Behind the Curtain: Varekai by Cirque du Soleil
By: Katrina Sharpe, Marketing Communications Coordinator
Published: July 23, 2015
Take a peek behind the curtain and journey into the forest of Varekai. The forest is inhabited by 50 performers representing 19 different countries. Varekai embraces the nomadic culture and is named after the gypsy word for “wherever.” This show first premiered in 2002 in Montreal. Since then, Varekai has entertained over 8 million viewers worldwide and continues to entertain people in more than 72 different cities in 20 different countries.
Krista Monson, Cirque du Soleil’s conceptor and stage director, recalls from her introductory experience at a Cirque show, “You weren’t told where to look and who to look at – the lights didn’t always direct you – and so the freedom as a spectator, was huge.” The creative brilliance behind these shows allows the audience to go on their own journey as they are free to focus their attention on whatever may catch their eye. Below we will take you through some of the different elements that create Varekai.
The story of Varekai was written by Dominic Champagne and it tells the tale of what happens to the Greek legend Icarus after he falls from the sky. The story of Icarus begins when his father constructs two sets of wings out of feathers and wax so they can escape from an island. He warns his son not to fly too close to the sea or too close to the sun. In his excitement, Icarus ignores his father’s warning and flies higher and higher. The heat from the sun melts the wax and his feathers fall off one by one, leaving him with nothing but his flapping arms. Icarus falls from the sky and lands in the enchanting world of Varekai…
To make a Cirque show come to life, it is essential that talent scouts pick the best of the best. The athletes and performers that become a part of the Cirque family come from all over the world. Some are competitive gymnasts while others are circus performers, actors, and dancers. These talent scouts are careful not to prematurely take the athletes out of their competitive careers. It is evident these performers are extraordinarily talented. The feats you will see them attempt in Varekai appear near to impossible; one of the reasons Cirque shows are as captivating and entertaining as they are.
Costumes & Makeup
Cirque costumes are created with intricate detail and precision. The fabric most popularly used for Cirque costumes in moleskin, or Lycra. Every part of the costume, down to the shoes, is handmade. The time it takes to keep these costumes clean and protected while on tour is an unbelievable 250 hours per week. Soon after the performers are selected, they have a mold made of their head so that hats and wigs can be fitted and designed properly. It can take a performer upwards to an hour and a half to apply their makeup, which they apply themselves.
Music & Set Design
Live music is a large part of a Cirque production. Interestingly, the music is played to match the performance, not the other way around. According to Cirque, the music for Varekai combines “the sounds of Hawaiian rituals, the songs of 11th-century troubadours from the south of France, traditional Armenian melodies and gospel music with contemporary arrangements.”
The set design for Varekai includes the forest, the stage, the catwalk, and the lookout. Over 300 “trees” make up this forest. It takes about 18 trucks, 2 trailers, 1 van, and a few cars to travel from one show to another. Moving this Cirque family and all of their equipment is an incredible feat in and of itself!
Take a look at this video of the Icarian Games from Varekai. Prepare to be amazed.