba celebrated its 15th Anniversary on December 18, 2013 with a special appearance from Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. This is the first time the Disney characters appeared in the show.
La Nouba reached a major milestone on July 10, 2009 during its 9:00 P.M. showing—this was their 5000th performance. Similarly, on August 13, 2011 during the 6:00 P.M. showing, they celebrated their 6000th performance.  They have now performed the show over 7000 times, with their 7000th performance being celebrated on September 12th, 2013 at the 6:00 P.M. showing.
Set and technical information
The theater housing La Nouba is the first freestanding permanent structure built for Cirque du Soleil. The theater was designed by Michel Crête, Michel Aubé of Scéno Plus, Walt Disney Imagineering, and the architects of the Rockwell group of New York. It can seat a total of 1,671 people per show. The overall structure was created as a form of elegance, with the addition of fabric and tension reminiscent in that of the Grand Chapiteau.
The backdrop of the stage is a trellis measuring 60 by 200 feet (18 m × 61 m) and made of PVC panels and scrim. The stage floor itself has five elevator lifts, each with a 3,000 pounds (1,400 kg) load capacity. These lifts can move at a rate of 1 foot per second (0.30 m/s) and rise to a maximum height of 16 feet (4.9 m). The center stage lift, in addition to elevating, can also descend 16 feet (4.9 m) below the stage on a second axis. Another movable set element includes the two téléphériques installed along the back wall which can transport acrobatic equipment, props, and scenery at a pace of 4 feet per second (1.2 m/s).
Another stage element includes the four retractable power track floors in the stage. Each floor weighs over 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) and can move up to 2 feet per second (0.61 m/s). The trampoline bed is tighter and uses a second generation of springs, allowing the performers to jump higher and faster down the track which measures 60 feet (18 m) in length. As a Cirque du Soleil first, the trampolines are longer, wider, and woven together of two overlapping tracks as seen in Alegría. The entire stage deck is layered with impact resilient Mondo Sport Floor over wood in order to avoid injury.
The theater's immense height (ground level to fly height is 100 feet (30 m); ground level to top of the masts is 152 feet (46 m)) allows the scenic and acrobatic equipment to be stored in the ceiling. As yet another Cirque du Soleil first, the trapeze net is installed mechanically with no visible stagehands as it is lowered into place from the ceiling.
As in every Cirque show, in addition to the performances, there are several distinctive characters that participate in the show sometimes as performers and sometimes as spectators. In La Nouba, these include:
- Green bird: She is a flightless bird, out of her cage, and is very marionettesque in her actions.
- Cons: The "nuts", dressed in all-white, are the ever present fools of the show.
- Titan: A mysterious "muscle man" who confronts everyone on stage while contorting his body in unusual poses. He performs in the trampoline, power track act.
- Walker: Dressed in grey pinstripes, with a small bowler hat atop, he strolls around stage à la Charlie Chaplin.
- Acrobatic pierrot: This Pierrot appears as a red acrobat. He's the adversary of the Titan until he joins him in mutual admiration at the end of the show.
- Dancers: The Romeo and Juliet of the show. One is a Pierrot clown where the other is a lost ballerina.
- Clowns: Former Alegria clowns joined La Nouba in 2014.
- Cleaning woman: Also referred to as Petite Madame, is shocked to be in this world and astonished by what goes on around her, she sweeps and dusts nonetheless until her dream becomes a reality.
The shows consists of the following acts:
- Jump rope: A rebooted version of the young children's game, two expert skipping soloists are the centre of attention in this speedy act.
- High wire: The entire act takes place on a 90-foot (27 m)-long high wire. Wire walkers ascend to a height of 34 feet (10 m) above the stage. Supported by a half-inch steel wire.
- Diabolos: Another children's toy with a circus twist, four young and very talented girls throw hourglass-shaped, giant yoyos in the air with help of a long line of string connected to two sticks that they hold in each hand. The children flip, roll and even skip with the string while the spinning diabolo plummets to the stage just to be caught at the last second. Up to two diabolos are even manipulated by one performer in this game of dexterity and youthfulness.
- Cycles: Includes one BMX cyclists and a mountain biker performing tricks on bicycles.
- Aerial cradle: The aerial cradle looks like a door and is the setting for a perfect example of equal-opportunity strength and agility. This display features elements of traditional circus aerial cradle, but adds a unique twist: the male and female artists take turns supporting one another 34 feet (10 m) above the stage.
- Aerial ballet in silk: A solo male performer dangles above the stage using incredible strength to create multiple poses, while four female artists wrap themselves in the long column of silk and then unwrap themselves by spinning and flipping in this sky high ballet. This is the most dangerous act in La Nouba as it uses no wires or support, only the artists' concentration.
