Received this email today asking me what it’s like to work for Cirque Du Soleil.
Hi Mr. Askland,
I am curious to know how it is to work at Cirque? What are the hours you work as a musician? How long do you have to prepare for an audition after they choose you to be part of the show?
Please let me know.
Well you asked at an interesting time because for my current show “ZAIA” we’re right in the middle of the “creation period” which has a reputation as being the intense hazing period for Cirque artists.
Two words would describe working for Cirque to me: Intense and Unexpected.
It’s very demanding and is testing all of the artists mettle. I’m a “road dog” (have done a lot of shows and tours) and it’s tough for me too. But it’s tough in a good way; tough because Cirque has such a high bar for excellence. It’s nothing we didn’t expect or anticipate. Now if you write me in a couple months after we’re open and the creation period is done, you’ll probably get a shorter, more flowery answer like “it rocks” (which it does).
The flip side to the demanding artistic bar of Cirque is how they treat artists. My experience has been wonderful and anything I’ve needed has been taken care of, usually surprisingly quick. Because Cirque demands the best artistic intentions of their employees, they also make sure we’re in a place that’s condusive to doing our best work.
The hours? I don’t think of the hours too much, more of the work to be done. During training I’ve had weeks where I only worked 10 hours, and have also had weeks where I worked 60. But it all evens out to me. When the show opens we’ll be doing 10-12 shows a week so I would anticipate about 40 hours or so per week.
Regarding auditions – Cirque holds auditions around the world. Sometimes it’s open call and sometimes you need to submit a video first and then be invited to audition. Some artists I work with were contacted over the internet and invited to audition (one was found from their MySpace page, believe it or not – they were looking for a specific nationality and look).
Auditions are done to put you “in que” on their rosters to be considered for shows – then they might contact you for a specific video or recording as it applies to an upcoming show for consideration. You can find out details about auditioning for Cirque on their website at http://www.CirqueDuSoleil.com
I will tell you one thing that I have noticed: People that are here to give their entire focus and art to Cirque seem to do well and have a good experience. The ones that come onboard as just another gig on their ways to others, they have a different experience. I signed on wanting and expecting to give Cirque Du Soleil my entire focus, so I’m having a great experience. I really don’t think it would work the other way around – not for Cirque.
I will tell you another interesting thing. Many of us had watched the video “The Fire Within”, which documented the creation process for Varekai. The video is very dramatic and shows artists being really pushed to extremes, and some let go. Those of us that saw the video were like “Oh my God” – kind of freaked out. But after being in the creation period myself I have had a very different experience – the video was partly made to be dramatic, which I understand. (Highly recommend you see it, it’s intense and awesome!).
The Fire Within shows talented artists being pushed and sometimes let go. I have seen the opposite. I have seen artists come in (I won’t post names) that were “good”, they were “ok” – and I have seen them over the months being honed into world class artists. And I can tell you for a fact it would probably not have happened outside of Cirque. In one case in particular I have seen, Cirque has put so much resources and training into a specific artist that I have seen them blossom into a unique – no, “unique” is not the word – they have turned into an Artistic Shaman if there is such a thing. Cirque sees potential and knows who they can extract it from (and this particular person has given 110% into the process). I would not have seen the potential with this individual, so I still have much to learn from Cirque.
One more concept here I’m thinking of – I am not comparing “Cirque” to “God” here – only in the sense of words that contain emotion. When you say the word “God” – people have a strong reaction to that. It’s infused with emotion we cannot strip away – and different to many. Like patriotic words too – it means more than the word. To many of us the word “Cirque” is not just a word, it is infused with a much deeper meaning. It is an art we have worked on our entire lives but never quite felt like we were fully expressing it – then we meet “Cirque” and feel like we are home. A home we couldn’t have imagined by ourselves.
Ok, my morning coffee is done. Time to shut up. 🙂