Posts Tagged ‘lisa skinner

30
Nov
16

KOOZA

KOOZA

Cirque du Soleil

Skygate, next to Brisbane Airport DFO

November 24 2016 – January 8 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Which Cirque du Soleil shows have you seen? Australia has seen eight:

Quidam – Dralion – Varekai – OVO – TOTEM – Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour – Saltimbanco – KOOZA

KOOZA (since 2007) is touted as being Cirque du Soleil’s best show yet, but it’s not my favourite. It’s light and bright and lots of fun without delving too deeply into the psyche or anything overly social or political. And, in times of trouble in the world, apparently that’s just what we need. 

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As the court clowns and the foolish footmen build the tension of a new show the king shuts off the lights… the show has begun. One spotlight appears…a clown…”the innocent ” trying to fly a kite, a large box appears and out comes the trickster. Who will be the KOOZA?

– Poppy Eponine

KOOZA is not entirely without narrative and some would say it’s the most simple and effective story of all (there have been some convoluted plots in the past, let’s be honest). This one features a powerful Trickster (Vladislav Zolotarev), who springs from a box to lead the Innocent, a naive and charming clown (Joey Arrigo), on a fantastical journey through fun times with new funny friends to find his place in the world. It’s a wafer thin classic quest premise, a young hero’s journey – the Innocent’s gotta’ find his corner of the sky – and by combining acrobatics and the art of clowning, we get the best of all aspects of traditional circus (Creator and Director David Shiner).

KOOZA comprises many disparate pieces, something for everyone, and boasts an Olympics worthy international ensemble of acrobats, contortionists and aerial artists. KOOZA might be the first Cirque you’ve ever seen, in which case you won’t look for deeper meaning and you’ll probably see this company’s most exciting and death defying acts straight up.

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On opening night we were privileged to see Queenslander, Lisa Skinner, on the aerial hoop, her act fast and furious; she just a whirl of bright colour high above our heads, and spinning until blurry, toes barely touching the ground, centrestage. Barely into the same act during Sunday’s matinee, Skinner fell from a height of almost 5 metres and landed face first on the floor, sustaining injuries for which she was treated before being taken by ambulance to hospital. My sister (a stage manager) wasn’t calling Sunday’s show, she saw the accident on the monitor backstage. Our parents were in the audience and my mum cried out, along with hundreds of other horrified witnesses. They said Skinner looked as if she might be dead, with her neck resting at an odd angle. Fortunately, Skinner is recovering well. Having already undergone shoulder reconstruction before the commencement of this tour, she must be devastated to miss performing in front of her home crowd for the remainder of the season. 

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The contortionists deliver an exquisite act of ancient serpentine elegance and humour, their bodysuits, of jewels and earth, glistening as they bend and twist and impossibly pose (Sunderiya Jargalsaikhan, Ninjin Altankhuyag & Odgerel Byambadorj). A unicycle duo delight (Olga Tutynina & Yury Shavro), teeterboard acrobats defy gravity, high wire antics thrill, and the balancing chair act elicits gasps of genuine disbelief and awe (Yao Deng Bo). Yao Deng Bo is my favourite performer, the epitome of focus, strength, balance, grace and old world circus charm.

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The Wheel of Death (or, more philosophically and psychoanalytically, The Wheel of Life-Death-Life) proves itself the highlight of the show, although we missed much of it due to the sweat sheet and poor sight lines behind a lighting truss in our seating section. The Columbian acrobats, Ronald Montes & Jimmy Zapata actually risk their lives during this performance; it’s terrifying to watch. I wish we’d been able to see more of it. KOOZA is the first Cirque show to incorporate front of house lighting, requiring the trusses spaced throughout the Grand Chapiteau, and I wonder if it’s the last. The little we were able to see of the skilled artist leaping above the arm of one of these towers was indeed impressive, as he ran and rose magically from the hamster wheel on one end of the turning mechanism, but it lacked tension and thrill factor for us. The same problem applied to the double high wire act and we heard a number of disgruntled audience members around us. Do these people offer their feedback to the company? I hope they do, and I hope, rather than giving a 1-star rating on Trip Advisor or Facebook, they simply advise friends to book seats in a different section. Poppy had an ideal view from Section 200, where she was sitting with her cousins, and she could not stop talking about these amazing acts for days.

The contortionist act was spellbinding but still second-best to THE WHEEL OF DEATH (dah dah dah!). How Ronald Solis Montes & Jimmy Ibarra Zapata amazingly survive the wheel of death time & time again I do not know.   

– Poppy Eponine   

A tight band under the direction of Carl Murr, and powerhouse singer, clad in rich, colourful silks (Jennlee Shallow), deliver KOOZA’s original jazz, funk and Bollywood styled music with gusto. The beautiful, magical structure that holds them, a tall, ornately carved, cylindrical timber tower, the Bataclan, glides forward to feature the musicians and then backwards to serve as an entrance and exit for various acts (Designer Stephanie Roy). It’s a glorious piece of design, fully integrated into the show. I love the way our Australian percussionist (Adelaide’s Ben Todd) is brought out into centrestage to be featured, just as each acrobat takes his or her turn in the spotlight. And spilling from the doorway (only to be chased by a Death Cape destined pack of 150 fake fur rats), I enjoyed the exuberant Day of the Dead dance; it’s a theme from which I’d love to see Cirque draw more heavily.

