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Culture / Entertainment

Behind the Scenes at Cirque du Soleil’s Hot New Houston Show

The Water, Magic and Costumes of Luzia

BY // 01.10.19
photography Matt Beard, Shafik Rifaat

Life behind the scenes at Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia can be as entertaining as the magical production itself. Consider, for instance, the life of native Texan Jordyn Campbell, assistant head mistress of wardrobe. On this afternoon just days before Thursday’s Houston premiere, she is surrounded by larger-than-life costumes of ocean fish, crocodiles and a blooming cactus not to mention, eek, the cockroaches.

Campbell is part of the team that today is engaged in everything from repainting cockroach legs, to polishing scores of performance shoes to hanging out to dry the vast wings (15-feet long) of a monarch butterfly. Her perch is in the practice tent adjoining the big top that rises in white and gold splendor at Sam Houston Race Park.

The climate-controlled space is shared with performers who meander in and out. Nearby, muscle-bound acrobats warm up by jumping through hoops. A young lady stretches and does leg lifts on the mats’ edge while in one corner a trio of young femmes chat idly while occasionally stretching. All, of course, are enviably fit.

Luzia‘s colorful production is a salute to Mexico, a dream sequence that takes the protagonist on a journey through various cultural aspects of the country including the romantic such as migrating humming birds and the practical such as Mexico’s infatuation with soccer.  The vast scope of the riveting work necessitates multiple costume changes for the show’s 46 performers totalling 1,000 costumes in all.

Actually, make that 2,000, as each Cirque show travels with a complete duplicate set of costumes.

“The interesting thing about this show is the animal aspect of it, the flora and fauna,” Campbell says. “And that it’s theme is all about Mexican art and culture. This is the first time that Cirque has done a show that is directly tied to a culture.

“It really is a dreamscape of Mexico with a lot of beautiful elements, landscapes, plants, and animals and a lot of folklore.”

Think swordfish, marigolds, a massive horse, desert plants, giant tunas, armadillos and snakes all at play while Cirque’s famed acrobats, aerialists and contortionist provide jaw-dropping entertainment.

Water elements create surprises throughout Cirque du Soleil's Luzia. Photo by Matt Beard
Water elements create surprises throughout Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia. Photo by Matt Beard

“One of the interesting elements of Luzia that is not present in any other touring show is the water element because we have the rain (a downpour) as well as the pool on stage,” Campbell says. That interesting element also becomes a wardrobe challenge.

“We have costumes and shoes that might get damp all the way to fully submerged in water. So that was part of the creative process finding the best materials for safety for the artists who are performing on a wet stage.”

Further challenging is the fact that clothes dryers are not used on the delicate costumes. Following every performance, costumes  are line dried. (Cirque travels with a virtual wall of washing machines and clothes dryers, the latter for the crew’s use.)

A Texan on Tour

Born in Corpus Christi and graduated from St. Edward’s University, Campbell has been with Cirque for six years working on three other shows (The Beetles Love, Dralion and Totem). For Luzia, she and her teammates worked with internationally-acclaimed designer Givoanna Buzzi in developing the costume concepts. Campbell and her cohorts’ role now is to maintain Buzzi’s vision. Their work include hair and makeup, air brushing, and repairing, fitting and altering costumes.

“It’s exciting because it’s never the same every day,” she says. “And that’s one of the things I like most about it. It’s like a little community (115 total) on tour. . . we travel together, we eat together. You kind of create a little family on tour and people watch out for each other. And we travel the world together.”

Cirque du Soleil’s Luiza runs January 10 through February 23 in Houston. For more information and tickets, click here.

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