Story by Michelle Hopkins
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Since 1984, Cirque du Soleil has exported Quebec’s culture to the world through its artistic and acrobatic brilliance. Its show Totem does so as well, but with a twist that focuses on First Nations culture. Making its Vancouver debut in May, the show stars a performer with aboriginal roots. Christian Laveau was raised on the edge of Quebec City in Wendake, a prosperous First Nations community that benefits from its proximity to one of Canada’s large cities.
Throughout Totem, Laveau’s voice guides the audience with songs written in his ancestral native language, Huron-Wendat. Vacay.ca recently corresponded with Laveau about his heritage, his songwriting and what it is like to be an Amerindian performer in a Cirque du Soleil show.
Vacay.ca: How does Totem celebrate aboriginal culture and roots?
Christian Laveau: Totem celebrates my culture in a social way. We made sure to never use elements that refer to spirituality or identified as sacred. The drum I use and type of singing I do in the show are what can be seen/heard in social gatherings and celebrations. What I bring to the stage is all the passion that is in my blood and I think touches everybody in the audience. Some parts of my costume, such as my drum strap and bracelets, were actually designed by my family and integrated into the designs of our costume designer Kym Barrett. Three acrobatic segments of the show have an Amerindian feel and look and I had the privilege to write the lyrics of the songs that accompany them in my Native language, Huron-Wendat.
Vacay.ca: What is your favourite Totem song?
Laveau: My favourite song in Totem is called “Onta,” it goes along the Roller Skates act of the show, which symbolizes a native wedding ceremony between members of two different tribes. I am very proud of this song as I wrote the lyrics in my native language and I love its intensity and how it brings the act to a whole new level. The lyrics talk about union, respect, peace and the fact there is only one race amongst human beings: mankind.
Vacay.ca: Tell us something about Cirque that might surprise fans?
Laveau: The core music instruments of Totem are played live by a band of six musicians and two singers. We follow the action, making sure the music is in perfect sync with the incredible acts displayed on stage. We basically are the voice of the show and interpret the emotions of the acrobats through our vocals and sounds. The score is pretty percussive and tribal with sounds coming from cultures from all over the world. I was selected because I come from a real reservation and have grown next to the nature of a family of hunters.
Vacay.ca: What will fans get out of Totem?
Laveau: They will be entering the world of Cirque du Soleil through a new doorway. Totem is one of the most intimate Cirque du Soleil shows, focusing on the physical performance and the emotions of the performers on stage. It is also very contemporary in its looks and the technology used. It is definitely a soul-touching experience, very uplifting and positive. Totem is not taking the audience members in an imaginary world. The scenes of the show are all inspired by different aspects of the theme of evolution (evolution of the human body, evolution of the human civilization, evolution of individuals through their lives, evolution of love, etc.). The acts take you from one culture to the next and to different eras of mankind’s history. Totem has an authentic, earthy feel and showcases the beauty of the world we live in.
MORE ABOUT TOTEM
Dates: Totem opens in Vancouver on May 15 and runs through to July 6, 2014 at Concord Pacific Place (88 Pacific Boulevard) under the Grand Chapiteau (see map below).
Tickets: Adult ticket prices range from $50-$145 for most performances. Select dates offer VIP packages that start at $270 and includes food, wine, parking. To purchase tickets and to find out more about Totem, visit the Cirque du Soleil website for the show.
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