INTERVIEW: Cirque du Soleil’s TORUK: The First Flight

Reading Time: 9 minutes
Photo: Errisson Lawrence
Costumes: Kym Barrett © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

The Cirque du Soleil is in Australia at the moment with its show TORUK – The First Flight. I was lucky enough to interview the show’s publicist and one of its acrobats.

TORUK – The First Flight is in Adelaide until Sunday 19 November and then heads to Perth from 24 November until 3 December. Buy your tickets now.


Janie Mallet, Publicist, TORUK – The First Flight

You are the publicist for TORUK – The First Flight. How long have you worked with the Cirque du Soleil?

I started as Publicist for TORUK – The First Flight last February… so it is a little over 9 months that I am in the heart of the company.

How did you become publicist for Cirque du Soleil and for this show?

I worked as a journalist for Société Radio-Canada (the State radio and television channel in Canada) for 14 years as well as acquiring experience in special events. The desire to travel and to discover led me to the Cirque du Soleil. When this job opened up, I did what so many others did and put in my application via their website.


The Cirque du Soleil is a Canadian theatre troupe. Are the majority of artists that we see on stage Canadian too?

The Cirque du Soleil has existed since 1984 and has gained an enviable reputation as an international entertainment company. The headquarters of the company are still in Québec (Canada), but our artists, as well as our technicians come from all over the world.

Photo: Matt Beard © 2017 Cirque du Soleil

Is French the official language of the Cirque du Soleil?

Within the company, we have artists from more than 50 countries… so there are multiple languages spoken with a show! At the mother house in Canada, French is very present but on tour, given that we are international, English is the main language.

How do people get to work for the Cirque du Soleil?

The Cirque du Soleil has an internet database where anyone can upload their CV if they are interested in a post. Artists also have this option, where they can send their demos and be added to the talent data bank. Given that they train, often during many years, and they come from different sports, such as gymnastics or circus artistry, they can also be recruited by our talent scouts who travel the world.

What are the stages in the creative process for the production of a Cirque du Soleil show?

For TORUK – The First Flight, given that it is a show inspired by the film AVATAR, discussions with James Cameron and his team started 5 years before the premiere. With the Directors, they created the guidelines of the show. spectacle. Meanwhile, performers were being hired and the set was in construction. Then we had about 5 months of creation in 2015 before starting the tour.

Photo: Jesse Faatz Costumes: Kym Barrett © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

You are travelling with all of the show’s artists – how much of the year do you spend away?

TORUK is a full-time touring show. We are touring 44 weeks of the year. We perform for 10 consecutive weeks and then have 2 weeks break in between.

Does the Cirque du Soleil have a grand vision?

The Cirque du Soleil is in constant evolution, and the company has many projects on many different horizons. We have shows in residencies (such as in Las Vegas), shows in marquees as well as arena spectacles like TORUK. In addition, we create many special events all over the world.

How would you say that the Cirque du Soleil differs from other circuses?

In my opinion, the Cirque du Soleil stands out because of its creativity and innovation. For the last 30 years, we have created shows, each different from each other, always pushing the limits of the imagination further. For example, TORUK uses 40 projectors which cover a projection space which is larger than 5 IMAX screens. This new addition allows the recreation of the various landscapes of Pandora in the blink of an eye.

Photo: Jesse Faatz Costumes: Kym Barrett © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

Are there Canadian elements to the Cirque du Soleil?

Given that we have creators, artists and technicians who come from Canada, I think that their roots must appear somewhere! That said, because we have people from all over the world, we also have planetary influences!

Do you follow any traditions within the company?

Some individuals have their own rituals that they perform before a show, whether it be listening to a piece of music, a particular way of warming up, or a handshake with their colleagues. Everyone prepares themselves in their own unique way.

You have 20 different shows on around the world. How many new shows are created each year?

Indeed, at the moment, the Cirque du Soleil presently has 20 shows simultaneously on across the world. The creations vary from one year to another depending on many factors. For example, since the production of TORUK – The First Flight in 2015, two marquee shows have been created (LUZIA 2016, VOLTA 2017) and the next arena show, CRYSTAL, will make its world premiere in December 2017.

Photo: Matt Beard © 2017 Cirque du Soleil

TORUK – The First Flight

You are in Australia for TORUK – The First Flight. How long are you in Australia for?

We started the Australian tour on 5 October in Brisbane. We are taking the show to 5 cities in Australia (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth) until 3 December! All details as well as the dates are on our website (

TORUK – The First Flight was inspired by the film AVATAR by James Cameron. Has Mr Cameron seen the show?

TORUK – The First Flight is the fruit of a true collaboration between the Cirque du Soleil and James Cameron. He and his team were present during the whole of the creation in a true knowledge exchange. James Cameron has seen the show many times and frequently attends premieres.

How did he react?

For many years, Mr Cameron and the Cirque du Soleil have had a good relationship. He has often mentioned that the Cirque du Soleil’s creativity inspired him in creating characters in his films. For TORUK, he mentioned many times that it was touching for him to see the universe that he created for AVATAR come to life in front of his eyes and that he was blown-away by the talent of our artists and artisans!

