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Hoop Diving
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Set & Stage
    "I wanted to convey the idea of monumentality and of the grandeur commonly associated with Mexico, to make sure that each spectator would have a great view of all the acts regardless of where they sat under the Big Top, and to create an environment where location and timeline changes would be quick and seamless."
    — Eugenio Caballero, Set Designer

LUZIA marks the first time Cirque du Soleil presents a production under a Big Top featuring printed patterns directly related to the theme of the show. The patterns evoke the association between Cirque du Soleil (the sun) and Mexico (the word originates from Mtztli, meaning 'moon," and Xuctli, which means 'middle') and symbolize the meeting of two celestial bodies: the sun and the moon. A bird's eye view reveals the path of the stars that spiral out from the centre of the Big Top - the symbolic meeting point between earth and sky, sacred and human.

To make the idea of a journey through various geographic locations possible – you’re taken from an old movie set to the ocean to the semi-desert to an undersea world to a cenote to the jungle to a city alleyway to a dance salon, passing smoothly from an urban setting to the natural world, past to present, tradition to modernity – the set designer needed to create a neutral stage inside the big top. He came up with a variation on the black box theater concept (a simple, somewhat unadorned performance space), which he dubbed the “Blue Box” – an environment where location and timeline changes would be quick and seamless but not totally devoid of color. Other elements of the stage design are:

  • THE DISK — The light in LUZIA manifests itself as the great disk towering above its stage (the only item adorning the set), which also pays tribute to some of the most colossal manmade structures in the world. The Teotihuacán archaeological site located 50 kilometers northeast of Mexico City, for example, features some of the most architecturally significant Mesoamerican pyramids in the pre-Columbian Americas. Additionally, some believe Mexico is a portmanteau word that combines the Náhuatl (Aztec) terms for "moon" (Metztli) and "navel," (Xictli) referring to "the place at the center of the moon." Thus, the great disk represents in turn the sun, the moon, and the Aztec calendar, conveying the idea of monumentality and of the grandeur commonly associated with Mexico. The metallic color and texture of the disk is a tribute to the search of pure lines that characterizes Mexican contemporary art as well as the work of architect Luis Barragán and sculptor Mathias Goeritz. The disk is 6.9 meters (22.6 feet) in diameter, weighs about 2,000 kilograms (4,400+ pounds), and is supported by a giant bracket, called the "Cobra," that functions like a crane. Using the Cobra, the disk can undergo various transformations during the show - it can move forwards and backwards at a distance of 5.5 meters (18 feet), can rotate horizontally 360 degrees in both directions. And by using a giant light box, it can turn into the sun, or the moon, or assume any color as the mood requires.

  • THE RAIN CURTAIN — Rain has been a topic of conversation since pre-Hispanic times. It is as present in popular culture as it was among the Mayans and Aztecs who named gods in its honor. And there are as many types of rain as there are clouds that produce it – from the refreshing showers of Coyoacán (an iconic neighborhood at the heart of Mexico City), to the torrential rains that sweep across Baja California, to the plentiful autumn rains, as violent as they are sudden. In the diversified geography of Mexico, rain is part of the collective consciousness and has a narrative force all its own, hence the creative team decided to bring the element of water into the overall set design - a first for a Cirque Big Top show. Apart from providing the water as a form of artistic expression, the show's rain curtain is a nod to architect Pedro Ramirez Vazquez’s circular fountain in Mexico City in honor of Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain.

  • THE POOL — The stage structure integrates two separate turntables revolving around a pool in the middle. The pool itself is a reference to cenotes, naturally occurring sinkholes the Mayan believed was a gateway to the afterlife. Because of its weight and size, and in order to be able to transport it easily during the tour, the pool was designed in several sections. This represented a challenge in keeping it watertight after assembly. Integrating the water into the performance itself represented a huge technical challenge: all electrical and mechanical systems had to be waterproofed, and the water couldn't remain on stage. Therefore, the pool serves a dual purpose: not only is it used by the Aerial Straps artist, but its main purpose is to collect the water when the rain curtain is in operation. The stage floor has 94,657 holes through which the water drains into the 3,500-liter basin usually hidden underneath. It is then recycled, disinfected, and kept at a constant 28°C (82°F) for the comfort of the artists. A totally new system was developed for this process, which is so efficient they don't need to fill the show's water tanks that often. The water temperature and the use of chlorine both posed big challenges when selecting the proper covering for the stage deck and the lining of the pool.

  • A FIELD OF CEMPASUCHIL — LUZIA starts with a field of 5,000 cempasúchil in bloom. Their scent, orange color and appearance are part of deepest memories of the Mexican people. Aztecs gathered and cultivated the plant for medicinal, ceremonial, and decorative purposes; its flower, also called the “flor de muertos” (“flower of the dead”) – is now the main element in Day of the Dead altars, although their use in religious and pagan rituals dates back to pre-Hispanic times. Día de Muertos celebrates the joy of life by dressing personalized altars (called ofrendas) to deceased family members and friends. This elaborate, highly significant ritual is designed to bring the mourner into a focused state of mind in which they make a deep connection with their loved one and celebrate not only that person’s life, but also the part of their soul that lives on in their heart. Therefore, the cempasúchil field is not there for purely esthetic reasons; it reflects a desire to share a profoundly meaningful ritual rooted in emotion.

  • THE PAPEL PICADO CURTAIN — The intricately patterned red curtain is a decorative craft that involves cutting elaborate designs in sturdy paper or silk. Papel picado commonly represent birds, floral designs, and skeletons (especially in celebrations surrounding the Day of the Dead.) Mounted on a cylinder, the papel picado measures 11 meters (36 feet) high by 30 meters (98 feet) wide, but is flexible enough to be quickly lowered and raised as required. Set Designer Eugenio Caballero worked with Javier Martínez Pedro, an artist from a small town in Guerrero, to create the images you see within. The keen-eyed observer will notice the images represent various narrative elements and characters in the show – a horse, a field of flowers, a flock of hummingbirds, a plaza, a cenote, a cave, an underwater world, raindrops, a storm, the sun, a city, and desert cacti. They were all drawn by hand and then created by punching more than 13,000 holes into the curtain’s surface.
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