- Melina Paris
While we have just come off of Women’s History Month, Tony Award-winning director, Diane Paulus persists in the timely theme of empowerment with Amaluna. Cirque du Soleil’s most recent production, invites audiences to a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. Paulus, wanted to “create a show with women at the center of it, something that had a hidden story that featured women as the heroines.” Amaluna arrives at San Pedro’s LA Waterfront for one month under the big top, April 26.
Paulus drew from classical influences when creating the concept of the show; including tales from Greek and Norse mythology, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Ahead of Cirque du Soleil’s arrival, RLn spoke to one of the stars of the show, Amara Defilippo who also happened to grow up in Torrance.
Defilippo said Amaluna has a lot of storytelling.
“Paulus came from a theater background, which is different for our show,” Defilippo said. “She wanted a show full of powerful and fierce women and that’s what we deliver.”
Defilippo’s introduction to Cirque du Soleil came upon seeing Varekai, at 13 years old. She knew after watching the show, she wanted to be a part of Cirque du Soleil. It’s been her dream job ever since. As a senior in college, Defilippo sent her demo tape to the casting department at Cirque du Soleil meeting all the criteria for flexibility, strength, skill and past completion footage. A few months after she graduated, she got a call to join a workshop for a future uneven bar act and she was offered the role of an Amazon, and to perform on uneven bars in Amaluna during its creation in 2011.
“[Amazon’s] are the protector of the Amaluna island,” Defilippo said. “It’s very similar to the olympic sport gymnastics but we have a little bit of a circus twist to it. So, we have multiple bars and we have multiple girls swinging on the same apparatus.”
This is the first time an uneven bar act has been done in Cirque du Soleil.
“It’s pretty exciting to be part of something the first time it’s being done,” Defilippo said.
Besides her role as Amazon, Defilippo is an artist coach for the uneven bars. She is also a backup artist for the aerial strap act and a backup for the Peacock Goddess Dancer in Amaluna. It is a rotation that requires different disciplines. For the aerial straps the artists fly out over the audience on straps, suspended from the carousel, a rotating set element high above them. This demonstration of flight in four dimensions calls for precision timing. In the uneven bars performance, captured young men help the Amazons – the fierce feminine force of the island – to present a fast-paced theatrical version of the classic gymnastic routine.
Defilippo started gymnastics at 10 years old and later, seeing Varekai confirmed her choice to become a gymnast. But first she went to school and got a full scholarship to the University of Arkansas for gymnastics and earned her degree in kinesiology. From doing gymnastics since she was little, it’s what she knows and she is very happy with her work.
“So, I have lots of different characters,” she said. “I’m the coach for all the girls and I take care of everything that involves the Amazons. I think that’s why I’m still here. I’ve been with the show since creation … for about eight years and it keeps me really busy.”
Defilippo’s coaching entails integrating all the new Amazon’s to the show and creating the lineup. The act varies with performers showcasing different skills each night. Defilippo is charged with making sure everything is prepared for the show nightly.
Eight years is a good run, but Defilippo said her body is feeling good.
“I’m still loving what I’m doing. I love performing, so I hope to stay as long as I can.”
But right now, coming from Torrance, Defilippo is excited to perform here.
“I’m so excited to be able to perform in front of my family and my friends this whole month,”she said. ”It’s really exciting times. I love to perform and this show is about women’s empowerment. Our show is 65 to 70 percent women and that’s the first time that’s ever been done in Cirque du Soleil. Usually, we have more men in the show but this time, it’s more women and we have an all female band, which has never been done. I would invite anyone to come, forget about their worries for two hours and we would just love to perform for you.”
Time: Various times April 26 through May 26
Cost: $65 and up
Venue: LA Waterfront, 504 S. Harbor Blvd. San Pedro
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