The liftoff. The spinning. The twisting. The landing. It’s all in a day’s work for the performers and crew of Cirque Du Soleil.
“It’s a dangerous business.” says Andrew Barrus, the technical director for the Cirque’s “Volta” show, which just completed a seven-week run at Dodger Stadium.
Barrus says he uses plenty of math, technology and engineering in his job.
“I oversee all the technical elements that go on in our show. This includes rigging and automation, carpentry and all the sound and all the video and all the lighting in the shows,” he told CBS2’s Amber Lee.
Even with eight performances a week, there are daily rehearsals.
“That all has to be done exactly right,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of flying in this show. This particular show has a lot of automation.”
There is no room for error, especially for an act called Guardian Angel In The City. The performer and the red cable that raises and lowers a lantern have to be spot on.
In the beginning, Cirque used people called riggers to raise and lower cables. But these days, “We’ve realized that it’s more important for us to be precise every single time with consistency, so automation came into play,” Barrus says.
“This is where all the heavy technology is, underneath the bleachers,” he says. “This part right here [pointing to a bank of computer screens] is really the brains of the entire operation.”
Computers control not only lights, music and video — but also drums called winches, which raise and lower all those critical cables.
When two flyers need to meet in the air, “There’s one winch that’s on side under the bleachers, there’s another winch that’s on other side. They’re exactly in the same place in every city that we go to,” he says. “And then they move in tandem with each other.”
Automation is also at work, rotating ramps for BMX bikers to achieve the near impossible. The angles and location has to be right on the mark.
“There are many, many riders at the same time. They’re doing tricks that are insane and they’re landing those tricks.”
Throughout the tent, more than 150 people work high and low to make each act go off without a hitch.
Although all the STEAM disciplines — science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics — come to play, three that stand out for Barrus are math, technology and engineering.
“Everything that we do is heavily engineered,” he explained.
Barrus said he knew early on he wanted a career in entertainment. To make sure he’d have worked, he studied theater automation.
“The stuff that I do in my job is spectacular.”
For anyone with dreams of running away with the Circque show, Barrus says there are two paths: master the muscles or master the math.
“I’m here to tell you I use [math] every single day,” he emphasized.