We had the opportunity to speak to Bruno Darmagnac, artistic director for Kurios. Bruno describes himself as the “nanny” of the production, overseeing it day to day and making sure that it keeps in line with the story and morale that they want to tell.
Q: I understand that you originally trained in Paris in dance. How did you come from that to working here at Cirque du Soleil?
A: I had the opportunity, by pure luck, to manage this group of dancers – artists – in a circus, FLIC FLAC, in Germany in 2008. And I really enjoyed the experience and I wanted to do more. I wanted to work with the best in the business. So I applied to Cirque du Soleil – they didn’t want me. I was absolute crap at the interview to be honest [laughs]. But I applied a second time and I got the job. How did I arrive at the circus? Pure luck. But once I was there I knew I wanted to stay.
Q: So how long have you been with Cirque du Soleil so far?
A: I started in May of 2011, so four years.
Q: How different is this show, Kurios, from the previous productions?
A: Yes, it’s new! It’s a new baby. The energy is completely different. This show is going to be on the road for 15-20 years, and we are creating a structure where there will be many other artistic directors other than me and many other artists. ‘Alegria’ – the previous show – was also a beautiful show, but there are two completely different mindsets between them.
Q: You’re here in Denver for opening night. Do you prefer travelling shows like this to, say, Cirque’s resident performances in Las Vegas?
A: I’ve not actually worked on Cirque’s resident shows. But I have worked on other residential shows, and it’s much more grounded, as it’s framed as your city, your job that you commute to, you take your kids to school there… I much prefer to be on the road; maybe it’s the travelling factor.
Q: Kurios is the 35th show for Cirque du Soleil. Can you talk about how a new show is approached and what sets it apart from the previous works?
A: Each one is an entity, and comes with its own theme – Kurios is concerned with the Industrial Revolution and steampunk. There’s always a group of people for the director to fire ideas off of. Each show is unique, and some shows – I understand – were horrible and painful to put together, but Kurios was fun and exciting. Then, when rehearsals are very well advanced, the founder of Soleil, Guy Laliberté, comes in and watches the show, and he says “Yes, yes, no, yes” to each part – we call it ‘The Lion’s Den’. So in this way we ensure that each show stays true to its own character.
Q: How long does it take for a show to move from rehearsal to the stage?
A: About 8 months of rehearsal once the performers are brought into development. When they arrive, we already know exactly what we want from them. So there’s development well before the actual rehearsals begin, but once they do, it takes well over half a year.
Q: Last question! Cirque du Soleil does not use or involve animals in anyway. Can you comment on why that is?
A: Why? Because Cirque du Soleil is about what the human body can do. The philosophy of the founder, which I agree with, is that we don’t want to involve animals for entertainment. Now, I don’t want to say that people who work with animals are not artists, or that it isn’t impressive. When you’re standing in front of three lions, I’m sorry – you need big balls. It’s not what we want to do, but it’s really something.
Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities is being performed in Denver now through to July 26th. You can get tickets here.
Story and interview by Maxim Borkman.