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Irina Akimova’s hoop manipulation is also highly entertaining but it’s her magnificent feathered coat, the standout costume in this show, that leaves a lasting impression. The KOOZA costumes, designed by Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt, are inspired by comic books and graphic novels, the work of Gustav Klimt, Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. (You’ll see the influence of the flying monkeys on the faces of the acrobats on the double high wire). In KOOZA we see much more from the clowns than in previous Cirque shows and rather than use gibberish to communicate, these clowns speak English. It takes away a little of their charm but it means that every punch line lands just right. The King (Gordon White) and his court jesters (Michael Garner & Michael Berlanga) are clearly adored by the vast majority.

KOOZA is guaranteed quality from the world’s best circus creatives and a collective of 50 performing artists/super humans, and it’s super fun for the whole family. I would never miss a Cirque show and nor should you.

24
Nov
16

KOOZA opens tonight!

 

Cirque du Soleil’s incredible KOOZA opens tonight!

with our own Lisa Skinner

 

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Using very conservative mathematics, Queenslander Lisa Skinner has spent more than 75,000 hours in a unitard; in reality, it’s probably more like over 250,000 hours. That’s a lot of time in lycra.

 

Brisbane audiences are about to see the result of Lisa’s dedication because this Albany Creek born, world class gymnast and Olympian is about to take over one of the key solo acts – the Aerial Hoop – in the critically acclaimed KOOZA, by Cirque du Soleil, opening in Brisbane on November 24.

“I have spent considerably more time in lycra than I had ever planned when I was young, but I have been lucky enough to have made a career out of what I love doing; out of what I started as a kid in Albany Creek when I was six years old and wanted to learn to do the splits and a handstand!” said Lisa.

Born in Brisbane Lisa began gymnastics at age 6 at Lawnton Academy; she went to Albany Creek Primary School and later she traversed the city each day, from the northside to the south to attend senior school – at Holland Park, because it was close to Chandler sports complex where she trained. For almost ten years Lisa reigned supreme in Australian gymnastics. From her international debut at the 1995 World Championships in Sabae, Japan where she placed 12th with the Australian team, through to 2004 she competed at four World Championships and three Olympic Games (1996 Atlanta; 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens). She held the Australian National Champion title in 1996 and 1997; earned two gold medals at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and was the highest-ranked Australian WAG athlete at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. She was the country’s most celebrated elite gymnast.

And while she may have shone at three Olympic Games, numerous world championships and won standing ovations for her role in another Cirque du Soleil production in Quidam, this upcoming season of Kooza in Brisbane will be the very first time Lisa Skinner has performed in front of her hometown crowd.

 

She’s excited, and yes, just a touch nervous.

 

However, in a twist not unlike some of the breathtaking moves she performs under the Big Top in Kooza, her time in the Cirque du Soleil spotlight almost didn’t happen.

In 1997 when Cirque du Soleil scouts first approached Lisa she turned them down because, she had never seen a Cirque du Soleil show and, “thought joining a circus meant caravans and elephants, and I didn’t want that, I wanted to continue my career as an elite gymnast, to see how far I could go.” It was at the 2004 Athens Olympics that Lisa’s destiny turned.

“By this time I had seen a few Cirque du Soleil shows and had been astounded at every one of them, at the level of excellence, at the generosity of artistic direction, and at the world class standard of acrobatics, costuming and performance involved in each. There were no elephants, just incredible human beings doing extraordinary things!”

She saw the Cirque du Soleil scouts at Athens and this time, she approached them.

She was invited to Cirque du Solei’s General Formation of 2005 – the company’s talent pool sourced from all over the world. But before she could join, she needed not one but two shoulder reconstructions to mend damage caused by years of pushing her body to extremes. “My shoulders were basically held together with tape; and I knew I couldn’t start the new career I really wanted with Cirque du Soleil, without having the operations and focusing on rehabilitation.” She returned home to Brisbane for the operations and recuperated at the family home, still her most loved destination to visit in the world! All up, this took almost a year.

After initial training in Montreal, she was offered a position on Alegrìa in the Power Track Team and later became the dance captain for the cast. Always looking to improve her skills, Lisa challenged her Artistic Director to find her a position on Quidam in one of the shows’ powerful aerial numbers.

 

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In 2010, Lisa joined the Aerial Hoops act on Quidam and toured all over the world with the show. She was in the USA and on a break from Quidam when the call came through a few months ago from Cirque du Soleil – they needed her for Kooza, the Aerial Hoops performer had to leave the show for family reasons for a few months.

“Which city?” she asked.

“Brisbane,” came the reply.

And “yes” was hers.

 

In Kooza Lisa performs the Aerial Hoops act solo. “This is my first time in a solo act with Cirque du Soleil, and yes, it’s daunting – there is no-one to share the load, no-one to shift focus, the full weight of the audience lies with me – and I guess that’s why they called me, this is what I do, I’ve done it since I was six,” she said.

 

And so, tonight when Kooza opens in Brisbane, many in the audience will be the people Lisa grew up with, her friends and even those she used to train with, old coaches and car pool drivers. Some will know her as one of the country’s greatest gymnasts. Others may recognise her from medal ceremonies. And there will be fans who applaud her after simply reading her story.

Her family will sit proudly knowing her as the girl who spent far too much time in a unitard.

And thank goodness she did.

 

KOOZA opens tonight at 8pm. See you there.

 

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