Volta Comes to Zibi Site

When: Aug. 3 to 27, except Mondays; 8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday; 4:30 Thursday to Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Zibi Site, 2 Laurier St., Gatineau (Hull sector)
Tickets: starting at $39 at cirquedusoleil.com/volta

Last week, Danila Bim vacationed in Ottawa and was able to catch up on her personal affairs and give her body a bit of a rest.

But this week, it was time for the Cirque du Soleil aerialist to get back to work, which meant tying her hair into a sturdy top knot that attached to a metal ring, and then being hoisted metres above the circus’s stage in Gatineau, suspended by a rope attached to the ring so that she could swing, dance, contort and spin blurringly fast in the air.

“The first hang of the day, the first 30 seconds, I feel the pulling,” Bim said, when she was back on the ground after rehearsing her routine. “On stage, I don’t feel anything. They say it’s the adrenalin kicking in.

“Everything in the circus hurts. Everything. Even if you’re the clown,” confessed Bim, a 30-year-old native of São Paulo, Brazil. “I can’t describe pain anymore. It’s been 10 years of circus.” And yet, the grin on her face as she spoke of her exploits suggested that for her, not to mention the tens of thousands who have watched her perform this year, the exertions are worth it.

Bim is one of the stars of Volta, the high-energy production that opens Thursday and runs through most of August under a big top at the Zibi Site. The show debuted with a 12-week, 116-show run in Montreal’s Old Port that ended just before Bim’s vacation began.

Volta is distinct from the 40 Cirque du Soleil productions that preceded it because it integrates breathtaking displays of action sports such as BMX, trial biking and parkour into a show that also includes acrobatics, roller skating, rope skipping, bungee work, ballet and more. The production’s star bike athlete is trial biker Trevor Bodogh, who competed internationally in the X Games and has appeared on the TV shows Canada’s Got Talent and Dragon’s Den.

Michael G. Smith, the production’s artistic director, says the culture of extreme sports also informs the story of Volta, which means to drive home the theme of striving for personal freedom and self-expression.

Intertwined with more than a dozen circus acts is a narrative about a character named Waz, the host of the most popular game show in the world of Volta. Throughout the production, Waz, who has blue feathers instead of hair, ponders who he is and what he has become. His reminiscences and encounters with “free spirits” — acrobats and other performers — assist him on his journey of self-discovery.

“I love the human message of this show. That’s why I am here,” Smith said.

Smith added the addition of action sports to Cirque du Soleil’s repertoire will hopefully help make it more appealing and relevant to attendees between the ages of 20 and 35 — “an audience that we don’t have.” As well, the show’s athletes and performers skew younger than a usual Cirque production’s cast, Smith said.

One of the challenges for Volta was to find a way to present action sports with the in-your-face impact of the YouTube videos that have popularized them.

To that end, the exceptionally deep Volta stage, which is surrounded by seating for 2,600, includes six massive, retractable ramps that are made of see-though, heavy-duty polycarbonate that allows for the biking acts to be as visible and immediate as possible.

Accompanying the story and action is music composed by the French electronic music project M83.

But while the whole endeavour promises to be a non-stop spectacle of visual and auditory stimulation, the performers at the heart of Volta seem most focused on their individual training and craft, which allow them to dazzle audiences for a few minutes each night with superhuman feats.

“We’ve got to make it look easy,” said Bim. “The amount of work … it’s tremendous. It is easy now, after training for 10 years.”

The first week of the show’s run in Gatineau “is going to be harder,” she said. “You get sore, tired. But then you get used to it.”

Original article written by Peter Hum can be found here.

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