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Fire Within

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Fire Within


The Cast


Episode 01
Episode 02
Episode 03
Episode 04
Episode 05
Episode 06
Episode 07
Episode 08
Episode 09
Episode 10
Episode 11
Episode 12
Episode 13


Song List
Behind the Scenes


Episode 5

The holiday season brings a more intimate look into the characters as they reflect on their lives and relationships outside Cirque du Soleil.

First Aired: October 6, 2002 (Global)
January 27, 2003 (Bravo)

It is December 22, 2001. We pan across the frozen headquarters of Cirque du Soleil covered by a white blanket of snow. The troupe is preparing for their eagerly awaited Christmas holiday; they have not had a break in four months. We will accompany them as they relax with family and friends. This episode provides a temporary reprieve from the hectic and stressful feel of the others and provides an opportunity to get to know the performers in a more casual setting.

Before leaving for the holidays, Director Dominic Champagne sits down with talent scout Michel Laprise and watches a video tape of an audition for the new show's singer. Over 100 candidates have already been rejected. This candidate is Adrian Berinde, a large, middle-aged Romanian man, with a low, husky and guttural voice which particularly stands out. The director describes him as "the Tom Waits of Bucharest, the Leonard Cohen of Romania." Dominic Champagne is still a little doubtful, "He's got no technique. He can't read music." But Michel counters, "He plays guitar, he's in a band. He's launching his fifth album this week and he's ready to drop everything for us." Not wanting to prolong the start of his holiday, the director relents and accepts the new singer.

Before everyone leaves for the break, Dominic Champagne calls a group meeting where he will unveil the title of the new show. He explains his inspiration. "These are people without countries, without roots but they have [such a] strong culture inside themselves that they can survive without a country, carrying their culture inside themselves. So, I have the same respect and admiration for that culture [as I do] for people like you; acrobats that have the key to open any door and to enter the king's court. So that's why I suggest to call this show 'Varekai' which means, in the gypsy language, 'wherever'." The group applauds their show's new name. Then, everybody splits off for their respective celebrations.

We see the Atherton twins on Sainte-Catherine Street, Montreal's main shopping district. They are waiting for an airport shuttle as they will be spending their vacation in Las Vegas.

Ashley reunites with his girlfriend, Sarah, whom he has not seen in four months. She comes to Montreal to live with him. Ashley shares some of his concerns for their future, "It's all up in the air at the moment with work and touring, 'cause I don't know what it's going to be like and she's been asking me questions and I can't give her answers 'cause I've not toured yet." He's been considering marriage but is uncertain what the ramifications of life on the road will be, "I don't even know what the show's going to be like and I've just signed three years to do it. I just don't want [Sarah] to come here and for it not to work." Ashley and Sarah share a joyous reunion at the airport and some tender moments during the ride home.

None of the performers have relatives in Montreal, so show choreographer Michael Montanaro throws a Christmas Eve party at his home for those who have stayed in town. Acrobatic Pas de Deux dancer Oleg regales his fellow artists with stories of his nomadic life. We watch as the performers eat, drink and make merry.

Stella has gone home to Toronto for the holidays and has invited two of her fellow trapeze artists, Zoe and Helen, to join her and her family for a nice Christmas dinner. After dinner, the phone rings and as Stella picks up, she eyes the camera and says, "I'm switching phones." She facetiously rolls her eyes and says, "Ah, you think I'm letting you guys come in on my conversation? You've got to be joking." The camera playfully chases Stella to her bedroom where she slams the door on it as she taunts, "Get out camera boy." We instead join her mother, washing dishes in the kitchen, "Is that her boyfriend Sam calling?" her mom asks. "Her most recent flavor . . . oh well, poor Stella," she sighs.

We then join Gareth sleeping in his bed on Christmas morning. Or should we say Christmas afternoon, he apparently had a very good time at Michael Montanaro's party the previous night. He receives a call from his mother in London. Gareth could not afford to fly home to see her. He speaks briefly with his sister and baby nephew. His mother is still not well, she must go back to the hospital for more cancer tests. She informs Gareth as the melancholy song "Rideau" from Saltimbanco plays in the background. Gareth wipes a tear from his eye and we share his sorrow in a genuinely touching moment.

Meanwhile, we cut from snowy Montreal to rainy London, England, Gareth's home town. We meet Russian hand-balancer/contortionist Olga Pikhienko as she rides the bus to work. We pass Big Ben and posters advertising the Cirque du Soleil show Quidam where Olga has performed since she was 15 years old. She is now nearing the end of her five- year run with Quidam and will soon move to Montreal to star in Varekai. She arrives at the white Quidam Grand Chapiteau. Backstage, Olga is wearing a new, two-piece costume and proceeds to apply her make-up and paints temporary arm band and thigh band tattoos. The soft-spoken and radiantly beautiful Olga shares her apprehension about leaving Quidam, "I'm a little sad, I feel it more and more coming that I have to leave this tour and leave my friends behind. There are new people that I will have to hang out with and work with and I don't know them yet, I don't know how they are inside and it makes me nervous a bit." Christmas Eve is just another night for Olga and she gives an absolutely electrifying performance for the London crowd. From the few short clips of her performance it's evident that she has gotten even better since Quidam was filmed in 1999. She gives her heart and soul in a performance that's sexier and edgier than ever before.

Olga says goodbye to the group of performers who have been her family for the past five years. However, working in Montreal will allow her to reunite with her actual family. Her father is an acrobatic coach with Cirque and they will work together for the new show.

After the much needed rest and relaxation of the holidays the performers go back to the Cirque grindstone and once again start furiously rehearsing for the ever-encroaching premiere. In a montage set to the music "Terre Aride" from "O" we watch the Russian Swings, Triple Trapeze and several interstitial sequences in rehearsal. The show's magnificently intricate set will be constructed in the studio over New Year's and the performers will work to transfer their acts into the new environment.

Finally, we attend a New Year's party with the performers at Stella's boyfriend's stylish loft. They count down and jubilantly greet the New Year with hugs and kisses all around. "Happy New Year Lewis," Gareth exclaims as he reaches toward the camera and shakes the hand of Fire Within director Lewis Cohen.

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