Big changes are happening under Orlando's big top. (Courtesy Cirque du Soleil)
Orlando’s version of Cirque du Soleil, “La Nouba,” is in a state of constant evolution, consistently wowing audiences with new acts and theatrical elements since it pitched its tent at Disney Springs in 1998.
Conductor of the “La Nouba” orchestra, Benoit Glazer, says the same creative team who did “O” in Vegas designed the Orlando show just two months later. “The director of the show is Belgian,” Glazer says. “Because they were tired, they fell back on what they knew. Rene Magritte was a surreal painter and is Belgian. A lot of what you see in the show is based on that. The characters, for example, interact together but they don’t seem to go together.”
The French term, “La Nouba,” comes from the Parisian phrase “faire la nouba,” which means “to party” or “to live it up.” And the show certainly lives up to its name. Featuring breathtaking acrobatics, dizzying choreography, evocative music and fanciful characters, “La Nouba” gives Disney an ironic wink, illustrated through allusions to the frog prince and a Cinderella-like janitor.
“The whole idea is to transform that into something that’s really completely different,” Glazer says.
“La Nouba’s” long-running acts include a breathtaking aerial ballet by acrobats suspended from the rafters by flowing red silk, four tenacious diabolo maestros who attempt to outdo each other’s balance and dexterity, and a high-energy trampoline display featuring acrobats performing 395 flips and 62 twists in only 7.5 minutes.
This season premieres two new outrageous acts—B-Boy, featuring urban-style break-dancing, and aerial bamboo, a technique mastered by only a handful of performers worldwide.
Artistic Director Daniel Ross says, “We wanted to keep our urban theme while using traditional circus acts. But we also wanted something from street culture.”
He accomplished this by introducing the powerful acrobatic dance of the B-Boys, choreographed by Head Coach and Dance Captain Matthew Sparks, who is a former B-Boy himself. “B-Boying” is a physically demanding form of dance, in which performers execute acrobatic tricks and moves, including flips and spins, to music.
“[B-Boys] were very popular in the 80s,” Ross said. “[It] reminds you of the grit of the city.”
The new act features veteran B-Boys Josh Ortiz (“Incredible Josh”), Jean Carlos Lloret (“Bebo”) and Dmytro Li (“Flying Buddha”), who perform for the first time together as an ensemble in “La Nouba.” Bebo had his first taste of the spotlight when his “So You Think You Can Dance” audition video reached more than 1 million views. But their paths crossed again on the movie set of "Step Up 4 in Miami", before finally collaborating on “La Nouba.”
Another first for Cirque is introducing aerial bamboo as part of the show. The acrobatic style takes its name from its Chinese origins when acts were performed on a suspended bamboo pole, but the modern variation of the act now features a pole made of stainless steel. And, as is the case with Cirque, the story of Alexander and Ekaterina Abramov, who perform the aerial bamboo feats, is just as captivating as their act.
The act requires extreme trust between the performers. Throughout the act, Alexander, suspended by only his feet or arms high above the stage, holds Ekaterina with his arms, feet and even his teeth as she jumps, flips and spins in the air more than 100 times.
Partners on and off stage, the duo’s choreography is designed to showcase their love and trust for each other and to inspire love among their audience. The two have been together for more than 15 years and started performing aerial bamboo in 2004. Last year they sent a video to casting in submission when Cirque began their search for a new aerial number, and were selected from more than 20 entrants.
The married couple has more than 50 years of combined gymnastic and acrobatic experience. Hailing from Moscow, they are considered among the best in the world, having performed to audiences in Egypt, Korea, Spain, Italy, Thailand, Israel and Russia. They are the only confirmed aerial bamboo act currently performing in the United States and their “La Nouba” debut is also their U.S. premiere.
Catch Cirque du Soleil’s “La Nouba” under the big top at Disney Springs Tuesday through Saturday. Show times at 6 and 9 pm.