Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna Comes to Minneapolis

Updated: 02/18/2014 9:51 AM By: Sarina Long

Aerial hoop
Aerial hoop
Photo: Photo by Laurence Labat, costume by Mérédith Caron

Peacock dance, costume designed by Mérédith Caron
Peacock dance, costume designed by Mérédith Caron
Photo: Laurence Labat

Photo: Laurence Labat, costumes by Mérédith Caron

Imagine having a wardrobe filled with 300 costumes, refrigerated drawers filled with makeup, and a personal shoemaker to touch up broken heels or scuffed boots.  

To some that may sound overwhelming, while others dream of having a closet that big.

Ah, someday. 

We had a chance to take a behind-the-scenes tour under the big top with Larry Edwards, Amaluna's Head of Costumes.   

Edwards is a native of Australia who spent 20 years as a performing arts teacher but decided on a career change and has spent the past 6 years on tour with Cirque du Soleil. This is his fourth show.

Amaluna opens this Thursday night under The Grand Chapiteau set up at the Mall of America North lot near Ikea (click here for directions as there is lots of construction in the area). 

Based in a mysterious island governed by goddesses, Amaluna is an emotional love story between a young couple (Prospera the queen's daughter and a suitor), who face plenty of obstacles before they can be together. 

Amaluna is a fusion of the words ama, meaning "mother" and luna, meaning "moon," a symbol of femininity that represents the mother-daughter relationship and the idea of goddess and protector of the planet.

The costumes were designed by renowned Canadian designer, Mérédith Caron. Amaluna is now her third project with Cirque as well as Criss Angel and Believe. 

There are a total of 65 changes throughout the performance.

"With all of the aerial acts, there is lots of movement and we want the performers to be comfortable but also safe. The show is designed loosely based on The Tempist, so there is a Shakespearean influence. Meredith wanted them in a heavier, yet real look. We used stretched denim so the performers are able to stretch and move freely," Edwards said. 

 "Meredith has a very natural esthetic so we have a lot of natural fibers like leather, linen, denim, cotton Lycra which has to be fireproofed daily. Linen doesn't die! We keep washing it, we'll patina it but in terms of the structure of fabric, it's fantastic.""

There are only two other Cirque staff members who make up the wardrobe team alongside Edwards. "Rebecca works her magic with shoes and costume touches up or patinas toes, heels that get banged up after each performance; Betsy works as our stitcher, her job is to repair the costumes everyday. We do lots of rebuilds," Edwards said. 

Three locals are hired to work in the wardrobe department on each stop of the tour. Two of those help dress the performers, while a third works in the wigs and headpieces area in the wardrobe section. They are also on laundry duty, ironing and steaming the costumes for six hours a day, as well as reattaching any sequins or baubles that came off in the previous day’s performance. 

“There was an environmental element that went into the design of the costumes as well, because we don’t want to be wasteful and throw them away,” Edwards says, adding that Amaluna is a dry-clean free show. “We want to produce a piece and then be able to rework it and put it back in the show, which is why Meredith Caron used a lot of leather in the show. Some pieces have lasted a year-and-a-half while others need replacing sooner."

"One of our main features are our headpieces (see photo below). Every year Cirque designs something they push the limits."

As I walked back-stage, there were two cast members getting a fresh haircut by local stylists Kimberly and Owen from Juut Salon and Spa in Edina.

"It's an incredible opportunity," Kimberly said. "I didn't get much sleep last night. I was so excited!" 

"Language is a huge barrier. The performers are fantastic so sometimes we get sign language from them so that's how we get direction from them but we have detailed direction from Larry [points to a photo by the mirrors of how each performer should ultimately look]," Owen said. "I'm flattered and honored to be a part of this Cirque production." 

Battling weather from Asia to North America, there are many measures taken to ensure leather doesn’t shrink, paint doesn’t smear and makeup doesn’t melt.

How do they do it? "We learned a lot over time. There are tricks that come with the over 20 years of experience putting on Cirque du Soleil productions," Edwards said. 

The makeup, sponsored by MAC Cosmetics, is bright and beautiful oranges and blues which cast members apply themselves, nightly. They are taught in Montreal by seasoned makeup artists and every performer is given a step-by-step guide on how to achieve their look.

"Most makeup will take one to two hours to do. We also have airbrushing where tattoos are applied to performers face and body," Edwards told me. 

What can the audience expect?

"This will be your favorite for life. My favorite was Saltimbanco which I saw 20 years ago. Expect to hold your breath, like every Cirque show. I get goose bumps just talking about it. The fact that these people risk their lives every night to perform the magic that they do, it just blows my mind."

Costume-wise, it's a beautiful looking show. It's a feast for the eyes. 

The skill and the acrobatics are amazing. 

Did you know?

The cast is 70 percent women.

The show’s band is 100 percent women.

There are 52 incredibly talented performers in the show.

17 countries are represented in the cast and crew, including Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Finland, France, Greece, Japan, Mongolia, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and the United States.

There are 145 people on tour with the cast, including 20 family members.

Amaluna opens tomorrow night, September 26 and runs through October 20. For tickets and more information, click here