With every death-and-gravity defying theatrical display, there are bound to be more than a few things that would catch my attention. Seeing snippets of Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities by Cirque du Soleil for the first time, I’m left in absolute awe by the aerialists, acrobats and wacky characters that make their appearance.
However, my eyes seem to be drawn constantly to the intricate details coupled with the steampunk elements scattered throughout the costumes. The costume and prop collection from KURIOS differs from previous editions of Cirque du Soleil because of the electronic and mechanical elements fused together with their traditional circus leotards.
After the sneak peeks of the acts ended, I had the opportunity to find out more from Julie Desimone, the Head of Wardrobe about what makes KURIOS’ wardrobe so different from previous Cirque du Soleil shows.
Designed by Phillippe Guillotel, the creative process behind KURIOS’s costumes began approximately six years ago in Montreal. Each design originates from a sketch, a storyboard and a theme. It was a collaborative effort amongst the designer, director and the creative team to see how they could construct costumes technically.
Creation for a show can take a year and a half to two years and each costume is custom-made for the individual artist.
Discussing her favourite costume-prop from the show, Julie smiles, “Microcosmos”, she says.
Mr. Microcosmos, played by Karl L’Ecuyer, is the leader of the entire group. He and his big belly literally carry the show. I can’t say anything more lest I spoil the show for anyone else intending to watch!
“It’s not just a jacket and a tie. It is a prop. It is a very large, foam, fibre-glass, roughly 30-pound prop. When you see the full show, you’ll see a lot of surprises that actually come out of this costume.”
Just Microcosmos’ round belly alone took approximately 250 hours to build and let’s just say it takes on two different weights during the show!
Along with all the surprises that are expected to come with KURIOS, we asked Julie what her favourite unique elements are about the costumes.
“A lot of times people think costumes are just t-shirts and pants. There’s another character in the show called Mentalist, and he has a projector in his head to read people’s minds! So, I’m always dealing with computers, rechargeable batteries and some costumes even have steam coming out of them. The costumes are shiny and bright yet antique and nostalgic. It’s a little bit of everything.”
Look closely at the costumes when you catch the show and notice the elements of new and old come together.
KURIOS spent a year and a half on tour in Japan before arriving in Singapore. With more than 100 costumes created to dress the cast and over 426 props (the most of any production in Cirque du Soleil’s history), touring is no easy feat.
Julie mentions the adversities in the wardrobe and props department during tours, yet still having to maintain congruence to the theme.
“There are a lot of logistics that come into play. Putting them (props) into road cases, transporting them thousands and thousands of miles when there’s rain and humidity, ships and trucks and airplanes and all of that to take into play. A lot of challenges are also going into different countries where there is no consistency of things. The artist might get very used to one product and let’s say, in Japan, you’re not going to have the same thing over and over again. My job is to ensure that there’s consistency at the end of the day so that we all feel comfortable.”
Leaping through the air, doing backflips, tumbling could take a toll on both artists’ and their costumes.
Julie reassures us that if anything happens before a show’s about to go on, they have backup costumes for their backups; hence, we won’t even notice a thing.
“Everybody has two of each costume, so if there’s a minor tear or something, they can do a quick change. I also have an entire stock of back stock in my wardrobe department, so I’m constantly changing costumes in and out so I have an arsenal of extra things when it happens. Sometimes things break, but we have a lot of repair kits and a team on hand. Everybody helps each other.”
In addition to all the sewing kits that are probably hiding in the wings backstage, Julie also states that maintenance for the costumes and props are conducted every day before the show starts. Each costume and prop goes through many, many hands before they’re worn by the artists.
Julie leans back in her chair. “If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life”, she simply says.
I couldn’t agree with that statement more.
“I am surrounded by gorgeous colours, gorgeous fabrics, the artists, this cast is incredible. Probably my favourite is the overall environment of touring. There are bits that are glamorous but there are the down-and-dirty things that balance it out. That covers every aspect of what you would need in a job – makes you grow, makes you stronger, it builds character and it makes you want to come back every day.”
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