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Friday,  May 24, 2024 3:39 AM 

Cirque’s Mexican-themed LUZIA show opens in Toronto

Cirque’s Mexican-themed LUZIA show opens in Toronto
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Cirque du Soleil’s new Mexican-themed show, LUZIA, opened with much fanfare under the big top at Toronto’s Port Lands last night, treating more than 2,500 spectators to a heart-thumping parade of death–defying acrobatics and magical imagery.

The high-flying spectacle, subtitled “A Waking Dream of Mexico,” pays tribute to not one but many Mexicos, blending historical and cultural influences over past centuries into a festive, multilayered mosaic of bright sounds and colours.

“It really gets into the heart and soul of Mexico. That’s the first thing I thought. As a Mexican, I was impressed,” Rodrigo Esponda, regional director for North America for the Mexico Tourism Board, told PAX in an interview prior to last night’s premiere.

“Cirque has a strong relationship with Mexico,” Esponda said, noting that the Quebec-based entertainment company has been travelling to the country since 2002.

28543745571_4e1d586b30_b.jpgRodrigo Esponda, regional director for North America for the Mexico Tourism Board (right) poses with a Cirque du Soleil performer at last night's premeire of LUZIA in Toronto

In November 2014, Cirque opened its first permanent show in Mexico’s Cancun/Riviera Maya at the custom-built, 600-seat Vidanta Theater – the first permanent Cirque show outside of Las Vegas and Orlando.

The Mexico Tourism Board’s relationship with Cirque is part of an ongoing strategy to work with global organizations that can put Mexico on the map (if it wasn't there already) and make a big impact, Esponda said.

The concept for LUZIA – a contrast of the Spanish words “luz” (light) and “lluvia” (rain) – originated with Daniele Finzi Pasca, the Swiss-born director behind Cirque’s 2005 show Corteo, which toured for more than a decade.

But later, Pasca was forced to withdraw due to a family illness, leaving actor-director Brigitte Poupart to lead the 44-performer production – the first Canadian female to direct a Cirque show.

From Mexican soccer and wrestling, to 1920s cinema, to the eerie sinkholes (known as cenotes) of Mexico’s Yucatan, LUZIA takes audiences on a journey filled with intimate and hair-raising encounters, from the eccentric characters roaming in the parking lot foyer outside at the start to the show's roaring finish.

DSC_9692.jpgAn artist representing a demigod of rain hangs above the moody waters of a cenote in LUZIA

LUZIA begins with a woman running freely on a stage-sized treadmill, as other actors groom her six-foot majestic butterfly wings, a nod to the monarch butterflies that migrate from Mexico to Canada every year.

From there the audience is treated to an intense hoop-diving scene, where seven acrobats in hummingbird costumes leap through hoops a mere 75 centimeters (less than 30 inches) in diameter, giving the Angry Birds a run for their money.

The theme of Mexico’s wet and dry seasons is prevalent, and layered, throughout the high-tech show, which utilizes 2,000 tonnes of equipment and takes eight days to set up.

From nail-biting trapeze, aerial, and contortion acts to an artist wearing a luchador wrestling mask spinning 360 degrees on a swing to life-sized cockroaches and jaguars to shapeshifting waterfalls, to a jokester clown, LUZIA is a fiesta for the eyes and senses that does not disappoint.

“[The show] really recreates things in Mexico that are very important to the culture,” Esponda told PAX. “It’s fantastic.”

LUZIA is on from now until Oct. 16, 2016, at the Grand Chapiteau at the Port Lands (Cherry and Commissioners Streets) in Toronto. For tickets, go to