Totem (Cirque du Soleil)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Cirque du soleil totem promo poster.jpg
Company Cirque du Soleil
Genre Contemporary circus
Show type Touring show
Date of premiere April 22, 2010 (Montreal)
Creative team
Writer and director Robert Lepage
Director of creation Neilson Vignola
Set and props designer Carl Fillion
Composers Guy Dubuc
Marc Lessard
Costume designer Kym Barett
Lighting designer Étienne Boucher
Choreographer Jeffrey Hall
Sound designer Jacques Boucher
Makeup designer Nathalie Simard
Acrobatic performance designer Florence Pot
Rigging designer Pierre Masse
Projection designer Pedro Pires
Other information
Preceded by Viva Elvis (2010)
Succeeded by Zarkana (2011)
Official website

Totem is a touring show by Cirque du Soleil that premiered in Montréal on April 22, 2010.[1] It was written and directed by previous collaborator Robert Lepage ().[2] Cirque du Soleil describes Totem's theme as the evolution of humanity from its primordial, amphibian state toward the aspiration of flight, taking inspiration from many of humanity's founding myths.[3] The show was awarded the 2013 New York Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience.[4]

All of Cirque du Soleil's previous touring productions were originally created to be performed inside large, custom-designed tents (called the grand chapiteau), but many of those shows have since been re-staged in arenas and other venues after the conclusion of their "big top" tour. Totem's creation team faced the challenge of designing a show that could be adapted for arenas and other venues from the outset.

Set and technical information[edit]

Cirque du Soleil used interactive projection technologies to enhance and provide variety to the types of scenes created for Totem, including swamps, starry nights, lakes, volcanos, and other natural environments. The kinetic images are created with the help of infrared cameras; the projection system can dynamically create projections, making it seem as if they are reacting to the artists' movements in both real-time and pre-recorded sequences. One of the major elements for the set is the large turtle carapace, which functions as both a decorative piece as well as acrobatic equipment. When not in use, the shell is tilted or raised completely to the top of the tent or arena. It weighs 2,700 pounds (1,200 kg), has two horizontal bars, and is covered in a non-slip finish.[5] Another major component of the set is the "scorpion bridge", which functions as an entrance at times. It is made of 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) of steel and has eight mineral oil hydraulic motors which allow it to move in three dimensions—extending, retracting, curling, etc. Underneath said bridge is housing for a laser, speakers, lighting equipment, and cameras. Movement of the scorpion bridge is controlled by an operator who uses four infrared cameras. Of final note, the marsh reeds at the back of the stage are actually inflatable, which allows for easier transport between performance locations.[6]

Equipment and props that are not part of the set have been just as carefully planned out and created. The unicycles are 7 feet (2.1 m) tall, but are very light for better maneuverability. Similarly, the perch poles are made of duralumin, the largest of which is 33 feet (10 m) tall.[5] In total summation, Totem utilizes 65 tractor-trailer sized containers to transport its 1,200 tonnes (1,200 long tons; 1,300 short tons) of equipment from site to site.[7]

During the Scientist's juggling act, he uses balls made with 96 red, 96 blue, and 96 green LED lights inside. The colors are changed remotely by show technicians during the performance.[8]


Fifty-two performing artists from 19 countries make up the cast as of Totem's première.[9][10]

  • The Tracker: Assists and guides the Scientist, and is a friend to the animals.

Performed by : Ante Ursic (Apr 2010 - June 2014), Markus Furtner (June 2014 - July 2015), Sebastièn (July 2015 - present)

  • The Scientist: Performs experiments and visits the different worlds of Totem. Appearance is based on Charles Darwin.

Performed by : Greg Kennedy (Apr 2010 - July 2014), Thom Wall (August 2014 - September 2014; February 2016 - August 2016), Chris Chiappini (September 2014 - present)

  • The Amerindian dancer: Traces the evolution of species.

