Cirque du Soleil has been dazzling its audiences since the ‘80s with colorful characters, gravity- defying stunts and acrobatics. Take advantage of what will be the last tour of Cirque du Soleil’s longest-running show, “Saltimbanco” at the Pensacola Bay Center for its first and final performance in Pensacola.
Recently, The IN spoke with Maxime Charbonneau, who is the publicist of “Saltimbanco.” He has worked with Cirque du Soleil for five years on six different productions in over 35 countries.
IN: “Saltimbanco” is Cirque du Soleil’s longest running touring shows, being performed since 1992. Why do you think it gets such a positive response from people?
CHARBONNEAU: Over the years “Saltimbanco” has become a classic. It is a beautiful, colorful and full-of-energy production. It is successful because it touches audiences in so many ways. It shows that the human body expresses different things. “Saltimbanco” is quite traditional in that it is a fairly simple show. It conveys what the human body is capable of doing and I think that is something everyone can understand. Simplicity is one of the show’s main attributes.
IN: How is “Saltimbanco” different from other Cirque du Soleil shows?
CHARBONNEAU: “Saltimbanco” is used to introduce people to Cirque du Soleil. We’ve toured in arenas for the past five years and people are always amazed and touched. We have 21 shows all over the world on this current tour. Even though the show is 20 years old, “Saltimbanco” is still touching people. For example, last week we played in Portland, Maine. It was the first time we had ever played there and we established records for most tickets sold in that building.
IN: “Saltimbanco” is supposed to represent a bustling city metropolis. How is this representation conveyed in the show?
CHARBONNEAU: In the first act of the show, the artists play characters we call “worms.” They don’t really have their own personality or identity. Then in the second act, all the characters evolve and learn to interact with each other and demonstrate their own personalities. They all work together in the creation of this new world. In the end you see this final evolution of the characters and how they learn to work together in this imaginary world.
IN: What kind of acts will be performed in the show?
CHARBONNEAU: There are dozens of acts that are a part of the show. There are acrobatic acts, clowning or character parts, contortion, juggling, trapeze, an aerial ballet number and some specialized acts. The Russian swing is where the performers are catapulted 30 feet in the air. There are also a lot of group acts. The show contains 50 artists, and the main core of 30 artists is called the house troupe. The house troupe performs the Chinese poles, where the artists jump from one pole to the other. The bungee act is the final act of the show.
IN: What act surprises or impresses people the most, or gets the most audience reaction?
CHARBONNEAU: I would say—surprisingly—it is one of the clown acts. In “Saltimbanco” there is a lot of audience interaction. We like to involve our audience members in the show so some will be asked to participate. Putting a random guest on stage always brings surprises and fun. It’s not always “this one jumps so high.” Sometimes we will think about the person who went on the stage and played with the performers as the most memorable and exciting thing about “Saltimbanco.”
IN: Since Cirque du Soleil has never been to Pensacola before, what can people expect who have never been to a show?
CHARBONNEAU: They should expect to be amazed from what they see. All the people will have a good time watching the show. It’s a good show for the entire family. It’s full of life and fun. The characters are silly. I’m sure people will really enjoy it. “Saltimbanco” is the best introduction if you’ve never been to a Cirque du Soleil show before.
IN: Can you tell me a little bit about the typical day of a performer? What kind of training do the artists have to do to be able to do these stunts?
CHARBONNEAU: We have artists from all different backgrounds. We have 50 artists from 20 different cultures. They all have some sort of athletic background whether it is gymnastics, swimming or diving. Some performers have circus backgrounds as well. They all have their own ways of training and they all have a specific training schedule. The artists usually have two to three training sessions plus six to eight shows a week. It can be a lot to manage, but we carry everything we need with us on tour. We have a physical therapist and we bring our own gym equipment with us. The artists do mostly cardio and weightlifting but each artist has a different way of staying fit for the show.
IN: This is the last tour of “Saltimbanco.” Are you sad to see it end?
CHARBONNEAU: We are in the last stretch. The last show of “Saltimbanco” will be in December. We are closing the show in Quebec, the headquarters of Cirque du Soleil. The beauty of Cirque du Soleil is that we try to never bring the same show to the same city. Hopefully when we come back, it will be a completely new show.
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL’S ‘SALTIMBANCO’
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7 and Thursday, Nov. 8
WHERE: Pensacola Bay Center, 201 E. Gregory St.
COST: Adults, $40- $70; Children, $32-$57; Military, Seniors & Students, $36- $58.50
DETAILS: cirquedusoleil.com/saltimbanco; 800-745-3000