This week, Cirque du Soleil will be taking over the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden for a special holiday show, “‘Twas the Night Before…” This new family-friendly show, running from Thursday, Dec. 12 to Sunday, Dec. 29, is an imaginative spin on the Christmas classic that only this world-famous circus group could conjure up.
While seeing is believing when it comes down to understanding just how mesmerizing one of these shows can be, we recently spoke with three of the show’s star performers to see how the show has come together and the experiences that have led them to be cast in one of the world’s premier entertainment groups.
“For me, it’s a dream come true to be a part of this company which is so worldwide. We are traveling everywhere with this company. I am really proud to be with this company,” says Guillaume Paquin, who is one of the main straps performers that sees him flying high above the stage in especially acrobatic routines.
For Paquin, getting to this point has been a long road full or preparation to be a part of this company. “A lot of people are coming from a lot of [different] backgrounds,” he adds. “[But] from seven years old, I was already doing circus in Montreal, because I’m from Montreal, Canada. After doing circus, I went to the National Circus School and graduated in 2015. The first time I was cast was in 2015 was in ‘Toruk: the First Flight’ inspired by the movie ‘Avatar.’”
With such a grand reputation, Paquin explains that the expectations placed on each performer is very high but ultimately worth it, given the outcome every night.
“We’ve been training our whole lives to be onstage,” he says. “We do it again and again to reach perfection. It’s really a gift that people can come and watch this.”
As for the physical demand, years of performing has prepared him for what this show requires on a nightly basis.
“We take care of our bodies for sure. You need a good warm-up all of the time. It’s like a fulltime job, being onstage is only a part of it. The whole part of it, is your whole life.”
Pacquin’s route to performing with Cirque du Soleil is one path, but Michele Clark joined the company as a hula hoop performer and now has a major role in “‘Twas the Night Before…”
“I studied visual art. I have a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and it was during my time as an art student that I got into hula hoop, which is my discipline,” says Clark. “I hadn’t been aware of circus or had any kind of real sports or athletic training in my life. So I had a really unique perspective about what hula hoop was because I thought of it as more of a formal shape like a sculpture and being in the present moment of experience of doing it. I had a really different approach as to what I wanted to create with it. Right away, away I wasn’t sure I would want to perform. Twenty years later, it turns out I created something kind of interesting (laughs).”
Like Paquin, Clark’s training was key in order to be cast in a company that operates on such a high level.
“As I was going along, I realized I was working with my body. I became a yoga teacher and did many, many hours of dance classes. Ultimately I went to a circus school in China for some time to have a better background and to know what kind of work might be expected of me in any kind of given show that I might enter into,” Clark says.
For Evan David Tomlinson Weintraub, the training and education were not the roadblocks that he had to overcome in order to perform in this show, but rather life getting in the way. While attending the National Circus School in Montreal, with Paquin as a classmate, he had a stroke of luck by being chosen to perform with the company during the Pan American Games Toronto Opening Ceremony in 2015. Things were looking bright for Weintraub until he experienced some debilitating injuries that sidelined him from performing.
“It’s been quite a journey for me,” Weintraub says with a laugh looking back on what it has taken to get to this moment. In fact, it is a testament to the company for thinking of him after all of this time.
“I was one of fifteen students to have done that, it was my first contract with Cirque du Soleil. I’ve been around and they’ve been thinking of me and this was one of the first opportunities after all of my injuries to work with them again,” adds Weintraub.
And now that he has finally made it, Weintraub could not be happier to be a part of this show and to be working with this amazing cast.
“It’s a really fun show,” he says. “It’s a really great cast. We have a lot of fun. Doing the show altogether is a really special thing because we have a lot of love for each other and have a lot of support and it really makes the show go a lot easier.”
Cirque du Soleil’s “Twas the Night Before…” runs from Dec. 12 through Dec. 29 at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza. For more information, visit https://www.cirquedusoleilentertainmentgroup.com/