Logo for Cirque du Soleil's Totem
||Cirque du Soleil
|Date of premiere
||April 22, 2010 (Montreal)
|Writer and director
|Director of creation
|Set and props designer
|Acrobatic performance designer
||Viva Elvis (2010)
Totem is a touring show by Cirque du Soleil that premiered in Montréal on April 22, 2010. It was written and directed by previous collaborator Robert Lepage (Kà). Cirque du Soleil describes Totem's theme as the evolution of humanity from its primordial, amphibian state toward the aspiration of flight, taking inspiration from many of humanity's founding myths. The show was awarded the 2013 New York Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience.
All of Cirque du Soleil's previous touring productions were originally created to be performed inside large, custom-designed tents (called the grand chapiteau), but many of those shows have since been re-staged in arenas and other venues after the conclusion of their "big top" tour. Totem's creation team faced the challenge of designing a show that could be adapted for arenas and other venues from the outset.
Set and technical information
Cirque du Soleil used interactive projection technologies to enhance and provide variety to the types of scenes created for Totem, including swamps, starry nights, lakes, volcanos, and other natural environments. The kinetic images are created with the help of infrared cameras; the projection system can dynamically create projections, making it seem as if they are reacting to the artists' movements in both real-time and pre-recorded sequences. One of the major elements for the set is the large turtle carapace, which functions as both a decorative piece as well as acrobatic equipment. When not in use, the shell is tilted or raised completely to the top of the tent or arena. It weighs 2,700 pounds (1,200 kg), has two horizontal bars, and is covered in a non-slip finish. Another major component of the set is the "scorpion bridge", which functions as an entrance at times. It is made of 10,000 pounds (4,500 kg) of steel and has eight mineral oil hydraulic motors which allow it to move in three dimensions--extending, retracting, curling, etc. Underneath said bridge is housing for a laser, speakers, lighting equipment, and cameras. Movement of the scorpion bridge is controlled by an operator who uses four infrared cameras. Of final note, the marsh reeds at the back of the stage are actually inflatable, which allows for easier transport between performance locations.
Equipment and props that are not part of the set have been just as carefully planned out and created. The unicycles are 7 feet (2.1 m) tall, but are very light for better maneuverability. Similarly, the perch poles were made of duralumin, the largest of which was 33 feet (10 m) tall. In total summation, Totem utilizes 65 tractor-trailer sized containers to transport its 1,200 tonnes (1,200 long tons; 1,300 short tons) of equipment from site to site.
During the Scientist's juggling act, he uses balls made with 96 red, 96 blue, and 96 green LED lights inside. The colors are changed remotely by show technicians during the performance.
Fifty-two performing artists from 19 countries make up the cast as of Totem's première.
- The Tracker: Assists and guides the Scientist, and is a friend to the animals.
- The Scientist: Performs experiments and visits the different worlds of Totem. Appearance is based on Charles Darwin.
- The Amerindian dancer: Traces the evolution of species.
- The Crystal man: Opens the show by bringing the carapace to life, and ends the show by diving into the lagoon.
- The Sad Fisherman: This clown performs ping-pong ball tricks and drives the speedboat.
- Valentino: This "Italian Tourist" acts as a foil to the Tracker and water-skis from the speedboat.
- Apes: A troupe of 5-6 characters mark the progress of Human Evolution from Ape to Businessman With Cell Phone.
Totem's acts feature unique presentations of high-caliber circus skills and other performing arts.
- Carapace: A traditional gymnastics apparatus with use of a trampoline ground for a twist.
- Hoops Dancer Part 1: A fast paced Native American hoop dance featuring one of two solo artist.
- Rings trio: A traditional gymnastics act featuring a high flying trio using sheer strength and flexibility to create multiple poses.
- Unicycles and bowls: A group of female artists ride seven foot high unicycles while balancing metal bowls on their heads. The performers place a bowl on their foot, and kick it back to the head. The act consisted of kicking two or even five bowls at once, kicking bowls to people in front or behind them and even kicking a teapot onto one performers head.
- Contortion: One contortionist uses balance, strength and flexibility in this jaw dropping feat of contortion on a circular platform.
- Escalade: A businessman, stripped of his suit is trapped deep in the jungle. Jumping and climbing around a Chinese-pole-like framework, as if swinging through the trees, he finds his inner, primitive, ape.
