Cirque du Soleil has been wowing American audiences since the late 1980’s for great reason. The combination of music, dance, and acrobatics is downright mesmerizing as the performances are both reminiscent of circus arts and something entirely original in its own right. As such, it was an honor for me to have the opportunity to speak to Cirque du Soleil’s Julie Desmarais ahead of their return to the Bon Secours Wellness Arena Valentine’s Day weekend.
My first question, admittedly, was what Cirque du Soleil is doing in Greenville in the first place. I learned that besides the company’s eight residencies in Las Vegas alone, along with others in various cities around the globe, Cirque du Soleil also has around 13 different shows on tour at any given moment. The newest of those touring shows is Axel which just made its debut in 2019 and is only their second foray into on-ice performances following 2017’s Crystal which also visited Greenville.
Axel follows a fantastical journey of the show’s title character which adds acrobatic skating to the choreography and high flying antics one would normally expect from a Cirque du Soleil performance. Axel is played by Australian musical artist Jayden Sierra who sings and plays guitar as well as lacing up the skates as part of the physical presentation. This latter part of the story gave me pause and really opened my eyes to the level of talent that it takes to be a part of a Cirque du Soleil show…
I asked Desmarais what kind of backgrounds the performers behind a Cirque du Soleil production come from and her answer kind of blew my mind. As the shows seem to combine so many different disciplines, surely they pick the best dancers, acrobats, and skaters and great choreography makes them integrate so seamlessly, right? Well, not quite. In this case, skaters learn to perform acrobatics, acrobats learn to skate, and so on down the line. Desmarais assured me that this was not all that shocking as all parties involved are so athletically gifted that they welcome the challenge of learning new disciplines. Apparently one of the hardest things to adapt to, for the acrobats at least, was adjusting the balance of their routines with the additional five pounds of skates attached to their feet. Suddenly, a musical performer learning to skate while performing live music did not seem so farfetched.
All told, Axel will feature more than 40 artists – acrobats and skaters alike – in what is sure to be a whirlwind performance featuring “real people doing unreal things on set” which is as good a description of Cirque du Soleil that I could ever imagine. The show’s playlist is predominantly original songs with a handful of recognizable favorites to help bridge the gap between new fans and Cirque du Soleil devotees. Additionally, the show is designed with appeal to all ages in mind, from the youngest of kids to the oldest kids at heart.
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Axel debuts in Greenville Thursday evening (2/13) with one show following on Friday night (Valentine’s Day) and two shows each on Saturday and Sunday. This is an intimate performance with only half of the arena open for seating so get your tickets before it is too late. Whether this is your Valentine’s weekend date night or a fun family outing with the whole crew in tow, you are not going to want to miss the latest Cirque du Soleil masterpiece.