Performed by : Nakotah Raymond Larance (2010-2012), Arik Pipestem (Oct 2010-June 2011) Eric Hernandez (2012-present), Shandien Sonwai Larance (2012-present), Michael Goedel (backup dancer; not currently touring with the group)(August 2015-present)

  • The Crystal man: Opens the show by bringing the carapace to life, and ends the show by diving into the lagoon.

Performed by : Joseph David Putignano, David Resnick (present) and Wang Caoliang (present)

  • Clown: the "Sad Fisherman" performs ping-pong ball tricks and drives the speedboat.

Performed by : Mikhail Usov & Philippe Thibaudeau

  • Clown: Valentino, the "Italian Tourist", acts as a foil to the Tracker and water-skis from the speedboat.

Performed by : Pippo Crotti (Apr 2010 - Jan 2014, August 2014), Roch Jutras (Jan 2014 - April 2014), Jon Monastero (Apr 2014 to present)

  • Apes: a troupe of 5-6 characters mark the progress of Human Evolution from Ape to Businessman With Cell Phone.
  • Frogs: performing the carapace


Totem's acts feature unique presentations of high-caliber circus skills and other performing arts.[11]

  • Bars (Carapace): A traditional gymnastics apparatus with use of a trampoline ground for a twist.
  • Hoops Dancer Part 1: A fast paced Native American hoop dance featuring one of two solo artist.

Performed by: Nakotah Raymond Larance (2010-2012), Arik Pipestem (2010-2011) Eric Hernandez (2012-present), Shandien Sonwai Larance (2012-present), Michael Goedel (August 2015-present)

  • Rings trio: A traditional gymnastics act featuring a high flying trio using sheer strength and flexibility to create multiple poses.

Performed by: Alevtyna Titarenko (April 2011-November 2015), Yann Arnaud (April 2011-March 2015), Gael Ouisse (April 2011-November 2015), Olli Torkkel (April 2011-Present), Elizabeth Williams (November 2015-present), Vladimir Novotny (February 2016 - present), Maika Isogawa (February 2016-Present), Ryan James (February 2016 - present), Wang Caoliang (April 2016-Present)

  • Foot Juggling: Using flat squares made of fabric material, two artists perform an antipodism act while spinning these squares on their hands and legs, they throw the squares from one foot/hand to the other and even to each other's feet/hands.

Performed by: Marina Tsodikova & Svetlana Tsodikova NB: Due to certain circumstances this is currently a solo act performed by just Marina Tsodikova

  • Handbalancing: An artist precariously balances on a high hand balancing platform, using contortion and gymnastic techniques.

Performed by: Pavel Saprykin (April 2010 - March 2015), Louis-Marc Bruneau-Dumoulin (March 2015 - Present)

  • Unicycles and bowls: A group of female artists ride seven foot high unicycles while balancing metal bowls on their heads. The performers place a bowl on their foot, and kick it back to the head. The act consisted of kicking two or even five bowls at once, kicking bowls to people in front or behind them and even kicking a teapot onto one performers head.
  • Diabolo: The Tracker manipulates diabolos (i.e., Chinese yo-yo), which are two sticks linked by a string on which a wooden spool balances.

Performed by: Sebastièn Nicaise (July 2015 - present)

  • Fixed trapeze Duo: A young couple perform death-defying stunts high up on a trapeze. The act represents both the desire and aggravation couples face.

Performed by: Rosalie Ducharme & Louis - David Simoneau (April 2010-August 2012), Sarah Tessier & Guilhem Cauchois (August 2012-present), Christine Fournier and Louis-David Simoneau (Feb 2016- present)

  • Manipulation: The Scientist rolls several LED lit balls in a giant glass cone, creating a whole new take on the average juggling act.

Performed by : Greg Kennedy (Apr 2010 - July 2014), Thom Wall (August 2014 - September 2014), Chris Chiappini (September 2014 - present)

Performed by: Nakotah Raymond Larance (2010-2012), Arik Pipestem (2010-2011) Eric Hernandez (2012-present), Shandien Sonwai Larance (2012-present), Michael Goedel (August 2015-present)

  • Roller skates: A couple create stunning poses as they skate on a platform at high speed.