- Diabolo: The Tracker manipulates diabolos (i.e., Chinese yo-yo), which are two sticks linked by a string on which a wooden spool balances.
- Fixed trapeze Duo: A young couple perform death-defying stunts high up on a trapeze. The act represents both the desire and aggravation couples face.
- Manipulation: The Scientist rolls several LED lit balls in a giant glass cone, creating a whole new take on the average juggling act.
- Hoops Dancer Part 2: Two performers dance with hoops in a pounding, percussion-heavy dance.
- Roller skates: A couple create stunning poses as they skate on a platform at high speed.
- Russian Bars: A nerve-wracking act that involves four-inch thick planks that artists use to jump high in the air while performing flips, only to land perfectly on the bar again.
Acts in Rotation
- Cyr Wheel: The roue Cyr involves a solo artist spinning, balancing and inversions.
- Perches: Several performers climb up high poles that are balanced on an artists shoulder. This act was removed in 2013.
- Devil sticks: The tracker manipulates a long stick with two other sticks that he holds onto, both accuracy and timing are used in this energetic act. This act was performed until 2015 before being replaced by Diabolos.
- Hand-to-Hand: A duo perform a traditional hand to hand act, they keep the act at a heartbeat like rhythm. This act was performed until November 2015 before being replaced by Escalade and Contortion.
- Hand balancing: An artist precariously balances on a high hand balancing platform, using contortion and gymnastic techniques. This act was performed until 2017 before being replaced in 2018 by Cyr Wheel.
- Crystal Ladies: Using flat squares made of fabric material, an artists perform an antipodism act while spinning these squares on her hands and legs, throwing the squares from one foot/hand to the other. From 2016 until its retirement in 2017, the duo act was performed as a solo act.
As Totem's storyline includes the evolution of humanity, inspiration for the 779 costume elements came directly from nature. Costume designer Kym Barrett primarily focused on how to treat various fabrics rather than the materials themselves in order to replicate the elements found in nature. Such treatments included advanced printing techniques, fluorescent pigments, and utilizing mirror fragments and crystals for adornment. Below is more detailed information about specific costume pieces and the wardrobe collection as a whole.
- The Crystal Man's stretch velvet leotard is encrusted with nearly 4,500 reflective components; 4,001 are mirror fragments. This costume is the show's heaviest, weighing eight pounds.
- The foot juggling duo's lycra body stockings are each adorned with 3,500 crystals, and each headpiece has another 1,000.
- The hoop dancer's costume is inspired by not one traditional Native American tribe, but by several. For instance it includes a Hopi cross and headdress.
- The unicyclists each have a very distinct look that suggests autumn and the abundance from harvest. Each costume is printed with earth tones and then embellished with hand-sewn details, including bolts, screws, seedpods, feathers, flowers and insects.
As Totem's storyline is about the evolution of humanity, the musical components selected by composers Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard aimed to reflect this theme. Their score includes instruments and rhythms from around the world, including elements from Native American music, Spanish flamenco, and Indian music. One unique attribute of the music in Totem is that all the musicians sing at some point, which allows for moments of a cappella.
Below are the track titles as they appear in order on the CD, which was originally released on October 6, 2010. The items in parentheses reflect the act correlated with each song.
- Omé Kayo: Opening, high bar, hoop dance 1 (2010 - present)
- Cum Sancto Spiritu: Hand-balancing (2010 - 2017)
- Indie-Hip: Rings trio (2010 - present)
- Koumaya: Unicycles with bowls (2010 - present)
- Crystal Pyramid: Foot juggling (2010 - 2017)
- Thunder: Perches (2010-2013), Cyr Wheel (2018 - present)
- Toreador: Devil sticks (2010 - 2015), Diabolo (2015 - present)
- Qué Viyéra: Fixed trapeze duo (2010 - present)
- Mr. Beaker: Manipulation (2010 - present)
- Onta: Hoops dance 2, roller skates (2010 - present)
- Kunda Tayé: Hand to Hand (2010 - 2015)
- Fast Boat: Speedboat clown act (2010 - present)
- Terre-mère: Russian bars (2010 - present)
- Omé Yo Kanoubé: Finale (2010 - present)
- Contortion: Contortion (2016 - present)
- Escalade: Escalade (2015 - present)
Esi Kwesiwa Acquaah-Harrison: Apr 2010 - Feb 2011, Jan 2012 - Jun 2013, Nov 2013 - Aug 2016
Coco Mbassi : Mar 2011 - May 2011
Odessa Thornhill : May 2011 - Dec 2011, Jul 2013 - Nov 2013
Betina Quest : Aug 2016 - present
Christian Laveau: Apr 2010 - present
The Totem tour started off different from normal tours by going to Europe before going to the United States and then Oceania.
