Behind the scenes at Cirque du Soleil

Drawn into the enveloping mist Dralion audiences are quickly whisked away to enjoy a mystical experience of space, colour and excitement.

Performer Dong Jie applies makeup in the dressing room prior to his turn on stage in the Cirque du Soleil production of Dralion currently touring the Pacific Northwest.

Drawn into the enveloping mist Dralion audiences are quickly whisked away to enjoy a mystical experience of space, colour and excitement. In this uncharted dimension where time no longer exists and harmony reigns, the unique, symmetrical mix of art and body provide a virtual playground for the mind around every corner of the uncharted route.

And add in a dash of slapstick and all is right in the unreal world of Cirque du Soleil.

Like the company’s other 18 shows currently touring the globe, Dralion’s success is the result of years of work by people who have dedicated their lives to developing the wonderment which has become Cirque’s trademark.

People like acrobatics head coach Michael Ocampo who initially signed on for a “couple” of years as a performer and now nearly two decades later is still a troupe member.

“I love it, I really do,” said the Quebec native as trampoline athletes warmed up behind him prior to show time at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre. “It’s such a thrill to work with people of this calibre. Most of our acrobats and performers are perfectionists and our musicians and our singers too, because if they weren’t they wouldn’t be here.”

Eight performances of Dralion are scheduled for the South Okanagan Events Centre beginning June 29 running until July 3.

Although not an athlete, Michael Hughes’ role as Alberti, one of the three clowns, is a critical component of the performance.

“Our role inside the show is kind of just to share the love,” said the 30-year-old, theatre-trained actor. “These clowns are all about love. They love to be around the circus and they’re as amazed as the audience ends up being.”

Hughes admits being on the road so much can be difficult at times.

“But it’s such a great ensemble here; they are like family for me,” he said. “There’s always a balance; when I need those few moments for myself and then when I need the ensemble.

“There is just such an amazing energy on stage and off, so in that respect I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot.”

After four years on tour trampoline artist Dmytro Negodin still loves the audience reaction.

“Mentally it can be difficult especially when you do so many shows but when 3,000 people stand up and cheer…” said the Ukrainian athlete. “The public gives me the energy I need.”

As staggering as the show itself, the infrastructure is moreso,  most of which is contained in the 18 semitrailer trucks that will soon be rolling into town.

That includes everything from the 26-foot high, 60-foot wide metal temple-like backdrop to the three motorized aluminum rings suspended high above the stage used to move performers and provide support for technical and acrobatic equipment.

There are also the 1,500 costumes cut from 16,000 feet of fabric which include some rather unusual items like bubble wrap, window screen and springs.

Over 300 pairs of shoes alone are cleaned and hand painted each week by the touring staff who travel with their own washers and dryers.

Tickets are available at the SOEC box office, Wine Country Visitor Centre, online at  www.valleyfirsttix.com or by phone 1-877-763-2849.

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