Balancing on a tightrope seems impossible at the best of times, but imagine doing it bobbing around at sea while on a boat.
Well, for the talented artists at Cirque du Soleil, this is exactly what they have to contend with, with the company’s newest shows taking place on the water.
The Montreal-headquartered firm has partnered with MSC Cruises to offer exclusive shows on board a new fleet of passenger liners.
We gained behind the scenes access at the colourful Cirque Du Soleil HQ, to see how these special productions are designed from start to finish.
There are currently two Cirque du Soleil 40-minute productions running on the MSC Meraviglia, but another two are set to launch in March 2019 aboard the much-anticipated MSC Bellissima.
We were told during a private tour that one will be called Syma – inspired by exploration and getting stranded on an exotic island – and the other will be called Varélia, inspired by a classic romantic fairy tale with a modern twist.
Around £40million has been spent on installing special stages on board both ships, with the performance areas meticulously designed to offer the audience something completely unique.
The circular stage areas offer an awesome sense of intimacy, with the audience sat up close to the action with no binoculars required.
We had a preview of some of the acts that will be included in the new shows and I was left speechless by the talented performers – this was even before stage effects, makeup and costumes had been added!
One of the artists performed an act where she juggled footballs using her feet.
I’m not even sure how one discovers a talent for foot juggling but the moves she showcased before us were unbelievable!
Another artist went about balancing a ladder on a tightrope, before proceeding to climb it by carefully counterbalancing his weight.
One of the things you gauge from spending time at the Cirque du Soleil headquarters that it’s a fun place to work and it seems like everyone there is part of one big family.
There are numerous divisions, from the sound people, to the make-up artists and costume designers, but everyone seems to know one another.
In total, there are around 4,000 employees in the company, including 1,400 performers, from nearly 70 countries.
I was told that the majority are former sports professionals, with many Russians and Asians making the cut.
In the new Cirque du Soleil MSC shows, there will 16 artists who will perform in both shows, taking on major and minor roles so they don’t overexert themselves.
Their contracts run for six months that cabin fever doesn’t start to overwhelm them!
It was fascinating visiting the make-up department, where I discovered that all of the artists art do their own make-up.
Each one is briefed on their look and given a bag full of make-up before they are shipped off to perform. This applies to any on land or at sea Cirque du Soleil show. Random spot-checks are then conducted to ensure their handiwork is up to scratch.
Another interesting fact I learned while at the Cirque du Soleil HQ, is that the majority of fabrics are made in-house to prevent a scare if something is discontinued.
The costumes are then constructed by a team of talented designers, with everything from the outrageous wigs to the snazzy waistcoats to the dainty shoes made at the Montreal HQ. There is a warehouse nearby where plastercast busts of the artists’ heads are stored and there are also cupboardfuls of food molds for handcrafted shoes.
Cirque du Soleil’s CEO, Daniel Lamarre, told us how excited the company is by its partnership with MSC as it has forced the team to think outside of the box and develop new concepts.
The entertainment firm’s chief executive producer Yasmine Khalil added: ‘We have to understand the mindset of the cruise passenger and what they’re looking for in terms of entertainment.
‘We want to be sure the shows are complementing what’s on board. Everything has been taken into consideration when the ship is not stable this has an impact on everything we do.
‘We have selected acts that are more sustainable with heavy seas or strong winds. There are some less dangerous acts so we can put shows on every night.’
I really can’t wait to see what the news shows look like on board the MSC Bellissima.
The audience will no doubt be left spellbound by the magic of Cirque du Soleil with some of the company’s most intimate performances to date.
I left the Cirque du Soleil HQ with a warm feeling that there is still some magic in the world that exists.
Hoorah to spreading some fun and joy in the world… prepare to be dazzled!
To learn more about the exclusive Cirque du Soleil offerings from MSC and to book shows, visit www.msccruises.com. The new shows will premiere on March 4 2019 with prices starting at just €15.