Performed by : Massimiliano Medini & Denis Garcia-Sorta (2010-present), Dimerson Baeta-Neves & Susan Sterza (February 2016 a present)

  • Russian bars: A nerve-wracking act that involves four-inch thick planks that artists use to jump high in the air while performing flips, only to land perfectly on the bar again.

Acts in rotation[edit]

  • Contortion: Two contortionists use balance, strength and flexibility in this jaw dropping feat of contortion on a circular platform.

Performed by : Ulziibuyan Mergen and Oyun-Erdene Senge. (February 2016 - present)

  • Escalade: A businessman, stripped of his suit is trapped deep in the jungle. Jumping and climbing around a Chinese-pole-like framework, as if swinging through the trees, he finds his inner, primitive, ape.

Performed by : Gael Ouisse (October 2015 - November 2015), Olli Torkkel (November 2015 - present)

Retired Acts[edit]

  • Perches: Several performers climb up high poles that are balanced on an artists shoulder. (performed until 2013)
  • Devil sticks: The tracker manipulates a long stick with two other sticks that he holds onto, both accuracy and timing are used in this energetic act.

Performed by: Ante Ursic (Apr 2010 - June 2014), Markus Furtner (June 2014 - July 2015)

  • Hand-to-Hand: A duo perform a traditional hand to hand act, they keep the act at a heartbeat like rhythm.

Performed by : Gael Ouisse & Alevtyna Titarenko (performed until November 2015)


As Totem's storyline includes the evolution of humanity, inspiration for the 779 costume elements came directly from nature. Costume designer Kym Barrett primarily focused on how to treat various fabrics rather than the materials themselves in order to replicate the elements found in nature. Such treatments included advanced printing techniques, fluorescent pigments, and utilizing mirror fragments and crystals for adornment.[12] Below is more detailed information about specific costume pieces and the wardrobe collection as a whole.

  • The Crystal Man's stretch velvet leotard is encrusted with nearly 4,500 reflective components; 4,001 are mirror fragments. This costume is the show's heaviest, weighing eight pounds.
  • The foot juggling duo's lycra body stockings are each adorned with 3,500 crystals, and each headpiece has another 1,000.
  • The hoop dancer's costume is inspired by not one traditional Native American tribe, but by several. For instance it includes a Hopi cross and headdress.
  • The unicyclists each have a very distinct look that suggests autumn and the abundance from harvest. Each costume is printed with earth tones and then embellished with hand-sewn details, including bolts, screws, seedpods, feathers, flowers and insects.[8]


As Totem's storyline is about the evolution of humanity, the musical components selected by composers Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard aimed to reflect this theme. Their score includes instruments and rhythms from around the world, including elements from Native American music, Spanish flamenco, and Indian music. One unique attribute of the music in Totem is that all the musicians sing at some point, which allows for moments of a cappella.[8]

Below are the track titles as they appear in order on the CD, which was originally released on October 6, 2010. The items in parentheses reflect the act correlated with each song.[13]

  1. Omé Kayo: Opening, high bar, hoop dance 1 (2010 - present)
  2. Cum Sancto Spiritu: Hand-balancing (2010 - present)
  3. Indie-Hip: Rings trio (2010 - present)
  4. Koumaya: Unicycles with bowls (2010 - present))
  5. Crystal Pyramid: Foot juggling (2010 - present)
  6. Thunder: Perches (2010-2013)
  7. Toreador: Devil sticks (2010 - 2015), Diabolo (2015 - present)
  8. Qué Viyéra: Fixed trapeze duo (2010 - present)
  9. Mr. Beaker: Manipulation (2010 - present)
  10. Onta: Hoops dance 2, roller skates (2010 - present)
  11. Kunda Tayé: Hand to Hand (2010 - present)
  12. Fast Boat: Speedboat clown act (2010 - present)
  13. Terre-mère: Russian bars (2010 - present)
  14. Omé Yo Kanoubé: Finale (2010 - present)
Further information: Cirque du Soleil discography

Unlisted songs:
Contortion: Contortion (2016 - present)
Escalade: Escalade (2016 - present)


Here is a list of all the singers in Totem, since the premiere on April 22, 2010.

