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NUNN ON ONE: PERFORMANCE Under the big top with Emmanuel Cyr of 'Luzia'
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times

This article shared 600 times since Tue Aug 29, 2017
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The latest Cirque du Soleil endeavor, Luzia, has arrived to take Chicago audiences by storm. The title itself combines two Spanish words—"luz" ( meaning "light" ) and "lluvia" ( meaning "rain" )—describing the show perfectly, as it features several tricks involving water. Luzia is inspired by Mexican culture and is jam packed with tons of stunts for spectators to enjoy.

Out puppeteer Emmanuel Cyr helps to bring Luzia to life. He mans the horse, jaguar, and cactus puppets for the show and has more than 22 years of experience in the industry.

He founded Manu Cyr'k, a company that has toured and performed for 10 years with dance and circus elements. In 2001, he co-founded Production Carmagnole, an outdoor experimental circus festival. Cyr taught at the National Circus School of Montreal and was a trainer for Cirque de Monde, a Cirque training program.

Luzia is his second Cirque production after being Wintuk in 2007.

Windy City Times: Where are you originally from?

Emmanuel Cyr: Canada—Montreal.

WCT: You have been in the circus industry for a long time?

EC: Yes. I have done many different projects but have been with the circus for many years. I started as a juggler when I was 17. That brought me to train more to do handstands and acrobatics.

I was invited to do some giant puppet-training in Quebec. I wound up doing my first Cirque show, Wintuk, in New York.

WCT: Did you always want to be part of the circus?

EC: It was a hobby; after, it became a career.

WCT: Were you inspired by circuses that you had seen?

EC: A little bit, but I didn't know much. People from France had grown up with the culture of a circus, but I was from a small town. I saw Circus du Soleil when I was 7 years old.

WCT: This is the second Cirque show you have been in. Tell our readers about it.

EC: Luzia is inspired by Mexico. In each scene you can travel to a different region, such as the cactus in the desert. It goes through different timelines, too.

WCT: What different puppets do you work with?

EC: We start with the big entrance with a horse. It takes three people to manipulate. The horse is right over there and the jaguar is next to it. In the beginning and ending of the first act is with the horse.

The Cenotes in Mexico are natural sinkholes, so there is water onstage to represent that. There is some interaction with the performer and the jaguar puppet in the pool there together.

Those are the two major puppets, but there are smaller ones such as a cockroach, and a cricket. There is several used as surrealism such as a fish worn as a headpiece. It is very interesting.

Cirque has never had real animals. That has been [its] signature since the beginning.

WCT: Are there dancers in the show?

EC: It is not like a Broadway show, with a lot of dancing. It is a circus show, with a lot of technique and discipline.

There is a big band with a Mexican singer that fills the room with music. During the whole show we feel the Mexican vibe.

WCT: Are there other gay members in the cast of Luzia?

EC: I am the only one that I know of. I will be in this show for another year and a half so maybe more will join me.

WCT: How big is the cast?

EC: There are 44 artists, seven musicians and more than 25 technicians. There is always a technician that can help us go in the puppet and take care of it. It is almost like a real animal. They need to fix it and repair them.

WCT: Where does the show go on afterward?

EC: For the next year and a half we go to about seven cities such as Atlanta, Washington and Los Angeles.

It is a different lifestyle. We stay in a city two months, then move on. I love the traveling, but have never been in Chicago before.

WCT: How long is the rehearsal process for Luzia?

EC: The creation was six months. Right now we train people as a back up in case I get injured. The show must go on so other people will come in to replace cast members.

We have done about 700 shows already.

WCT: You also have Production Carmagnole?

EC: Yes, that is another project I started. There are other people that took over in Montreal. That will continue. Maybe after this I will join but right now my baby is living by himself. [Laughs]

WCT: What makes this Cirque show different from the others?

EC: I think every show is different. With every show you enter into a world and it is always fun to go under the big top. Just the experience and to see the high level of technique that everyone has is wonderful. The costumes are fabulous.

WCT: Did you study animals for the puppet?

EC: We looked more at animation, and stop motion. It was helpful to see how they moved. Watching it frame by frame made it easier to repeat.

WCT: Did you see the Broadway show War Horse?

EC: Yes. It is a different puppet and more complicated. With our puppet we have three people. One person is the back, one person in front, and one person manipulating the head outside of the body.

The jaguar is two people, one inside and one outside.

WCT: What advice would you give someone wanting to join the circus life?

EC: To not be discouraged, because training and commitment need a lot of perseverance. It can be discouraging from people around us. Believe in your dream and keep with it!

Cirque Luzia flies out of town after Sunday, Sept. 3. For tickets and information, visit

This article shared 600 times since Tue Aug 29, 2017
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