Luzia’s US artistic director guides us through Cirque du Soleil’s latest show now open in Tysons II

Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia is opening tonight and here through June 17, performing under its familiar big top in Tysons II, McLean, VA.  And just like every Cirque show, this one promises to create a unique experience for the entire family.

Luzia's US artistic director guides us through Cirque du Soleil's latest show now open in Tysons IILuzia from Cirque du Soleil. Laurence Labat Costumes: (Photo: Giovanna Buzzi © 2016 Cirque du Soleil)

“This is our second anniversary of this show and this is completely different than any other one that has ever come to the D.C. area before,” says Gracie Valdez, the show’s United States artistic director, who hails from Vienna, Va. “In this story, we take the audience on an adventure into an imaginary Mexico. We transport them to a different place with sights, sounds and amazing acrobatics, with beautiful music. As soon as you step into the big top, you’re in a different place.”

Luzia is sung completely in Spanish, a first for any Cirque show, and the response has been “magnífico.” The show’s tagline is “A Waking Dream of Mexico” and the theme plays into the production in a myriad of ways.

“Our writer and director, Daniele Finzi Pasca, spent over a decade in Mexico living and exploring the culture and what he wants to do is pay tribute and honor what he saw, so he created an imaginary Mexico,” Valdez says. “There’s a lot of representation of Mexican mythology and folklore, and nods to traditional Mexican culture, but all through it’s an imaginary representation.”

Luzia's US artistic director guides us through Cirque du Soleil's latest show now open in Tysons IIPerforming in the rain curtain in Luzia from Cirque du Soleil. (Photo: Matt Beard © 2017 Cirque du Soleil)

The final act of Luzia is the Fiesta Finale, in which each of the characters dons a different costume incorporating the traditional Otomi embroidery patterns, giving a sense of community to the final scene. 

“The show itself is this journey that takes you through different passages—we’ve humming birds in a field of flowers, we go to the dessert, we go on the streets of Mexico playing football—and at the end, the entire cast of characters meet up and celebrate and we have a fiesta all together,” Valdez says. “Culturally, Mexican families gather together as they do throughout the world. It’s about unity, family and fiesta.”

A big theme of the show is water as a source of inspiration, another first for a Cirque show;  it utilizes a large water basin under the stage floor to create a rain curtain, which plays beautifully for some of the acts. For example, two women dance in large majestic hoops and are joined on stage by a trapeze artist who performs a series of original figures, sometimes hanging only by one heel—and it all takes place in the rain.

“We strive to find the newest technologies that we can incorporate into our productions,” Valdez says. “We look for the best acrobats and look for new and exciting ways to bring classic acrobatics into new set design, and incorporate technology with new ideas and new compositions for music. Constantly aiming for the best and trying to deliver that to our audiences.”

Luzia's US artistic director guides us through Cirque du Soleil's latest show now open in Tysons IILuzia from Cirque du Soleil (Photo: Matt Beard © 2017 Cirque du Soleil)

Valdez notes composer Simon Carpentier has written a hot, lively score with distinctive Latin American flavors. “The score whisks spectators away on a voyage of exploration that takes them from a traditional village to a desert by way of a tropical jungle, to the seaside and all the way to an alleyway in a bustling metropolis,” she says. “The music jumps playfully from style to style, from one rhythm to the next, from emotion to emotion, striding across landscapes as joyfully as across musical boundaries. We have really light humor that kids love, our clowns play with water and the kids go crazy for it,” she says. “The music is so enjoyable and bright and happy and there’s a lot of vibrant colors. It’s not to be missed.”

Valdez is excited to be so close to her hometown and has great memories from her time here. She is an alumni of George Mason University, co-directed the D.C.-based modern dance company Mayzsoul, and coached competitive high school dance teams across the DC Metro area.

She began with Cirque du Soleil in 2008 as a stage manager and rose through the ranks, becoming the artistic director of Luzia last year, leading a team of 44 artists. “We’re very lucky that we have some of the best acrobats in the world and we like to keep them with us as long as possible.” Valdez adds  it offers something many have never seen before. Among the other notable acts are an incredible hoops act, hand balancing, aerial straps, and a stunning Russian swing act.

It’s a great atmosphere and we’re all a big family,” she says. “I want to travel the entire world and show the whole world our show.”

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