Thu, May 26, 2022

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After 2-year COVID hiatus, Cirque du Soleil returns to London stage


The troupe returns to Europe to resume its touring productions after a two-year hiatus. The pandemic forced its London home, the Royal Albert Hall, to shut its doors on March 17, 2020.

In fact, it has been 25 years now since Cirque du Soleil first brought its captivating show to the Hall's stage.

 Inside the cobalt blue, pink and orange-lit auditorium, the intermission is over. Two years after world-famous Cirque du Soleil's breath-taking acrobatics spectacle Luzia was forced to drop the curtain due to COVID-19, the story finally continues this month with the dazzling and awe-inspiring show returning to London.

Nevertheless, the pandemic continues to make its presence felt. During the ongoing rehearsals in the British capital's historic Royal Albert Hall, the flying acrobats and all the other performers are masked, hand sanitizer dispensers line the theater's corridors and social distancing remains a requirement.

"But now, we're here ... We are artists, we like to keep going. We don't want to give up if something happens. It's just not us," Yan Li, a hoop diving artist from China, told Xinhua before his long-awaited daily rehearsal.

The troupe returns to Europe to resume its touring productions after a two-year hiatus. The pandemic forced its London home, the Royal Albert Hall, to shut its doors on March 17, 2020. In fact, it has been 25 years now since Cirque du Soleil first brought its captivating show to the Hall's stage.

Artists practice during their daily rehearsals in the British capital

DEFYING GRAVITY

"All the artists and all the employees of the company are happy because we're back live," Li said.

Put it simply, Cirque du Soleil's performers amaze their audience by defying physics and gravity. For them, what goes up stays up: the artists fly through the air with effortless ease. Down on the ground, the contortionists' and jugglers' performance is equally jaw-dropping.

Unlike before the pandemic, Li said "we now have to wear our masks during the performance. However, for some of the acts we take them off because the masks could be dangerous when we jump. They might cover our eyes."

"Before COVID-19, we used to go down to the audience to interact with them, but now we had to cancel that for safety reasons," said the 33-year-old.

Nevertheless, Li couldn't hide his excitement to be on tour again. "Performing is our life, our passion. So that's why we're super happy, super excited to be back on the stage every night."

Luzia, a merger of the Spanish words "luz" (light) and "lluvia" (rain), takes the audience to an imaginary Mexico and a sumptuous world suspended between dreams and reality. "The show is Mexican. If you have never been to Mexico and you come to the show, you will get some image of Mexico, the colors, the weather and the people there."

Luzia runs from Jan. 12 until Feb. 27 at the Royal Albert Hall, which can seat up to 5,900 people.

The show incorporates traditional Chinese circus discipline, Li said. "I perform Chinese pole and hoop diving acts. We use these to enrich the story."

In the show, the hoop divers are dressed as a flock of colorful hummingbirds, and the Chinese pole act is reminiscent of the movement of a lizard.

Artists practice during their daily rehearsals in the British capital

OVERCOMING HURDLES

Life has not been easy for the troupe of Cirque du Soleil, as COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the performing arts industry.

"Some of us have had our own gigs mostly smaller or solo performances," Li said.

Li, who originally trained as a professional gymnast at the Fujian Sports Vocational Education and Technical College in China and worked as a coach at a gymnastic school in Foshan in China's Guangdong Province, said he never stopped his tough workout routine during the lockdown because "I knew that one day I would be back at the Cirque." His preparations for the upcoming show have lasted four months now.

Li, who has been working with Cirque du Soleil since 2009, said that the team spirit and the power of mutual support have helped him cope with the challenges.

"We have social security, and we have unemployment benefits. The company is trying to help us. Of course, they had to stop paying because we were not performing. But they are still trying to support us. They have extended our insurance policies, helped us with accommodation, and gave us as much benefit as they could."

Originally composed of 20 street performers in 1984, the Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, established in Montreal, Canada, has reinvented circus arts and become a world leader in live entertainment. It has already welcomed over 180 million spectators to its shows in 450 cities around the world.

"I am a big fan of the Cirque du Soleil. So happy to see it come back," read a comment on Xinhua London's TikTok page, calling the troupe one of the best of its kind in the world.

 People dine outside at Covent Garden in London, Britain, Jan. 19, 2022.  (Photo by Stephen Chung/Xinhua)

Published : January 28, 2022

By : Xinhua