With Cirque du Soleil having picked up its Avatar-blue carpet and headed across the ditch, the next circus spectacular to land here is brought to us by Montreal-based troupe Cirque Eloize. New Zealand is the last leg of the Cirkopolis tour that has already stopped in Scotland, Brazil and France, but Christchurch will be the first Kiwi city to see what happens when you blend circus, theatre and dance.
We were surprised to learn the cast had a couple of Kiwi connections, one being aerial rope specialist Rosita Hendry and the other, lead performer Ashley Carr. Ashley has been with the show since it premiered in Helsinki five years ago, and was involved in its creation – perhaps why his character bears his namesake. While he hasn’t put down roots in New Zealand, his father has, the owner of deer farm in Geraldine for the past 30 years. For Rosita, New Zealand is home. Auckland is where her family lives, and where her journey to become a professional circus artist all began.
When asked the main difference between Cirkopolis and other shows, Ashley points to the skill of its cast. The performers must be multi-disciplined, and in being this way the story is able to unfurl with a more exciting pace. “There’s always tons of action going on on the stage, all the time,” Ashley says.
The show follows a story of an office worker breaking free from the bonds of monotony, as played out in the 1927 film Metropolis, but there’s humour, too.
“There’s plenty of slapstick and poetic humour woven through the storyline which heightens as he [Ashley] transitions from a dull existence to a happier place,” Ashley explains.
We interupt Rosita’s training to ask her a few extra questions about Cirkopolis ahead of the show’s arrival.
What is your favourite part of the show?
One moment I enjoy in my number is the very beginning when my business suit is taken off to reveal my red dress. At this point it feels like I’m stepping out of one world and into another. Performing can be a lot like that for me. When I was young I was very shy, but performing on stage was different, I could step into a new world on stage and could really be myself.
Should we take along our partners, kids, or both?
The show definitely has something for everyone. You have strong athletic artists performing high levels of acrobatic skills and humour that has the right balance for children and adults. I can guarantee you will come away with a smile on your face.
Following your dream to be a circus artist has certainly taken you around the world. Did you ever expect to become accredited as a specialist in aerial rope with a minor in cyr wheel?
Growing up in NZ thinking about performing in such high level companies when NZ seems to be so far away were really just dreams. Along the way I’ve learnt that the only way to get to the top of the mountain is consistent application and knowing when to rest and enjoy the moment… stopping to smell the roses as they say.
Is travelling with Cirque Eloize in any way like growing up in a household of seven children?
Most definitely. Growing up in a large-ish family you get used to always having people around, learning to adapt to different personalities, and how to work as a team. When you are in close proximity with the same people day in and out you also learn when you need to just take quiet time for yourself. It’s made it an easy transition. I love being with family and all the different dynamics that come from all the personalities.
When you do make it home, what’s the first thing you do?
I haven’t been back in NZ for two and a half years but the first thing I will be doing after I say hello to all the family will be heading outside to the beach, weather permitting, or just somewhere outside in nature. The one thing I really miss on my travels is the fresh air and beautiful scenery we have all around us that is so accessible. It is just a way of life and one I didn’t really appreciate fully till I moved out of the country six years ago.
What’s one thing we might be surprised to learn about you?
I once entered Miss World NZ, which was a huge out-of-my-comfort-zone experience that meant I had to face my fear of public speaking. I was petrified but learnt what it meant to find courage in the midst of fear!
What’s next on your high-flying horizon?
As circus is contract based the future is always a little unknown. But I hope to be able to continue to have the opportunities to work for great international companies like Cirque Eloize touring the world, meeting new people and cultures, I would like to keep doing many different styles of shows so I continue to grow and develop as an artist. New Zealand will still always be home and eventually I would like to base myself in New Zealand again, maybe starting a community gym with my brothers incorporating sport and circus.