KOOZA, Circus In A Box, Cirque du Soleil Takes Circus To Another Level, In Denver Thru August 13th

Photo by James Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media
Credits Photos: Matt Beard & Bernard Letendre Costumes: Marie Chantale Vaillancourt Cirque du Soleil 2022

By Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media


That has been the chant of circus ringmasters and announcers for decades. While the circus has evolved over the centuries it purpose fundamentally remains the same, that is to incorporate at its heart exceptional human bodily skills being pushed to the extreme for the gratification and entertainment of the audience.

No one does circus better than Cirque du Soleil. With it’s current big top tent production now performing at the Ball Arena parking area through August 13, Cirque du Soleil has redefined “Circus” and taken it to whole another level.

(See fascinating facts about the costumes, set design, music and much more below, courtesy of Cirque du Soleil)

Credits Photos: Matt Beard & Bernard Letendre Costumes: Marie Chantale Vaillancourt Cirque du Soleil 2022

KOOZA is a return to the origins of Cirque du Soleil that combines two circus traditions—acrobatic performance and the art of clowning. The show highlights the physical demands of human performance in all its splendor and fragility, presented in a colorful way that emphasizes bold slapstick humor.

“Hold perfectly still and we won’t knock off your block” said the jugglers to my 6 year old granddaughter at the preview party Video by Latin Life Denver Media
My 91 year old/young father, his 89 year old/young wife, at the preview party. Photo by Latin Life Denver Media

When the ‘announcement’ mentioned about refers to “children of all ages” nothing could be truer. I took my 91 year old/young father, his 89 year old/young wife, my 57 year old brother and my granddaughters 6 and 7 years old. We all loved the experience equally. My dad becomes a kid again at the circus and the kids were just amazed at all the goings on. At the preview party we all took photos with some of the performers, the jugglers, the tall umbrella lady and more while munching popcorn and downing beverages. It was all a lot of fun and that was before the show had even begun.

Credits Photos: Matt Beard & Bernard Letendre Costumes: Marie Chantale Vaillancourt Cirque du Soleil 2022

As for the show itself “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.”

The show starts with the Trickster bursting onto the scene like a jack-in-the-box in front of The Innocent, and that’s just the first of many surprises to come. The Innocent’s journey brings him into contact with a panoply of comic characters such as the King, the Trickster, the Clowns and his Mad Dog. The show is set in an electrifying and exotic visual world full of surprises, thrills, chills, audacity and total involvement.

Credits Photos: Matt Beard & Bernard Letendre Costumes: Marie Chantale Vaillancourt Cirque du Soleil 2022

The name KOOZA is inspired by the Sanskrit word “koza,” which means “box,” “chest” or “treasure,” and was chosen because one of the underlying concepts of the production is the idea of a “circus in a box.”

Credits Photos: Matt Beard & Bernard Letendre Costumes: Marie Chantale Vaillancourt Cirque du Soleil 2022

There are many rapid costume changes during the show and Marie-Chantale researched magicians’ quick-change techniques to create costume magic of her own.
• Marie-Chantale had percussion instruments made out of molded carbon for the Skeleton costume. They look and sound like bones when the performers hit them against each other to create a musical rhythm.
• The “Mad Dog” costume proved to be another huge challenge because the performer wearing it has to be able to move the dog’s ears, stick its tongue in and out, dribble and wag its tail.
• The “Rat Cape” is a costume that creates the illusion that rats are running down a performer’s body before disappearing into a trap. This would be relatively easy in a film, but it’s a lot more difficult to achieve live on stage.

Credits Photos: Matt Beard & Bernard Letendre Costumes: Marie Chantale Vaillancourt Cirque du Soleil 2022

The Rat Cape costume is made up of 150 fake-fur rats with crystal eyes to catch the light.
The running effect was inspired by the mechanism of vertical blinds and several of the rats are fitted with little wheels to make them seem even more alive.
• There are more than 175 costumes and 160 hats in the show—1,080 items in all, including all the shoes, props, wigs and so on.
• One army costume features more than 400 individually-sewn metallic flaps to create the effect that it is armored.

