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Cirque du Soleil's Quidam Tackles Childhood Angst, Real-Life Characters

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If there's one word that sums up Cirque du Soleil, it's surprising. The world-famous entertainment company has been wowing audiences with seemingly impossible feats on global stages for decades. And while most shows involve larger-than-life playgrounds and fanciful characters, their Quidam incarnation is a bit different in that it tackles real-life concerns and real-world people.

The show revolves around Zoe, a young girl with distant, uninvolved parents. Desperate to escape, she becomes immersed in an imaginary world, complete with characters that represent various facets of her life and our society.

The show has been performed in Canada since 1996 and is now making its way across the States. It makes landfall in South Florida next month, so we spoke with the show's artistic director, Luc Ouellette, about what makes this Cirque show something special.

See also: Artistic Director Tim Smith on Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM , Human Spectacles, and Feats of Flight

New Times: How did the concept for this show come about?

Luc Ouellette: I would say the main difference is that it's all about the individual compared to celebration, jubilation, joy, and all in those group numbers. In this one, everybody has their own individual costume, their own characters -- they're lost souls.

It's really about the individual -- it's a celebration of individuality. I think Guy Laliberté [creator of Cirque du Soleil], he went from something more flashy, with costumed characters like those big birds, angels, etc., he wanted to go more toward real people, real human beings. I think it was a necessity after creating La Nouba, going to something simpler but at the same time very poetic. It's closer to you and I and we can relate more compared to other shows.

How would you describe the show?

There is a story, a simple story about Zoe -- this main character, she's bored, her parents don't really care too much about her, they're in their own world. So Quidam come into her world and she takes the hat and goes into this incredible journey with some of the main characters. It's the journey of different characters -- the mother figure on the fabric, the father juggling; it's kind of a family, a dysfunctional family in an incredible world.

How is this different from other Cirque shows?

The set is like a city, very industrial, black, and also this huge elevator on top of their heads. It kind of creates this silver dome on top of the city.

We have a German wheel. I think we're the only ones that have a German wheel. We have this incredible artist from Taiwan who has won many championships. The skipping act -- we have hoops used differently from what we were used to; head balancing; a Spanish web; we have a very nice statue act; a very slow hand-to-hand act; and we finish the show with this amazing balancing act with 16 artists.

What do you think audience members take away from this performance?

First of all, I think they're all very moved because of the score. The music is beautiful to listen to. I worked on that show ten years ago when I started with Cirque, and when they said, "Would you like to go back to Quidam?" I said yes. I was really, really impressed at how they managed to create the intimacy of what this show is about. I think the audience is going to be impressed by the technical skills of the artists but also the signature -- the costume, the lighting, the entire thing. I feel blessed when I look at the show, and I hope that everybody will have the same feeling.

Quidam will run from July 31 through August 4 at BB&T Center. You can purchase tickets at cirquedusoleil.com.

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