Cirque du Soleil’s KÀ explores love and loyalty on a magnificent stage
By Nina King
In the Cirque du Soleil extravaganza known as KÀ, the star of the show is a little bit larger than that seen on other stages—a little bit larger than life, in fact. KÀ’s star is the stage itself, a wondrous apparatus that whirls, that rises, that responds to the artists who play upon it. The story takes imperial twins, separated through an attack that sees their mother and father assassinated and their peoples ripped apart, through an amazing succession of landscapes, all created by that marvelous stage, ranging from beaches and forests to the dark den of the archers and spearmen who attack so violently.
Myriad elements make up the whole of KÀ—beautiful, Asian-inspired costuming, half-human, half-puppet characters, incredible lighting, martial arts, aerial and balancing acts, acrobatics, magnificent music and dance. It all culminates in a climactic battle scene where the reunited twins take on the forces of evil. The act, where the twins and their allies run up and down a nearly vertical stage, took a year to revamp. Joining the twins in the assault upon the walls of the rival stronghold are the female twin’s new love, and the court jester, who showed incredible bravery and loyalty.
Each element of a scene in KÀ is carefully choreographed, so when anything changes, an enormous amount of work is involved, both from an artistic and technical standpoint. The artistic team must consider the overall image and impact of the changes, get wardrobe changes (in this case, battle gear attached to harnesses), and examine exits and costume changes for the finale.
Artistic director Marie-Hélène Gagnon explained, “From the first work sessions, we worked with as much as possible the same cast, so we could get the images clear. Then, (we) started the cross training for some 30 artists, on three or four different lines each. This took a lot of training time. It is a very heavy process to include in the schedule, with all other acts trainings, integrations of new artists and 10 shows a week. The different expertise of artists who have already done the act and those who were learning it meant we had to put this project in action for more than a year.”
Other teams within the show face similar challenges. “The biggest challenge technically is realizing the impact on all departments,” said Erik Walstad, KÀ’s technical director. “Even a slight change in the show can have an impact across many areas of the show. When an act completely evolves, there is an incredible amount of coordination that happens. Timing of cues, changes in music or lighting, and new entrances and exits all impact the crew behind the scenes.”
But ultimately, the changes are worth it, said Walstad. “Time allows you to dream bigger and constantly improve on the original. And the collaboration between artistic and technical (teams) realizing those dreams is always exciting.”
Indoor Chinese New Year parade
Watch the artists from KÀ by Cirque du Soleil conduct a Chinese New Year parade at 5 p.m. Feb. 10 inside MGM Grand.