Cirque du Soleil is known for amazing acrobatics and incredible performers on stage, but the technical gymnastics behind-the-scenes are just as impressive.
“Everything is pre-programmed,” explained Craig Price, head of automation for the renowned Canadian theatrical company, during a backstage tour of the new Cirque du Soleil show, Volta, which opens Friday night in the Seattle area.
[Watch the video above for highlights from our tour.]
Cirque du Soleil’s technical team previously controlled their shows live with a joystick. Now, they use a computer — custom-made for their specific needs — to control winches, hydraulic rams and other equipment needed to make the show possible. (Price said you won’t be able to find this desktop machine anywhere else.)
Automation also helps keep the performers safe.
“We have safe edges installed on the lifts, so if someone gets their foot caught, then everything stops,” said Price who has worked with Cirque du Soleil for nine years.
One theme of the show is technology, and its risk of isolating people from each other. Volta features a character named Waz, who has bright blue feathers instead of hair. Waz is picked on and outcast because he looks different than the grey-clad city-dwellers. With the help of lively, colorful characters called the Freespirits, Waz learns to accept and embrace the qualities that make him unique.
You can expect to see the acrobatics and aerial performances for which Cirque du Soleil is famous, in addition to ballet, rope skipping, and even a BMX bike park.
Volta opens Sept. 7 at Marymoor Park in Redmond, Wash., and runs through Nov. 4. The show will also run in San Francisco from Nov. 15 through Jan. 6. Tickets to Volta can be purchased at Cirque du Soleil’s website.