Photo: Matt Beard © 2017 Cirque du Soleil

When was TORUK – The First Flight first performed?

The worldwide premiere was on 21 December 2015 in Montreal, Canada.

The worlds created by the Cirque du Soleil are different in each production but do the performers do the same sorts of things? I love the Cirque du Soleil and like to see each show but some people are of the view that it’s the same “tricks” but just different costumers and make up for example.

Each show has a completely different theme and universe; you just have to let yourself be immersed. If some circus arts disciplines have the same roots, the Cirque du Soleil reinvent itself each time. For example, in TORUK – The First Flight, many of the performances were created with accessories never before seen. It’s the case for the Bone Structure, a skeletal structure which turns on itself and which must be kept in balance by the acrobats while they are performing their contortions. It’s a very complex part of the show, which looks simple only because of the acrobats’ agility.

Le “Bone Structure”
Photo: Matt Beard © 2017 Cirque du Soleil

Why should people go to see this show?

TORUK – The First Flight is very different from the other shows because it links aspects of cinema and theatre along with the creative and circus elements of the Cirque du Soleil. For the first time, we have a narrator who tells the story in English and a full team of puppeteers. The latter give life to all of Pandora’s creatures, including Toruk, a marionette which is more than 12 metres long! If we add the very talented artists, the music, the magnificent costumes as well as the use of projectors on the whole arena surface, TORUK offers a vibrant and colourful experience for the whole family!

Photo: Jesse Faatz Costumes: Kym Barrett © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

Do you have a favourite scene in the show? Which one and why?

Wow, not an easy question! I think that many will have different favourite moments. Personally, I find the end the show very touching as we all take part in the denouement and all the performers are on the stage. The music is intoxicating and thanks to an app on audience members’ mobile phones, the whole room vibrates in colours to the sound of the music. It’s a magical moment and no matter how many times I see it, I still appreciate it just as much!

Photo: Jesse Faatz Costumes: Kym Barrett
© 2015 Cirque du Soleil

What are the difficulties in transporting not only the team but the set?

In order to move our set, our accessories, costumes and all of our paraphernalia, we travel with 38 shipping containers, sometimes by truck, other times by plane. It’s a lot of equipment! Because our arena show moves every week or two, we have become experts in moving so it is all done in a very organised manner! The set is put up the day before the premiere and takes about 12 hours and packing up takes about 4 or 5 hours depending on the arena.

Cirque du Soleil transport us to other worlds and you yourselves are transported around the world. How do you stay well energised with all of this travel?

I think that this rhythm of life is very convenient to those who choose it. Of course, we must take care of our health in order to adjust to the different time zones and the food of each country… but we all want to travel and we find evolving in this artistic and multicultural medium enriching. What luck we have to be able to explore many towns or countries each month!

How many of you are involved in this production?

There are about 100 of us travelling with this show, with more than 20 different nationalities. 40ish artists, 50 or so technicians and about 10 people in charge of tour operations. It takes a small village TORUK – The First Flight in all of these cities!

Photo: Jesse Faatz Costumes: Kym Barrett
© 2015 Cirque du Soleil


What experience did you have before working on this production?

I started gymnastics when I was 14 and rapidly became interested in Parkour, an urban acrobatic practice. When I was 19, I saw a friend in the show SALTIMBANCO and I knew straight away that I wanted to work for the Cirque du Soleil. After submitting my application, I was selected for an audition and then for the creation of KÀ in Las Vegas in November 2003.  After more than 1500 shows, I quit KÀ to perform in the Kylie Minogue’s worldwide “X tour”. Then after a short break, I rejoined the company for the creation of Michael Jackson: The Immortal Tour, a major international show before jumping into TORUK – The First Flight.

Vincent Deplance, acrobat in TORUK
Photo: Thierry Ballangé

How old is the youngest performer in the show? And the eldest? Are there any who come from the same family such as Dad and son?

Our youngest acrobat is in her 20s and we have a performer who is in his 60s so the demographics are very varied on Pandora! In this production, there aren’t any family links but I worked with my twin brother in KÀ for more than 2 years.

Vincent Deplance, acrobat in TORUK
Photo: Thierry Ballangé

When you are working on the same show for many months or years, what do you do to prevent becoming bored after a while?

It is very difficult to become bored as we are in constant evolution! We are constantly working to improve the quality of the choreography or the performances in the show. What’s more, we perform in multiple tribes in TORUK which brings diversity to the performances.

What do the artists do to eat well while on tour?

We are lucky to have a catering service which prepares balanced and varied meals. There are meals for all tastes and diets!

Do you have a favourite part of the show?

The moment that I prefer is the Kekunan tribe. It’s a scene with kites inside which are inspired by the element, air. I am currently completing my training to control the Giant Kite, which flies above the audience. Goosebumps guaranteed!

Vincent Deplance, acrobat in TORUK
Photo: Thierry Ballangé

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