Costumes at Cirque du Soleil – Facts:
• All costumes are custom-made and the majority are produced at the Costume workshop in the International Headquarters in Montreal, Canada.
• The only facility of its kind in North America, the costumeworkshop includes specialists in fields as varied as shoemaking, textile design, lace-making, wig-making, patternmaking, costumes making and millinery.

Credits Photos: Matt Beard & Bernard Letendre Costumes: Marie Chantale Vaillancourt Cirque du Soleil 2022

• Each year, the Costume workshop artisans use more than 50 kilometres of fabric. 80% of all fabrics are treated and dyed in-house by the artisans of the textile design team.
• Shoes are hand and custom-made for all artists by the artisans of the Shoe Workshop. The leather pieces are dyed, trimmed and assembled on location. Brand new sports or dance shoes are sometimes altered to meet the specific requirements of a costume. Approximately 1,000
pairs of shoes are produced by the workshop every year.
• Hats can be seen in every Cirque du Soleil show and are a key part of the costumes. Like the costumes, they are custom-designed and made in the workshop. To do this, precise measurements of each of the artist’s heads are taken by a portable scanner and the milliners build the hats with the help of 3D prints obtained with these figures.

The crowd mingles at the preview party July 6th just outside the Cirque du Soleil big top outside the Ball Arena in anticipation of what’s to come inside. Photo by ‘Cirque du Soleil’
Credits Photos: Matt Beard & Bernard Letendre Costumes: Marie Chantale Vaillancourt Cirque du Soleil 2022

The Music
The music of KOOZA beautifully demonstrates the spirit of the live show with its themes of human connection and fun in a world of duality. With a stream of uplifting songs with timeless influences where forms and styles intertwine seamlessly, the music of KOOZA is inspired by the sounds of western pop culture, from 1970s funk to full orchestral arrangements. It also draws heavily on traditional Indian music. There are six KOOZA musicians who play live music during each performance: trumpet, trombone, bass, drums, percussion, saxophone, electric guitar, and keyboard. There are also two singers who sing live during each performance.

“I was inspired by Western pop music, from 1970s funk to orchestral music. I also drew upon traditional Indian music and film scores from the 1940s and 1950s, a period I’m
particularly fond of.”
— Jean-François Côté

Set Design
KOOZA’s set evokes a public square that morphs into a circus ring. The circular stage provides the audience with excellent sight lines through 260 degrees. There has been no attempt to conceal or disguise the acrobatic equipment. The structure of the big top is always in full view. Everything is done out in the open with simplicity and transparency in order to focus attention on the artists
and the acrobatic performances.
• The stage is dominated by one major set element, a traveling tower called the Bataclan, which alters the
configuration of the performance space as it moves.
• The Bataclan moves artists in and out of the spotlight, serves as a bandstand and is flanked by two curved staircases.
• The decoration of the Bataclan is inspired by Hindu culture, Pakistani buses and Indian jewelry.
• Overlooking the Bataclan, the giant fabric structure called the Void was printed with motifs inspired by the internal structure of leaves to give it a decidedly organic look.
• The “sails” that frame the Bataclan can be opened and closed like the petals of an enormous flower by just two people using ropes and pulleys.
• The stage is ringed by recessed lighting units that cast a warm glow onto the faces of the performers, much like the footlights of a 19th-century theater.

• The diameter of the top of the stage is 36 feet; it is 42 feet from the bottom step. This is the diameter of a standard circus ring, which is determined by the minimum area
in which a horse can comfortably gallop.
“I wanted to capture the essence of circus itself by creating
a scenographic environment that offers true proximity to
the audience and where danger is palpable.”
— Stéphane Roy
• The KOOZA stage is the highest stage ever designed by Cirque du Soleil (39 feet vs 30 – 36 feet normally). The extra space is needed for the Jack-in-the-Box hydraulics (which leaps six to seven feet in the air).
• Technicians and artists travel under the stage on dollies similar to those used by car mechanics to roll under cars.
• The musician pit is located on the upper level of the structure.

Cirque du Soleil KOOZA, at the Ball Arena Parking Area Thru August 13th.