Life Under Cirque Du Soleil’s Big Top

While some dream of running away with the circus, Ghislain Ramage has spent most of his life doing just that.

“KOOZA is about human connection and the world of duality, good and bad,” says writer and director David Shiner.

Ramage will join the rest of the Australian cast as part of the Cirque du Soleil upcoming production of KOOZA, which premieres on January 20 next year. The show, currently in Sydney, is named from the Sanskrit word ‘koza,’ meaning box, chest or treasure and refers to the intriguing idea of the production as a circus in a box. Described as a return to the origins of Cirque du Soleil, Kooza combines both traditional acrobatic performance and the art of clowning.

Ramage began his circus training at just six years old at a small French circus school, refining his skills and learning apparatus tricks long before he became part of the cast. His speciality is the Roue Cyr, a large cylindrical hoop acrobats can spin inside of while moving around the stage.

“I started practicing 10 years ago and went to The Superior School of Circus Arts (ESAC) in Brussels, where there was the best professor that could teach me this apparatus,” he tells Local Eyes.

“I started working for the company six years ago right after I graduated,” he adds. “I’m one of those lucky ones in that I never had to audition to join the company. Cirque du Soleil has a casting department and they were looking for new talents. They called me while I was performing on a show in Italy. A week later I was in Montreal starting a new life.”

“In the life I’m living, there aren’t normal days,” he says, adding that it’s also the diversity of routines that makes each day on tour enjoyable. However, there are certainly plenty of hours spent in the Big Top for rehearsals.

Ramage insists that a ‘usual day’ starts with a good coffee and a croissant before he spends time exploring his new city (rehearsals permitting) before heading to the big top.

“I train for an hour or two before getting ready for the show and, after the show, I share a drink with my friends to cool down and talk about everything,” he says. His act, using the Roue Cyr is performed twice weekly, rotating with other solo acts.

“When I’m not doing the Roue Cyr, I’m a part of the house group of artists. It means that I’ll take part in different scenes during the show, with different characters and costumes. In addition to that, I’m also the understudy for one of the three lead clowns – the King,” he says.

“There is nothing that I like more than being on tour with the show. You get to see the world, perform in some amazing places and meet amazing people from different cultures. But tour life is not for everyone, you have to like it because even if it looks fun, there are some downsides to it,” he admits, adding that being away from family and friends and living out of a suitcase can be taxing.

“When I really want to escape, I put on my costume and walk on stage.” – Ghislain Ramage

Ghislain Ramage in and out of costume ahead of KOOZA.

Ramage has performed in three different productions so far including ZARKANA, QUIDAM and KOOZA.

“It’s really hard to pick a favourite because they’re all very different and happened at different moments in my life,” he admits. “If I have to pick one, I’d say my favourite was QUIDAM because it meant something very important to me. When I was a kid, dreaming about circus, QUIDAM was my favourite show and the first DVD I ever owned. I watched it over and over and over. But at that time, I could have never imagined that I would end up on that stage one day. When it finally happened, when I got to perform a solo act to open this beautiful show, I realised this was probably the biggest achievement in my career.”

When asked if there was ever a ‘Plan B’ to a career in circus acrobatics, Ramage suggests the skills he’s learned along the way will guide him to another career later in life.

“I’ve never really asked myself that question, because I’m doing what I always wanted to do. There is no place I’d rather be right now, and no other job I’d rather be doing,” he says. “Later in my life I’ll end up doing something else that probably has nothing to do with circus, but using what I’ve learned from travelling and meeting different people from different cultures.”

With over 7 million people worldwide who have already experienced KOOZA, the show will tour Australia with performances in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. In true form to Cirque du Soleil shows, the performance promises to be full of colour and character mixed with deft touches of humour. It begins with the Trickster bursting out of a jack-in-the box before leading the viewer on a journey of many surprises and characters including the King, the Heimloss, the Bad Dog and the aptly named Obnoxious Tourist.

“KOOZA is about human connection and the world of duality, good and bad,” says the show’s writer and director David Shiner. “The tone is fun and funny, light and open. The show doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s very much about ideas, too. As it evolves, we are exploring concepts such as fear, identity, recognition and power.”

It’s certainly a performance that promises to be exhilarating and while some might dream of running away with the circus to escape their everyday life, Ramage says when he has a hectic day and the thought of running off seems enticing, his escape is going off to explore a new city or heading off on road trip.

“But honestly,” he adds, “When I really want to escape, I put on my costume and walk on stage.”

Tickets are on sale now for the Melbourne performances of KOOZA. Visit www.cirquedusoleil.com for more details.

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