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Lighting Designer
Luc Lafortune
Photo Credits
Al Seib
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There are not many shows that can boast of being a world-wide success. Their secret is their ability to go beyond the cultural barriers, offering artistic shows that speak a universal language. This is certainly the case for Cirque du Soleil, as proven by some record-breaking figures: since 1984, the year it was created, about 18 million persons have attended in its shows in all continents. Presently, the staff is backed by the services of 1800 people, including 460 artists from quite an extensive number of countries. These artists have performed in more than 120 cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Paris and London, winning numerous individual and overall awards.

Cirque du Soleil is a troupe of artists that includes acrobats, athletes, actors, dancers and singers. Each show presents its own theme, generally interpreted as a paradox or fantasy, and almost always inspired by exotic environments as well as far away civilisations and countries. In 1999, Cirque du Soleil hit the stage with seven shows: Alegría, Mystère, “O” and La Nouba performed in permanent theatres, while Quidam, Saltimbanco and Dralion are on tours, travelling through America, Europe and Asia Pacific.

In fact, its success is directly proportional to the efforts made and the investment involved: Cirque du Soleil puts a gigantic organisational machine into action for each show. In addition to the “performers”, such organisation also requires skilled technicians. Each aspect of the show is carefully prepared down to the smallest details, from choreography, scenery and make-up to costumes and lights. Everything helps to create the theme of the show, thus guaranteeing total spectator involvement.

Lighting is a distinguishing feature of Cirque du Soleil. The bodies of the gymnasts who blend and meld with the projected graphics, the acrobats who soar in the light with the greatest of ease, the intense colours that take away a part of the show’s realism, giving them a magical power, make light an element of utmost importance. Light doesn’t just add that touch of colour and creativity to the scene, but creates very specific narrative themes, thus becoming a “character”.

Luc Lafortune, LD for most of the Cirque du Soleil shows, uses Clay Paky products, and has some very specific ideas on the subject: ” Clay Paky lights have always given me the best results: perfect projection, great creative effects and pure colours allow me to interpret the story according to the ideas I have in my head. The effects formed by the background colours and gobo criss-crossing over the various elements of the set create an atmosphere that generates strong emotions in the spectator”.

Luc has used his method in many of the Cirque du Soleil shows: in Saltimbanco he used 6 Super Scans; Mystere in Las Vegas utilises 24 Stage Scans, Quidam is currently on tour with 8 Super Scan Zooms and 8 Pin Scans. “O”, performed at the Bellagio in Las Vegas uses 48 Stage Scan; “La Nouba”, that is presented at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, uses 24 Stage Scans.

All the productions make use of light shows with great colour intensity: the shades of diametrically opposed colours, like purple and green, generate incredible effects on the costumes, which are specially designed to be colour sensitive, until they actually blend in with the characters. The lights must then capture the most spectacular and thrilling sequences, like the trapeze art: therefore, the reliability of the projector, which must always operate perfectly in any situation, is of vital importance.

Luc tells us: “Clay Paky products have given me maximum reliability and the possibility to create every project that I’ve been able to come up with. I really believe in Clay Paky, also because I’ve seen in person just how professional the Italian company’s technicians are. That’s why I agreed to participate in some initiatives organised recently by Clay Paky, like 1998 and 1999 LDI tutorials”.

Thanks to co-operation with Group One and SSP, the Clay Paky exclusive distributors for the United States and Canada, the relationship between Cirque du Soleil and Clay Paky has continued to grow over the years, and even in the shows in which Luc Lafortune is not the lighting designer.

Dralion is the newest of the Cirque du Soleil shows and is sponsored in kind by Clay Paky. The lighting system utilises 8 Stage Zooms and 8 Super Scan Zooms, that create a mystical atmosphere. Each colour has its own meaning: blue for the air, green for water, red for fire, and ochre for the earth. They are projected in varying patterns as the story unfolds.

Dralion is currently touring North America. But the work doesn’t end with the meticulous preparation and set-up of the shows: thanks also to the use of modern technologies supplied by leading companies such as Clay Paky, Cirque du Soleil will continue to search for new creative horizons, for all those who still know how to be surprised and love to dream.