Logo for Cirque du Soleil's Varekai
|Company||Cirque du Soleil|
|Show type||Touring show|
|Date of premiere||April 24, 2002 (Montreal)|
|Final show||December 23, 2017 (Frisco, Texas)|
|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||Michael Smith|
|Preceded by||Dralion (1999)|
|Succeeded by||Zumanity (2003)|
Varekai was 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 330 "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 95 people travel with the Varekai tour; 50 are artists and the rest are crew. During each engagement in a city, anywhere from 80 - 100 people are hired locally for temporary jobs during the week but mainly for load-in and load-out. The cast and crew is an international one, representing 19 nationalities.
The cast of Varekai includes many unique characters.
- Icarus: Innocent and vulnerable, he finds himself wounded in an unknown world. His desire to live and overcome his fears will drive him to new heights and an eventual rebirth.
- The Betrothed: An exotic creature who enraptures Icarus with her sensual beauty. She will be his guiding light and he, in turn, will be the catalyst for her metamorphosis.
- The Guide: Weathered by the sun of many centuries, he’s like a kindly, fragile great-grandfather—a wise old man whose mission is to inspire and bring about change.
- The Skywatcher: Mad scientist and ingenious inventor, collector of the world’s memories and interpreter of signs, this is a man who receives signals, transforms sounds and forewarns of trials and tribulations. He lives perched on the edge of his laboratory-nest.
- Blue Lizard
- La Toupie
- Limping Angel
- Clowns: A comedic duo who like to ruin the artistic flow of the show.
- The Patriarch : Using his voice, he narrates his son Icarus's journey through the magical forest of Varekai.
- The Muse
- The Mother
- Water Meteor
- Flight of Icarus: Icarus falls from the sky into the forest of Varekai. He rises up and performs an act in an Aerial Net.
- Synchronized Tumbling: Acrobatics jump, twist and turn on an inflatable mat often in perfect synchronization. This act replaced Icarian Games as of 2015.
- Dance Trapeze: Suspended high above the stage, a woman performs, dances and contorts in a solo trapeze.
- Magic Act: Claudio & Mooky try to perform a magic act.
- Georgian Dance: This act takes its inspiration from the traditional dances of Caucasus Mountains and includes elements from several mountain dances of the region. Originally performed in the show by former soloists of Georgian State Dance Company; Badri Esatia, Temuri Koridze and Khvicha Tetvadze.
- Slippery Surface: Darting and sliding on a specially designed surface, the artists fling and catch each other, creating an illusion of skating.
- Lounge Singer: Claudio sings Ne Me Quitte Pas while trying to stay in the spotlight, Literally.
- Solo on Crutches: Like a jointed puppet, the Limping Angel performs on crutches, sliding around the stage.
- Aerial Straps: Two performers fly above the stage, suspended by aerial straps.
- Cyr Wheel: The roue Cyr involves a solo artist spinning, balancing and inversions.
- Lightbulb: Always on the lookout for new inventive ways to mess or interfere in the life of the inhabitants of the forest, the Skywatcher helps the Guide in a dire situation.
- Handbalancing on Canes: La Promise performs an act contorting and spinning gracefully on canes.
- Russian Swing: Acrobatics fly up into the air and down onto a net, being propelled by two Russian Swings. The performers flip, jump and glide into the net, as well as jumping onto the performers shoulders, as well as jumping from one Russian swing to another.
Acts in Rotation
- Batons: A world champion baton performer throws, twirls and manipulates up to 3 batons at once while performing acrobatics.
- Icarian Games: Icarian Games is one of the oldest circus arts disciplines. One of the performer lies on his back and flips, twirls and spins another performer on his feet. This act was replaced by Synchronized Tumbling in 2015.
- Acrobatic Pas de Deux: Two lovers dance and perform acrobatic stunts, showing their love, trust, and respect for each other. This act was replaced by the rotational Aerial Hoop act.
- Water Meteors: Three young acrobatics perform an act using water meteors, spinning and juggling them. This act was replaced by Dance Trapeze.
- Triple Trapeze: Four young women perform an act on a suspended Triple Trapeze. This act was taken out when the Arena tour started.
- Aerial hoop: A solo artist flies over the stage on a hoop suspended in the air in an energetic feat of acrobatics. This was a backup act from 2004, and was taken out of the show in early 2013.
- Juggling: An artist manipulates bowling pins, soccer balls, hats and ping-pong balls with his hands, feet, head and even his mouth. This act was removed in 2016.
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.
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.. The only cast/crew member to have performed every one of Varekai's 5,219 performances without missing a single performance is Drummer Paul James Bannerman (www.pauljbannerman.com).
There are two distinct voices in the musical score. Their role is to link the story together, sometimes predicting the future, at other times, propelling the story forward. The female singer called "The Muse " (currently played by Isabelle Corradi) and the male singer called the "Patriarch " (currently played by Jamieson Lindenburg) each share the songs alternating between solos with harmonies and duos. The Muse, dressed in white & purple and The Patriarch, dressed in purple and black emerge from the forest throughout the show.
