On Thursday, Jul. 6, 2023, local members of the media were given a sneak peek at Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo, as cast members completed the final run-throughs of their acts ahead of Thursday’s opening night performance. The show, which runs at the Leon’s Centre from July 6 to 9, 2023, tells the story of Mauro the clown, as a cast of characters celebrates his life through a carnival-like funeral.
“You see us taking him through his life, meeting people [who] were very important to him. He has an entourage [with] two little people, a white clown and a red clown… he also has a guardian angel who follows him throughout his life,” explained Artistic Director Alison Crawford. Partially inspired by 19th-century French and Italian art, Coreto takes its name from the Italian word for ‘cortège,’ or a funeral procession.
After premiering in Montreal in 2005, Corteo has travelled the world, performing in over 150 different cities. In 2015, the Montreal-based company retired the big top version of the show after 10 years on the road. Two years later, the company unveiled a re-worked arena tour, which has since travelled to eight different countries, performing in over 80 cities.
According to Crawford, one of the biggest changes between the big top production and the arena tour is the number of cities the show can visit in a shorter period of time. “In a big top, they usually stay in the city for seven weeks, and there’s the whole big top, the front of house, and the concessions. [With an arena tour]… we load in and out very fast… and it was made [to be] like that. When it was decided for Corteo to move from the big top to the arena, all the technical people got together and made sure that you can take this thing down in three hours, and put it up again in seven or eight,” she explained of the intricate and massive set for the show.
On tour, the cast and crew of Corteo operate a tight ship, making sure the production moves seamlessly from city to city. After wrapping up a run in Ottawa on July 2, the tour made the trip east, as 21 trucks hauled approximately 500 road cases to Kingston. Once they arrived in the Limestone City, a team of around 100 technicians spent less than a day converting the empty hockey rink into a picturesque circus venue.
Once the run in Kingston comes to a close on Sunday night, crews will be able to dismantle the entire production in a matter of hours, before a chartered flight brings the team to their next venue in Saint Paul, Minnesota, with that production opening on July 13. By the end of 2023, Corteo will have played over 250 performances this year alone.
While some dream of running away to join this circus, not all of the performers in Corteo grew up with the same aspirations. For Sasha Yudintsev, a trampolinist and juggler from Kazakhstan, the opportunity to join Cirque came after years spent competing as one of the best tumbling athletes in the world. “Honestly, it wasn’t my dream [to join the circus], I didn’t even know it existed. I was doing competitive power tumbling for Kazakhstan; I was on the national team for 15 years, and I was ranked ninth in the world once. One of my teammates from the gym actually got a contract for [another production] Kooza, and I asked him to bring my video to the headquarters in Montreal,” he explained. One week later, Yudintsev received a phone call from Cirque, offering him a contract with the company.
After joining the cast of Corteo in July of 2007, Yudintsev has been a consistent member of the production ever since. When he first started out, Yudintsev performed a teeterboard act and cyr wheel routine, but he has now taken on a more comedic role in the show while juggling and performing as part of the extremely popular ‘bouncing beds’ trampoline routine.
Yudintsev added, “I was always goofy, like messing around. [When I joined] there was another [artist] doing the act I’m doing now; an auguste clown and trampoline beds [act], so, I replaced him.” The performer said he has also been able to develop new routines for the show, including a diablo (Chinese yoyo) act, which he performs alongside the production’s other jugglers. “I’ve been lucky enough to get to try and learn and do many different things,” he remarked.
While life in Cirque du Soleil is a rewarding experience for the artists and crew members involved, many of whom get to travel the world doing something others could only dream of, being on the road for months at a time is not without its fair of challenges. Many performers often spend the majority of the year away from family and friends, with the nature of touring making it difficult to establish roots along the way. For Yudintsev, however, it s a slightly different story.
After falling in love and getting married through Corteo, Yudintsev and his wife recently welcomed their first child during the pandemic. Now, the three tour together, travelling the world as a circus family. The performer said the experience so far has been both rewarding and challenging.
“There are some plusses and minuses, obviously, the huge plus [being] that she’s always with us… [In terms of] the challenges, we travel a lot, so she doesn’t get to experience the normal stuff, like kindergarten. But, it’s all good, she gets to meet a lot of people,” he shared.
On top of Yudintsev’s various routines, fans can expect to see a wide range of circus skills on display in Corteo, as 53 artists perform 16 different acts, including acrobatics, juggling, trampoline, and comedy. Noteworthy acts include an aerial acrobatic routine using chandeliers, as well as a teeterboard and suspended pole performance. On top of the death-defying stunts and comedic clown routines, Corteo also features eight live musicians, who provide the backbeat of the show.
Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo officially opens in Kingston at the Leon’s Centre on Thursday, July 6, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. A second performance will take place Friday evening at 7:30 p.m., with two shows on Saturday (3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.), and two more on Sunday (1 p.m. and 5 p.m.). This tour marks Corteo’s second visit to Kingston after the production first came to the Limestone City back in 2018.