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Cirque is back – Amaluna hits TO

September 18th 2012

Interview by: Noah Vanderlaan

Stacy Clark worked in marketing and advertising, but somewhere in all that grown up career stuff discovered circus. She started flying trapeze with the Toronto School of Circus Arts in 1996 before founding her own troupe, High Strung. Yet there comes a time of transition in every acrobat’s life, and Stacy returned to her hometown of Montreal in 2006 to begin a career at Cirque Du Soleil. Amaluna, which premiered in Toronto two weeks ago, marks her shift from casting to acrobatic coaching. In the Green Room sat down with Stacy Clark to discuss how Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna presents a different spin on the traditional circus spectacle.

Coach Stacy Clark before Toronto premiere of Amaluna. Photo by Ben Freedman

NOAH VANDERLAAN: Amaluna is one of the first productions by Cirque du Soleil that really forefronts the role of women in the circus. What drove that decision?

STACY CLARK: Traditionally there have been more male circus artists and male acrobats, not only in Cirque but globally, particularly at the level that we’re looking for. A classic example might be a flying trapeze number, where you have several hotshot male flyers and a couple of beautiful girls who do lower level skills and sort of add a little bit of beauty and flare to the number, but they’re not necessarily delivering acrobatic caliber.

The intent behind Amaluna was to really turn the tables and try to pay tribute to the strength and skill of women, all of that of course put into the context of storytelling.

NV: Does this production possess the inherent potential to be a real game changer, in terms of equity, both for Cirque du Soleil and for circus troupes worldwide?

SC: Coming from a casting perspective, I regularly see certain disciplines as a breeding ground for more women than men or vice versa. What I think we’ve managed to do here is transcend the discipline and simply showcase powerful women with enormous talent, and that’s not just the acrobats, it extends to the musicians. It’s the first time we’ve had an all female band and they are rocking out with a power and aggression that is really noted by the public. People are responding to these talented four gals and their driving rock n’ roll sound. It’s again, another push in that direction.

NV: Are there particular segments of acrobatic choreography which you feel stand out?

SC: I’m a little biased, obviously, but I could probably highlight just about every act in the show. It was a very deliberate choice from the creative team to bring in the kinds of acts that we have, in order to showcase diversity and contrast, to find a great rhythm to the show so that we have the big acrobatic WOW and the more sublime still and enchanting numbers. For example the balance goddess takes you to a different place all together than the male teeter board number, which is all POW POW POW action acrobatics.

That said, the uneven bars act, performed by fiery Amazons, presents the strength and power of Amaluna. What we’ve done is taken a traditional Olympic discipline and put a Cirque du Soleil spin on it, creating new combinations and skills that aren’t done due to the confines of sport. Add in strong character development and choreography and the act transcends gymnastics and becomes circus.

Backstage at Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna. Photo by Ben Freedman

NV: I’m super stoked to check out this play.

SC: I think it’s interesting that you call it a play. That’s nice, it’s an element that the director is striving for, to bring a more theatrical bend to the presentation of what circus is traditionally know for, which is high level acrobatics. It’s kind of nice to have the reflection that maybe Amaluna presents a little more than what people have seen before.

NV: It does seem like a hybrid, and without giving much away incorporates Greek and Roman character references, and Shakespearian plot elements. What’s next, for the show and for you personally?

SC: We are here for 2 months before moving to Vancouver. For me personally, I’ve really enjoyed the transition from casting to coaching, and it’s still so new that I’ve got little ways to go yet. My perspective on the touring life is that it’s city by city; every city brings with it a whole new set of experiences and challenges.

NV: Any words of inspiration for someone who is looking to break into the circus community?

SC: Yes: follow your bliss. It’s really important to set your sights on what it is that you love the most. There’s no greater privilege than going to work every day in an environment that you love, surrounded by people that you want to be with. When you love your job it’s no longer a job in the traditional sense. For our artists, being and working here has been a dream of theirs for a very long time. To go back to my casting perspective a bit, Cirque du Soleil is absolutely accessible and available as a terrific career option, it’s a very special and unique organization and you just have to go for it.  It takes a lot of work. This is not easy, and everybody here works really really hard, but the privilege of being on stage and sharing what you love with the public is insurmountable.

Amaluna Runs from Sep 6  to Nov 4. $58.50-$158.50, stu/srs/child from $43.50. Grand Chapiteau Tent, Port Lands, Commissioners at Cherry.

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