- Terelle Jerricks
By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor
While many children dream of running away to the circus, Agnès Sohier actually was drafted into the big tent.
“Letting the circus steal me away from this life to become a character in Dralion created an interesting and stimulating life,” said Sohier, who was recruited by Cirque du Soleil in 1999, when Dralion opened. “I have the best job on the planet. I sing and travel for a living and I am constantly surrounded by youth, amazing talents and dedication.”
Dralion is Cirque du Soleil’s homage to the 3,000-year-old tradition of Chinese acrobatics combined with its multidisciplinary approach to entertainment. Dralion, which derives its name from the eastern symbol of the dragon and the western symbol of the lion, explores the quest for harmony among humans, nature and its elements: water, fire, earth and air. It’s a philosophy that is very much part of the eastern world.
The creator of the show, Guy Caron, who was passionate about Asian cultures, did a lot of research and development in China to find out what was the best in acrobatics. He brought back the best and created Dralion. The show has 54 performers from 16 different countries, including 26 performers from China.
Expect to see high energy, vibrant colors, unique acrobatics and tools that you would not see from any other Cirque du Soleil shows, including dralions, hoop diving and bamboo poles. It’s all about real people performing the unreal. Clowns also provide an element of interactive comedy with the audience.
To keep the show fresh, a team of creators and an artistic director travels with the show who sees the performances at least five times a week and works on video sessions with the performers. While the core of the show stays the same, it also evolves with time and performers constantly work on their acts to perfect their acts and incorporate tricks into their routine.
Sohier had been a professional back-up singer for 15 years. Her character, L’Âme-Force, which was not part of the original production of the show, is the energizer for the four elements who sings throughout the show as the female voice.
“I have never thought I would work with Cirque du Soleil,” said Sohier, who is from the province of Quebec in Canada. “They called me! And, I said, ‘Yes!’ I was supposed to be there for two weeks and 13 years later, I’m still there.”
She said she enjoys pretty much everything about the show: the score, the cast, the crew, the lifestyle and the fact that she gets to sing almost every day. While she sometimes is suspended in the air for her performance, her only acrobatics are with her voice, said Sohier.
Though she was torn between her love for sports — she once wanted to be a gym teacher. She would have liked to become a downhill ski or tennis or cyclist champion — and her love for music, she somehow always knew she would become a singer. Coming from a musical family, the possibility of her becoming a professional singer was not far-fetched. Her mother loved to sing, her father played the organ and the piano, and her siblings also played instruments and sang. Eventually, it was her brother, who became a professional bass player, who brought her back to music when before she started college at Concordia University in Montreal.
“The biggest challenge in life is to never stop believing in yourself, your talent and your passion,” said Sohier, who is grateful for making the right choices.
She’s since been recruited for other shows but has chosen to stay in this production of Cirque du Soleil. The job demands flexibility because there are changes every week, from hotels to pillows to the air they breath. She also must adapt to the changes within the show that producers make to keep the show fresh. While many find the lifestyle of a traveling circus challenging, Soheir takes a different perspective on what it has to offer.
She keeps in great physical shape (you’d think she was at least 20 years younger, if you saw her), she maintains a positive outlook on life, and tries to keep her art fresh and generous. She also credits the people she is surrounded with for keeping her stimulated. And, while maintaining relationships with loved ones might seem to be a challenge to some, technologies such as Skype, make those challenges a non-issue.
“If you approach your work and life in a positive and happy way, it is very easy to do.”
It’s an outlook that has probably been supported the message on stage. Although, as with most theatrical performance, audiences interpret a show in terms of their own experiences, Dralion’s common theme of harmony among the elements of nature is what distinguishes it from other Cirque du Soleil shows.
“Regardless (of) when people say that water that water don’t get along with fire, well they do,” Sohier said. “You see the contradiction, the fight, the struggling, but then at the end they all work together.”
Like the show, Sohier believes she is in harmony with herself, with the people she works with, with the environment she works with and with the rest of the universe. L’Âme-Force, which reinforces those characteristics, is the entity that gives strength, knowledge and encouragement to the elements.
“The more you are at peace with yourself and everything around you; the better you can sing and be generous of your talent,” she said.
The two-and-half-hour show will open open its curtains in Nov. 1 through 4 at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center. But it’s not the first time Dralion has graced Long Beach. In 2002, was the first Cirque du Solei show to be presented in Long Beach under the big top. Since then, the show has been re-staged and re-casted for arena show.
Only half of the arena will be used in the arena to keep the type of intimacy of the big top. So, wherever you sit in the arena you’ll have a very good view, whether you pay $40 or $100 you’ll have a very good seat.