9 secrets of Cirque du Soleil's TORUK – The First Flight

9 secrets of Cirque du Soleil's TORUK
Posted at 2:09 PM, Jul 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-21 12:13:29-04

After more than 32 years, you might think Cirque du Soleil has done it all, but the newest show performing in Denver this week has several firsts for the company.

The show is called "TORUK – The First Flight," after one of the creatures in the movie Avatar. The show was inspired by the movie, but is actually consider a prequel. It's set 3,000 years before Avatar, according to Laura Silverman, the spokesperson for the show.

What makes this show different? We went behind-the-scenes to learn 9 secrets of "TORUK – The First Flight."

Secret No. 1:

The set is all gray, but you won't see this.

When you walk into the arena, there will be a veil around the set. When the veil goes up, the set will be a colorful planet with flowers, a river, lava, waterfall, trees and more.

"This is a show never seen before in your life," said performer Giulia Piolanti. "It's colorful, there are waterfalls, amazing flowers."

Secret No. 2:

The colorful set you see is created by projections -- 40 projectors are set up around the area. In addition to this, Cirque du Soleil is using a system called Black Trax that creates pre-programmed lights that follow the artists and helps to amplify the colorful, 3D set, Silverman explained.

Secret No. 3:

Some of the set pieces are trampolines.

While your eye will immediately be drawn to the large set pieces -- the two trees, the island and the dream catcher above the island -- there is also a "green belt" area around the stage.

Some of those small pieces are solid, but others have trampolines to help the performers jump higher.

Secret No. 4:

There are large-scale puppets in this show, with 16 puppets in total. While some may be recognizable from Avatar, there are two new creatures, too, Silverman said.

The largest puppet is the namesake of the show -- Toruk. It has a 40-foot wingspan, weighs 240 pounds and it takes six people to bring it to life, according to Silverman.

"The puppeters are able to bring to life the creatures," Piolanti said.

Secret No 5:

Some of the puppets are directed using cameras and screens inside the costumes.

It takes two people to make a Direhorse come to life.

If you look closely, you'll see a small hole on the horse's chest, but that's not big enough to see through.

Instead a camera shoots through the hole and projects the image on a screen inside for the puppeteer to see.

Secret No. 6:

There's an English-speaking narrator in the show. The actor acts as a storyteller to translate what is happening during the show. It's something Cirque has not done before, Silverman said.

Every other character in this show speaks Navi, the language you might remember from Avatar.

Secret No. 7:

This is the third show created specifically for an arena. Most Cirque shows are created for the Big Top, then changed to fit an arena setting. However, this show was created for arena and takes advantage of the size of the available stage, Silverman said.

When TORUK – The First Flight performs in an arena, it's always a hockey arena because they have the same dimensions, Silverman said.

Secret No. 8:

There's normally a show on Wednesday, but in Denver, the first show isn't until Thursday. That's to give the performers an extra day to acclimatize to our elevation.

The performers follow a strict weekly schedule. On Sunday night, after their last show, the cast and crew fly to their next city. The artists get Monday and Tuesday off while the technical team sets up. On Wednesday, the performers have training and the shows begin. They have performances Wednesday through Sunday and then they start the process again, Silverman said.

Secret No. 9:

There are 115 costumes in the show with over 1,000 pieces when you add up the wigs, shoes, headdresses and other items.

There are 100 people on the tour -- 40 artists, 40 technicians and 20 others handling catering, office work and other tasks.

The employees come from 20 countries.

"TORUK – The First Flight" is at the Pepsi Center July 21-24. It will be in North America through the beginning of 2017 before it heads overseas. Learn more about the show and buy tickets here. Learn 7 secrets of Cirque du Soleil's Kurios.

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