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Behind the Scenes Secrets of Cirque du Soleil

Sponsored by Cirque du Soleil

Many elements go into creating a successful show from its inception to the actual presentation. For every performer on stage, there is an army of creative and supporting crew.

Cirque du Soleil’s show “Kurios,” for example, has 46 performers and travels with a troupe of 116 people from 22 countries. There are people who cook for the show – it travels with its own kitchen and serves 300-400 meals each day. There are people who transport and keep up the set because it takes 65 trucks to move the 2,000 tons of props and equipment.

And there are the people who create and maintain the wardrobe: they have been through 175 pairs of shoes since the show started two years ago. And every day there are people who wash every costume that comes in contact with a performer.

Personalized makeup

Somewhat surprising, however, the performers are responsible for applying their own makeup. This process takes between 40 minutes and two hours. It’s a complex task to create the half-human, half-mechanical look. Some characters have “screws” holding their metal-looking faces together. Others are painted to imitate electric eels.

The show capitalizes on a steampunk theme — defined by Merriam-Webster as “science fiction dealing with 19th-century societies dominated by historical or imagined steam-powered technology” and explores where we might have gone if we have stayed with the steam-engine power. It’s a sci-fi mashup of turn-of-the 19th century/futuristic technology.

Once the artistic makeup is applied, the trick is getting it to stay on while the performer is flying around stage — in the case of acrobats —or sweating under the strain of seemingly impossible contortions. (The secret? Powder. Lots of powder.)

The visual illusion of makeup is enhanced with the costuming.

High-tech costumes

According to Michel Laprise, “Kurios” writer and director, “The costume is a huge part of our show.” He says the show travels with 3,000 pieces.

Because this is an entirely original show, all the costumes are custom made. They are personally fitted with high-tech body-scanning machines. Some of the pieces are created with a 3-D printer to be strong and light. Others are sewn by hand. Many of the costumes require special fabrics.

Costume designer Philippe Guillotel chose five or six main materials he used extensively and in all possible forms. For example, certain parts of the Travelers’ costumes and the top part of the Accordion Man’s costume are made from a stretch material to which metal foil was added. This comfortable and washable material makes it easy to create very realistic faux leather.

Also, the images on the metalized polyester jersey fabric are actually photos that were printed using a technique called sublimation, which sets the images in the fibers of the material.

Very apropos

For a show based on curiosity and exploration, the makeup and costumes are true to the concept of the production.

For more information on “Kurios, Cabinet of Curiosities” and to buy tickets, visit cirquedusoleil.com/kurios or call 1-877-9-CIRQUE (1-877-924-7783).

Presented by Visa Signature, “Kurios” premieres in Tysons II in McLean, Virginia, (next to the Silver Line Metro station) July 21.

Shelly Norman is a freelance author and editor.