Female singers[edit]

Esi Kwesiwa Acquaah-Harrison : From April 22, 2010 (Montreal) to February 17, 2011 (London), From January, 05 2012 (London) to June 30, 2013 (Philadelphia), From November 21, 2013 (Irvine) to August 2016 (Osaka)
Coco Mbassi : From March 03, 2011 (Charlotte) to May 01, 2011 (Baltimore)
Odessa Thornhill : From May 12, 2011 (Pittsburgh) to December 18, 2011 (San Francisco), From July 11, 2013 (Ottawa) to November 10, 2013 (Los Angeles)
Betina Quest : From August 2016 (Osaka) to present

Male singers[edit]

Christian Laveau : From April 22, 2010 (Montreal) to present


The Totem tour started off different from normal tours by going to Europe before going to the United States and then Oceania. There has been speculation amongst cirque insiders that Totem will next move on to Asia (starting with Singapore).

The following colorboxes indicate the region of each performance:
 EU   Europe  NA   North America  SA   South and Central Americas  AP   Asia/Pacific  OC   Oceania  AF   Africa

Grand Chapiteau tour[edit]

2015 schedule[edit]

  •  OC   Melbourne, AU - From 21 Jan to 29 Mar 2015
  •  OC   Brisbane, AU - From 10 Apr to 24 May 2015
  •  OC   Adelaide, AU - From 11 Jun to 12 Jul 2015
  •  OC   Perth, AU - From 31 Jul to 27 Sept 2015
  •  AP   Singapore, SG - From 28 Oct to 13 Dec 2015

2016 schedule[edit]

  •  AP   Tokyo, JP - From 3 Feb to 26 Jun 2016
  •  AP   Osaka, JP - From 14 Jul to 23 Oct 2016
  •  AP   Nagoya, JP - From 10 Nov 2016 to 15 Jan 2017

2017 schedule[edit]

  •  AP   Fukuoka, JP - From 3 Feb to 19 Mar 2017
  •  AP   Sendai, JP - From 6 Apr to 21 May 2017
  •  EU   Brussels, BE - From 31 Aug to 29 Oct 2017
  •  EU   Paris, FR - From Nov 2017

Arena tour[edit]

2011 schedule[edit]

2012 schedule[edit]


  1. ^ Jaworowski, Ken (March 25, 2013). "Where Bowls and Bodies Fly Though the Air". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ "Kathleen Lavoie, Le Soleil article November 1, 2008" (in French). Retrieved 2011-02-04. 
  3. ^ "Cirque du Soleil: Totem—About the Show". Retrieved 2011-02-04. 
  4. ^ "TOTEM Wins 2013 Drama Desk Award by Richasi Published: May 21, 2013". 
  5. ^ a b "Totem: Set Design and Projections" (PDF). Cirque du Soleil (Press Kit). Retrieved 2011-02-04. 
  6. ^ "Set Design of TOTEM". Retrieved 2011-02-04. 
  7. ^ "Totem: Press Kit" (PDF). Cirque du Soleil (Press Kit). Retrieved 2011-02-10. 
  8. ^ a b c Cirque du Soleil (2011). Evolution - The Creative Journey (Deluxe Totem Souvenir Program) (in English and French). 
  9. ^ "Cirque du Soleil Presents its new Touring Show: Totem". Cirque du Soleil. 2010-04-28. Retrieved 2011-02-04. 
  10. ^ "Totem: The Main Characters" (PDF). Cirque du Soleil (Press Kit). Retrieved 2011-02-04. 
  11. ^ "Totem: Press Kit" (PDF). Cirque du Soleil (Press Kit). Retrieved 2012-11-15. 
  12. ^ "Totem: Costumes" (PDF). Cirque du Soleil (Press Kit). Retrieved 2011-02-04. 
  13. ^ "Cirque Tribune: Totem Music". Cirque Tribune. Retrieved 2011-02-04.