By Christopher Boan
The world’s preeminent destination for jaw-dropping displays of trapeze arts and assorted flights of fancy brings a new storyboard to the Valley in February.
Cirque du Soleil, which has performed across the globe since 1984, brings “Ovo” to Phoenix for the first time, with the shows running from Thursday, February 20, to Sunday, February 23.
“Ovo,” which means “egg” in Portuguese, revolves around an ecosystem of insects that’s full of life and color, where the specimen interact and live out their lives in a fun-filled manner.
The show, which debuted in arenas in 2016, has toured all over North America, Europe and South America, with more than 6 million people taking in the show was conceptualized.
“Ovo” is a labor of love for aerialists like Beth Williams, who has been on tour with the cast and crew of the exhibition for three months.
Williams learned her high-wire act as a child in England, where she enrolled in various ballet classes and schools.
Her career progressed from there, auditioning for full-time dance school, before deciding a change was necessary.
Williams decided to take trapeze classes at a circus school in London, training all day, every day.
The hardcore training landed Williams a gig with Cirque du Soleil out of school. Williams calls touring with Cirque du Soleil a dream come true, as she’s able to do a host of feats that are physically demanding and awe-inspiring.
So far, Williams has traveled to 19 cities across 15 states on this round with “Ovo.” It’s a demanding task, but one she’s thrilled to undertake.
Such an extensive touring routine would be draining for the artists that make the show possible, were it not for a series of breaks that allow performers to catch their breath.
Williams says the demands of touring are real, but a reality that staff is willing to accept.
“It’s absolutely amazing. We usually have one or two days off, so we try to get around the cities or the towns that we’re in and get a feel for things, then after that we go into shows,” Williams says. “So, we do get a chance to look around a little bit as well, which is great.”
“Ovo” might be Cirque du Soleil’s most daring performance to date, with 52 performing artists from 14 countries undertaking a litany of acrobatics.
The show features more than 10 types of high-level acrobatic acts, including mainstays like foot juggling and Icarian games, as well as hand balancing, contortion, aerial straps, slack wire and Russian cradle, to name a few.
The performance is the brainchild of artistic guides Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix, who dreamed up a world where insects can be the central characters of a universe, instead of the pests they’re often made out to be in other shows.
“Ovo” includes subversive elements, such as a moment where an awkward and gangly insect enters the ecosystem, only to have a meeting with a sumptuous ladybug, among other encounters highlighted in the performance.
Williams believes “Ovo” is the perfect show for parents and children, as it features a one-of-a-kind mix of acrobatics and life lessons that are sure to amaze.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity because it’s such a unique show and it’s such a spectacular night full of acrobatics, aerials, amazing music, colorful costumes,” Williams says. “And it’s a really fun show to bring all the family, and to bring a child to as well.”
Williams says each night of the Phoenix show will feature unique elements, to keep the performances fresh for performers and viewers.
She believes the current iteration of “Ovo” is the most polished version, with each night bringing greater energy and creativity.
“Over time, we do try to make it better. So, we’ll be performing the same thing on stage, but backstage, we’re trying new things,” Williams says. “We’re trying to make things more difficult or crazier. So, with time that does also evolve.”
The evolution keeps Williams enthralled, as the tour grinds along, with the wonder of trapeze arts and the pulse-pounding allure of high-wire acts keeping her on her toes each night.
There’s nowhere else that Williams would rather be, however, as there’s nothing quite as exhilarating, demanding and enjoyable as being on stage under the bright lights of the stage.
“The stage is where it all comes alive, because the lights are very big and exciting compared to our setup work,” Williams says. “So, I think it’s just that, because the scale of the show is just huge. Everything you’re doing is really exciting.”
Cirque du Soleil’s “Ovo,” Talking Stick Resort Arena, 201 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix, 602.379.2000, cirquedusoleil.com, various times Thursday, February 20, to Sunday, February 23, tickets start at $45, with family packs available.