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, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Rain One (Interlude, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Le Rêveur (Solo on Crutches, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Vocea (Aerial Net, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Moon Licht (Handbalancing on Canes, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Rubeus (Spoken Word, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Patzivota (Setup to Russian Swing, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- El Péndulo (Aerial Straps, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Gitans (Opening, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Kèro Hiréyo
- Triple Trapeze (2002 - 2013)
- Aerial Hoop (2013)
- Dance Trapeze (2014 - December 23, 2017)
- Infinitus (Spoken Word, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Lubia Dobarstan
- Water Meteors (2002 - 2013)
- Batons (Rotation, 2013 - December 23, 2017)
- Juggling (2002 - 2016)
- Cyr Wheel (2016 - December 23, 2017)
- Oscillum (Russian Swing, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Funambul (Cloud Interlude, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- 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, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Acrobatic Pas de Deux (2002 - 2003)
- Aerial Hoop (Rotation, 2004 - 2013)
- Icarian Games (2002 - 2015)
- Synchronized Tumbling (2015 - December 23, 2017)
- Sun Drum Fun (Body Skating, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Mutationis (Handbalancing on Canes, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Movimento (Georgian Dance, 2002 - December 23, 2017)
Below are songs not included on either album:
- Ne Me Quitte Pas (Clown Act 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Las Vegas from Animal Magic (Clown Act 2002 - 2003)
- Interruptio (Betrothed kidnapping scene)
- Magique (Clown Act 2004 - 2007)
- Magique II (Clown Act 2008 - December 23, 2017)
- Mambo (Interlude 2002 - December 23, 2017)
- Lightbulb (Clown Act 2002 - December 23, 2017)
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 its premiere in 2002.
- Zara Tellander - From April 24, 2002 (Montréal) to July 11, 2004 (Denver)
- Isabelle Corradi - From July 25, 2004 (Boston) to December 23, 2017 (Frisco)
- Mathieu Lavoie - From April 24, 2002 (Montréal) to November 23, 2003 (Los Angeles)
- Craig Jennings - From December 5, 2003 (Pomona) to May 8, 2016 (St. Petersburg)
- Jamieson Lindenburg - From May 11, 2016 (Kazan) to December 23, 2017 (Frisco)
The experiences of the initial cast during the creation of the show were portrayed in the television series Cirque du Soleil: Fire Within (featured on the Bravo Network). Fire Within won the 2003 Emmy Award in the "Outstanding Non-Fiction Program" (Alternative) category.
Cirque du Soleil released a film adaptation of Varekai on June 14, 2003, directed by Dominic Champagne and Nick Morris. The filming took place in Toronto during the show's tour and the vocalists in the filming were Zara Tellander and Mathieu Lavoie with Anton Tchelnokov as Icarus, Olga Pikhienko as La Promise/The Betrothed and John Gilkey as The Skywatcher.
Varekai completed its first North American tour in Vancouver, British Columbia, 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.
Following the European tour that cumulated in Barcelona as 2010 came to a close, the show toured to Taipei, Taiwan; Seoul, South Korea and Manila, Philippines in 2011. The Manila run was exceptional in that the show endured the monsoon season and several typhoons.
In the later half of 2011 Varekai landed in São Paulo and spent twelve months in Brazil before continuing to Argentina and Chile in 2013, and then Peru, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico in 2013. Guadalajara, followed by Mexico City were the final destinations for the Grand Chapiteau. Varekai performed the last performance under the Grand Chapiteau on November 24, 2013.
The show then transferred to the Arena format in late 2013. The city that hosted the transformation was Bossier City, Louisiana, seen in public for the first time on December 12, 2013. After the transformation in Bossier City, Varekai played the Arena version at Centre Bell in Montreal just before Christmas in 2013, honouring the long-standing Cirque tradition of a winter show at the Centre Bell. After its 15-year run, Varekai closed in Frisco, TX on 23 December 2017.
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
- 4000th performance in Mexico City, Mexico, in October 2013
- 4500th performance in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, in June 2015
- 5000th performance in Birmingham, United Kingdom, in March 2017
Varekai has been to many different regions, here is the list of all of them.
- North American Tour - [2002 - 2006]
- Australian Tour - [2006 - 2007]
- European Tour - [2007 - 2011]
- Asia & Pacific Tour - 
- South American Tour - [2011 - 2013]
- North American Arena Tour - [2013 - 2015]
- European Arena Tour - [2015 - October 2017]
- Farewell Tour - [November - December 2017]
The following colorboxes indicate the region of each performance:Europe North America South and Central America Asia/Pacific Oceania Africa
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 Chinese, English, French, and Japanese). Canada: Dépôt légal, Bibliothèque et Archives Canada. pp. 68–73. ISBN 978-2-9803493-4-8.
- "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.