Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Corteo’ soars through the air to tell an uplifting story of a clown’s life
You might think a clown’s funeral sounds a bit melancholy. Or perhaps full of wild high-jinks.
But in Cirque du Soleil’s “Corteo” production, performers and aerialists will tell spin and tumble through PNC Arena to tell a story that’s uplifting.
“It is a show about a clown who is dreaming about his own funeral, he has all of his friends come to pay tribute,” said Maxwell Batista, a traveling publicist for Cirque Du Soleil. “But it is not a sad show, it is a celebration of life. On this show, we are going to see him remembering all of the greatest moments he had in his life.”
The North American tour of “Corteo” will be presented in Raleigh’s PNC Arena Feb. 7-10.
“Corteo” has been presented all over the world, and it’s a chance of a lifetime for performers to see the world.
The News & Observer spoke with Batista and Erin Cervantes, an aerialist in the show. In her piece, she is one of four women who dangle from very large chandeliers to portray the past romantic interests of Maro, the clown at the center of the production.
They talked about “Corteo” and life on the road with a crew of more than 100 people.
Q: How did you get into working with Cirque Du Soleil?
Batista: I’ve been with the company for about two-and-a-half years. I’m from Brazil but I started in Australia with the company when they had an opening with “Corteo” in Under the Big Top.
Cervantes: I started as a dancer and actress when I was pretty young, I moved to Los Angeles in 2002. Five years after that I was hanging out with a friend, and she asked if I wanted to go to a circus school there for fun. I went to this school to check it out. I really had no intentions to do this for a living.
But then the woman who owns the school became my coach because she saw potential in me. So I started to put together my own acts and sent them into Cirque Du Soleil, not knowing if they were going to care at all. Then, they invited me to come to an audition in 2013. So, I went and auditioned. Then, I passed auditions and got into their database. I kept creating new pieces and sending them in and eventually I got the email about “Corteo.” Then, about a year and a half ago, I went to Montreal to begin the creation process for the show.
Q: What do you think is different about “Corteo” than other shows?
Batista: You see human beings on stage instead of characters. You see human beings and you can identify yourself with them. It’s a show that people are going to be touched and moved about everything that is happening.
Cervantes: The fact that we can be ourselves. The main character says our names throughout the show. Everybody is just themselves and expected to be themselves on stage and not have to really play or act anything. You are a specific character in the story, but you can still just be yourself.
Q: What is your schedule like?
Batista: Well, for the tour we have been touring since March of 2018, and we are going to be here until August of 2019. Then, in September we will start the European tour. Every week, we are in a different city.
Cervantes: We usually get into the new place between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. Monday morning. So, Monday for everyone usually becomes a day of nothing. Tuesday and Wednesday, typically we do get out and go see things in the city that we are in and see museums or parks, stuff like that. We have shows always Thursday-Sunday. Then, we pack everything up and fly or drive to the next place.
Q: What is the traveling process like. How does it all work out?
Batista: We have about 110 people traveling together. We have about 52 people who are performers on stage. We have a team there to take care of the artists and the quality of the show.
In four hours they take everything apart, put it back inside 21 trucks, and then we move to the next place. We stay in hotels and depending on the distance between cities we have a bus or a charter flight to take us.
Cervantes: Every week you are at a different place, so sometimes you’re just asking, “Wait, where am I today? Where were we last week?”
Q: What do you encourage people to take away from the show?
Batista: I think overall, Cirque is a moment for people to disconnect themselves from everything that is going on, from their daily routine. “Corteo” is a show where you will have a mix of feelings. I think it is something that should encourage people to find their way to having a good time in their life as well. And making sure we, on a daily basis, do the best that we can to have good moments and enjoy life the most that we can because life is short.
Cervantes: I just want people to come away from the show with a feeling of happiness and joy from seeing this celebration of life. A lot of people hear the subject matter and they think it is going to be depressing and about a funeral, but it’s not really about the funeral. Yes, there is one, but the whole thing is celebrating his life and all the experiences and people that he has met in his life. I hope people walk away with that feeling, and they aren’t scared it will be sad.
Q: What is your favorite part of the whole experience?
Batista: One of the best things about it is you get to work and be with some of the most talented people from all over the world. We have people from everywhere with different backgrounds and storylines. My favorite part of the actual show for sure is the chandelier act, the one that Erin is doing. When I first saw this show live, I was amazed because there are three huge chandeliers hanging up above the stage and at first you think they are a piece of decoration, but once the show starts you see that there are people flying on them. The way they do it, they are hanging up in the air, very far from the ground. It’s just amazing, seeing people doing that, on a chandelier, you don’t see it every day.
Cervantes: I really enjoy moving every week and bringing the show to different audiences. Being able to stand on the side of the stage and watch people’s faces and how happy and excited and impressed they are with what people are doing on stage. Seeing adults with child-like faces is one of my favorite things to see.
What: “Corteo” by Cirque du Soleil
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7-8; 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9; 1 and 5 p.m. Feb. 10
Where: PNC Arena, 1400 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh
Cost: Tickets start at $52