Luzia flyer Naomi Zimmermann in Adagio practice session.
Luzia flyer Naomi Zimmermann in Adagio practice session.

Craving Connection: A chat with Luzia Adagio flyers

Horses may be better and connection with us that we are ourselves. Who knew? It is called heterospecific referential communication. This horse definitely caught my attention and took my breath away.

We have the ability to communicate. We use our language, our bodies, and our faces. We create a sense of who we are with individual style or “style”. We are constantly sending out and receiving signals and yet there are so many missed connections. Despite all these tools to get a message across they often drift off with the wind and we are left unheard, unseen, and feeling disconnected.  Sometimes you need to reset that feeling and the best way I know to feel reconnected is through the arts.  Luzia takes connection to another level not only in acrobatic acts such as Adagio but also in the storyline.  Luzia has so much heart and soul that I caught myself a little weepy-eyed when I sensed Luzia was coming to an end.  The good thing is I’m already planning to go back to see it one more time with friends and family before Cirque du Soleil leaves town.  (NB: I was hosted by Cirque du Soleil for opening night of Luzia.)

Not seeing eye to eye is a human thing. Soeaking of eyes- I felt like I was being watched as I visited Luzia’s wardrobe department.

This week, I had the opportunity to take a look at Cirque Du Soleil’s Luzia and learn a little bit more about the show. The theme of Luzia is a fantastical dream version of Mexico. Underlying that theme, and in speaking to a couple of the artists, I saw I felt another theme that we could all use right about now; It is the theme of connection.

Isabelle and I were able to see flyers Kelly McDonald and Naomi Zimmermann in rehearsal with their crew. Once they had two feet back on the ground, we caught up with the former NCAA gymnast (McDonald) and National Circus School of Montreal graduate (Zimmermann) to chat about the Cirque life, Boston, and Luzia.

Flyer Kelly McDonald rehearsing Adagio before opening night of Luzia.
Flyer Kelly McDonald rehearsing Adagio before opening night of Luzia.

In Adagio, a hand to hand flyer piece in Luzia, the partner work is the majority of the piece. When I asked the artists about their focus as they perform what struck me the most was how important connection was between themselves and their crew. Hand to hand flying is one of the oldest circus disciplines.  It is an act where the athletes are constantly adjusting to support one another. What I never really thought about for most of these circus disciplines is that the are not made up of a series of movements that you practice over and over again until it is as close to perfect as it can be. Hand to hand flying has that variable of the other people without whom you cannot perform each move.  In any type of live performance the show must go on and there is always the chance of snafus, wardrobe slips, or prop and lighting malfunctions and any great artists knows how to keep the show on track.  In many of these circus acts, however, these little adjustments are made constantly throughout the show because the tricks are bigger and the risk is greater and that connection has to be stronger to pull it off.

When asked about pre-performance rituals, again the theme of connection came up. The artists in Luzia come from 21 different countries and have very different backgrounds, languages and cultures and yet they perform as one. This connection is especially important in acts like Adagio.  Naomi Zimmermann shared that she huddles up with her crew before heading on stage.  This group hug of sorts starts the act off with that strong connection both physical and mental before Zimmermann is thrown, swung and twirled across stage into the arms and hands of her partners.

The monarch butterfly theme tells a story within the story. The monarch butterfly flies from Canada to Mexico ever year.

Kelly McDonald also spoke of connection.  Connection starts way before Adagio.  They make a point of making eye contact throughout the show in scenes prior to Adagio and then reinforce that connection before and during the act.  When I asked if they ever get lost in the movement of Adagio, McDonald pointed out that in hand to hand flying you don’t get lost in the movement because you are constantly adjusting that connection and balance.  I think that is part of what makes circus so different from other performing arts.  There is that extra level of connection needed because the tricks are pushing the limits of what the body can do and there are more variables within each act that the artist/athletes are required to assess and react to on a dime.

This moving floor adds a new dimension to all the tricks. It isn’t just a simple treadmill which you will see in several acts including Adagio.

When I asked the Luzia flyers about life in the circus and with Cirque du Soleil, the theme of connection continued. Luzia travels all over from Canada to Mexico and in each city the entire Cirque du Soleil world from the grand chapiteau/big top to the living and training quarters moves along with them.  I asked McDonald and Zimmermann if there is anything in particular they like to do in each new city.  They like to explore the area and taste dishes that each region is known for. Kelly McDonald also mentioned that she likes to take a class.  When we travel, if we have time, we try to do one thing that would be something we would do in our every day lives at home from visiting the library or even shopping at the local grocery store or market to taking a dance class.  On their list of things to do aside from take a class is to visit the North End, taste some of our New England fare, and explore the history of the city.  What places do you think they should not miss?!

Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia will be in Boston through August 12th, 2018.  The show will then pack up and head down south…way south to Guadalajara (Mexico), Monterrey (Mexico), and Houston (Texas).

Flyer Naomi Zimmermann rehearsing Adagio before opening night of Luzia.
Flyer Naomi Zimmermann rehearsing Adagio before opening night of Luzia.

While tour dates dictate where cast and crew have to be at any given time, so family events such as weddings, reunions, holidays and other milestones will be missed, the circus lifestyle is a choice that these artists make and they recognize that traveling with Luzia is also their waking dream,  While McDonald has an International Business degree, she loves gymnastics and gymnastics has been a part of who she is since she was very young.  After four years as a NCAA athlete your time is up.  “You don’t get drafted in gymnastics!” McDonald laughs, so being able to continue with her passion in the circus is extraordinary.  Naomi Zimmermann didn’t love the rigidity of the gym so when she first started gymnastics she didn’t stay long.  Her mom convinced her to try circus, which sounded suspiciously a lot like gymnastics, so Zimmermann was hesitant to give it a try.  Once she stepped foot into that circus community which had a very different feel from the gym, she was hooked and ready to run away and join the circus from the young age of 8.  When the Cirque cast and crew want to head home from exploring their host city, they head back to the tents.  It is where their new family lives, and where they can regroup.  They train and live in this unique traveling home and when they step inside they feel at home in whatever city the tents are set up.

You can catch (well not literally because that takes years of training ) Naomi Zimmermann and Kelly McDonald in Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia in Boston through August 12th, 2018.  Tickets are available online and there are some great deals if you are on a budget as well.

A sneak peek beneath the gills at Luzia in the costume department.

Hope to see you there!


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