The following colorboxes indicate the region of each performance:
EU Europe NA North America SA South and Central Americas AP Asia/Pacific OC Oceania AF Africa
Grand Chapiteau tour
- NA Montréal, QC - From 22 Apr to 11 Jul 2010
- NA Québec, QC - From 22 Jul to 29 Aug 2010
- EU Amsterdam, NL - From 7 Oct to 22 Dec 2010
- (Totem played in the Royal Albert Hall in London, UK during this time)
- NA Charlotte, NC - From 3 Mar to 27 Mar 2011
- NA Baltimore, MD - From 7 Apr to 1 May 2011
- NA Pittsburgh, PA - From 12 May to 5 Jun 2011
- NA Montréal, QC - From 15 Jun to 31 Jul 2011
- NA Toronto, ON - From 10 Aug to 9 Oct 2011
- NA San Francisco, CA - From 28 Oct to 18 Dec 2011
- (Totem played in the Royal Albert Hall in London, UK during this time)
- NA San Jose, CA - From 2 Mar to 15 Apr 2012
- NA San Diego, CA - From 25 Apr to 27 May 2012
- NA Boston, MA - From 10 Jun to 5 Aug 2012
- NA Washington, DC - From 15 Aug to 7 Oct 2012
- NA Atlanta, GA - From 26 Oct to 30 Dec 2012
- NA Miami, FL - From 10 Jan to 24 Feb 2013
- NA New York, NY - From 14 Mar to 12 May 2013
- NA Philadelphia, PA - From 30 May to 30 Jun 2013
- NA Ottawa, ON - From 11 Jul to 4 Aug 2013
- NA Columbus, OH - From 22 Aug to 15 Sep 2013
- NA Los Angeles, CA - From 11 Oct to 10 Nov 2013
- NA Irvine, CA - From 21 Nov to 29 Dec 2013
- NA Santa Monica, CA - From 17 Jan to 16 Mar 2014
- NA Portland, OR - From 26 Mar to 4 May 2014
- NA Vancouver, BC - From 15 May to 6 Jul 2014
- OC Auckland, NZ - From 22 Aug to 28 Sep 2014
- OC Sydney, AU - From 28 Oct 2014 to 11 Jan 2015
- OC Melbourne, AU - From 21 Jan to 29 Mar 2015
- OC Brisbane, AU - From 10 Apr to 24 May 2015
- OC Adelaide, AU - From 11 Jun to 12 Jul 2015
- OC Perth, AU - From 31 Jul to 27 Sept 2015
- AP Singapore, SG - From 28 Oct to 13 Dec 2015
- AP Tokyo, JP - From 3 Feb to 26 Jun 2016
- AP Osaka, JP - From 14 Jul to 23 Oct 2016
- AP Nagoya, JP - From 10 Nov 2016 to 15 Jan 2017
- AP Fukuoka, JP - From 3 Feb to 19 Mar 2017
- AP Sendai, JP - From 6 Apr to 21 May 2017
- (Totem played in the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, RU during this time)
- EU Brussels, BE - From 31 Aug to 29 Oct 2017
- EU Madrid, ES - From 10 Nov 2017 to 14 Jan 2018
- EU Sevilla, ES - From 25 Jan to 11 Mar 2018
- EU Barcelona, ES - From 23 Mar to 20 May 2018
- EU Malaga, ES - From 1 Jun to 1 Jul 2018
- EU Alicante, ES - From 20 Jul to 19 Aug 2018
- EU Zurich, CH - From 5 Sep to 14 Oct 2018
- EU Paris, FR - From 24 Oct to 30 Dec 2018
- EU Vienna, AT - From 9 Mar to 7 Apr 2019