- Rola Bola: A colorful performer builds a tower of cylinders and pipes, all the while balancing on a board on top of it all. As his tower grows higher and higher, so does the risk and excitement and as this does, the acrobat juggles whilst still on top of the shaky tower.
- Flying trapeze: Four pendulum-like swings, on two different levels, carry a team of perfectly synchronized aerialists 53 feet (16 m) above the stage.
- Power track and trampoline: This high-energy spectacle has performers literally bouncing off the walls and through the windows and roof of a three-dimensional building. This seven-and-a-half minute act includes athletes performing 394 flips and 62 twists.
- Balancing on chairs: Featured a solo performer who hand-balanced on eight chairs stacked on a table. The chair stack rose 25 feet (7.6 m) in the air. The area below the chairs and table rose via a platform raising the performer a full 41 feet (12 m) above the stage. This act was replaced with juggling in 2010. Juggling has since been combined with Rola Bola into one intense, juggling and balancing spectacular!
- German Wheel: Featured two performers inside of large double-hoops, manipulated by shifting their center of gravity. The performers would roll around obstacles, fall over spinning until they were almost flat on the ground then stand back up, and perform tricks with both performers in one wheel. This act was replaced by the Jumping Rope act in 2010.
- Juggling: Anthony Gatto juggles clubs, rings and balls. This act was replaced by Rola Bola in 2014.
Costume designer Dominique Lemieux created thirty different costume concepts and drew up at least ten different designs for each concept. Lemieux mixed historical and traditional circus ideas with contemporary fashions in her designs, and ten special technicians were employed in order to custom dye fabrics, real and synthetic hair, feathers, horsehair, and leather materials used on the various costumes. In the eight weeks she was given to design the costumes (October 24 to December 23, 1998), she created two drastically different styles to separate the urban people from the circus people. The circus people don bright, neon colors while the urbanites are represented by black, gray, and muted tones. Lemieux used natural, textured fabrics such as hemp to epitomize the urbanites.
Many of the performers undergo a metamorphosis which is indicated by often dramatic costume changes. This is shown in the urbanites whose outfits begin in dark, muted blues, reds, and greens and end in white, fairy-like outfits. Lemieux also employs other techniques in the various performances. In the German Wheel, she accents dark colors with fluorescent fabrics to provide a high-contrast with the black lights used during this act. The performers were designed to appear as marionettes and to emphasize human anatomy. The costumes designed for the Flying Trapeze are tribal and androgynous. They are elaborated with complex collars, head ornaments and tutu skirts for the males. Les Cons were inspired by the Pierrot, with simple, white outfits to depict their innocence.
For all Cirque du Soleil productions, plaster head molds were created to make certain that all wigs, masks, and headpieces fit perfectly. Four different wig designs were created for the show and each wig took one person approximately seventy hours to complete.
The music of La Nouba, composed by Benoît Jutras, is performed live by six musicians and two singers. A CD album of the music of La Nouba was originally released in 1999 and re-released in 2005. It features most of the music played during the show.
Below are the tracks in order as they appear on the CD. Listed after each track title is the act associated with the track.
- Once Upon a Time
- Opening, German wheel (1998-2010)
- Opening, jump rope (2010-present)
- A Tale (Aerial ballet in silk pt. 1)
- Porte (Aerial cradle)
- La Nouba (Parade)
- Distorted (Cycles)
- Liama (High wire)
- Queens (Flying trapeze)
- À la Lune
- Balancing on Chairs (1998-2010)
- Rola Bola (2014-present)
- Rêve Rouge (Aerial ballet in silk pt. 2)
- Urban (Power track, trampolines)
- Propel (Interlude)
- Jardin Chinois (Diabolos)
- "La Nouba Highlights" (PDF). Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
- "La Nouba". Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- "La Nouba General Release" (PDF). Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
- Matt Palm (2011-08-15). "Cirque du Soleil’s ‘La Nouba’ celebrates 6,000th show". Orlando Theater Blog. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- "La Nouba Technical Story" (PDF). Cirque du Soleil (Press Material). Retrieved 2011-03-03.
- "La Nouba Fun Facts" (PDF). Cirque du Soleil (Press Material). Retrieved 2011-03-02.
- "La Nouba - Characters". Cirque du Soleil (Press Materials). Retrieved 2011-03-02.
- "La Nouba - Acts". Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved 2014-04-25.
- "The costumes of La Nouba". Disney World and Orlando the Unofficial Guide. Retrieved 2011-03-02.
- "La Nouba, Music". Cirque Tribune. Retrieved 2011-04-27.
- Information at Cirque du Soleil website
- Information at Walt Disney World website
- All Ears Net La Nouba page
- Downtown Disney travel guide from Wikivoyage