Artistic Director Tim Smith on Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM, Human Spectacles, and Feats of Flight

Categories: Theater
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Cirque du Soleilʼs latest extravaganza, TOTEM, will swing, twist, and contort its way into Sun Life Stadium come January 10. TOTEM takes audiences on an evolutionary journey with the human species, from our original amphibian state to our ultimate desire to fly. From tribal spectacles to science and technology, the show explores mankind's unrelenting curiosity and transformation.

We caught up with TOTEM's artistic director, Tim Smith, who left Broadway performance to join Cirque du Soleil two years ago. Check out what he had to say about his transition to circus madness, and what we can expect from TOTEM, after the jump.

Cultist: So whatʼs TOTEM all about?
Tim Smith: TOTEM is about manʼs progress through civilization and our relationship with the earth. Thematically, itʼs about how we as a people always need to move forward and evolve. The show is another opportunity to see Cirqueʼs continuing excellence. No two shows are the same, and this one incorporates all that is new in stage and visual technology. The visuals are completely spectacular.

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Your background is in Broadway, as a performer. What has it been like to transfer over to artistic direction for Cirque du Soleil, which involves a few more factors -- not the least of which being mind-bending acrobatics?
You know, seldom do people get as lucky as I have been, to have a complete career in one arena and then embark upon a new one. And Iʼm talking about a completely different environment. Cirque looks like theatre, and smells like theatre, but it is an entirely different animal. There are performers coming from 17 countries, speaking 11 different languages. The cultural exchange is significant. Whatʼs more, Iʼm working with somebody as they are flying through the air above my head. Iʼm incorporating people into a show and a vision that can do things with their bodies that Iʼve never dreamed of. Cirque is really such a perfect marriage of two art forms: theatre, where I come from, and human spectacle. What these performers are capable of is just incredible. Itʼs been both humbling and exciting for me.

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If you could switch things up and be a performer in any portion of the show, what would you choose?
I canʼt believe Iʼve never been asked this question before! But I donʼt even have to think about it. You know, I think everyone has a dream that they could fly... it must feel amazing. There are two portions of TOTEM that incorporate flying acts.

[At this point, Smith launched into a breathless description of the acts, a "ringed trio" in Act One, and a "Russian bar" finale that we couldnʼt quite wrap our brains around, even though we had him repeat his description in "For Dummies" language. All we know is it sounded frickinʼ awesome, it involves flying, and weʼll definitely be getting visual confirmation come January.]

Watching them flying, flipping, twisting through the air with such grace and precision... it must be exhilarating. Thatʼs definitely what I would choose.

Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM will run from January 10 to February 3, 2013, in the Big Top adjacent to Sun Life Stadium. Ticket prices vary and start at $58. You can find out more at the show's Web site.

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Sun Life Stadium

2269 NW 199th St., Miami Gardens, FL

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