In some ways Cirque du Soleil really is the circus of the sun. It rotates its shows around the globe each year (there are currently over 20 active productions, 12 of which are touring—hmmm…12 months in a year) and this year Chicago will host one of their newer creations—2017’s Volta—under the grand chapiteau at Soldier Field from May 18 until July 6.
An ode to the power of personhood and self-acceptance,Volta’s focus is on using the symbolic thrills of street sports to illustrate the validity of individuality via human achievement. The tagline itself is “Freedom is the ultimate achievement.” And though this plot point is very familiar (the center of every American coming-of-age tale), its reimagining in the realm of circus never gets old, because…flips! Whether or not these artists feel free when they sail through the air is hard to say, but it certainly appears to be liberating, as multiple disciplines are explored, including BMX stunts, jump rope, acro ladder and not the least hoop diving, which is performed by Chicago’s own Kevin Beverly, who will end his two-year stint in this show by returning triumphantly home for a spell, before dashing off to a new circus adventure. I recently had the pleasure of talking to Beverly about his career-path and the excitement of performing in Volta in his home town.
Is Chicago is more of a dance city or a circus city?
I would say Chicago is definitely more of a dance city. I think that America in general is not there yet as far as circus goes. I don’t think people have recognized circus as a high art form like we do. But the Chicago dance scene is flourishing. There are some cities where dance is not even a thing. Chicago is up there as one of the best, and I think that transitions well to the circus world in Chicago. So, I would definitely consider it more of a dance city.
It’s been a few years since you’ve been back to Chicago. What food do you miss the most from here? What are you going to eat when you get back here?
I love Chicago so much and I’m glad to come back. I’m very excited about the pizza obviously. Yeah, but I love the tacos, the Mexican places everywhere and there’s some brunch places that I haven’t been to in a really long time, so I can genuinely say I’m excited to visit some of those restaurants! When I was in circus school in Montreal, Mexican food didn’t exist at all.
What’s been your favorite city to visit so far on tour?
Some of my favorite cities, just like the best time that I’ve had are in Toronto and probably San Diego here. Those are my top so far. And we’ve been to a lot of cities over two years.
What is your favorite moment in Volta?
My favorite moment I would say is my act, but that would be biased… then also the main character’s final dance at the end, which we call “Breakthrough.” I am the backup for the main character. But not only for me to perform, but I love watching it every day. I love watching the main character do this show though, because it’s literally the pinnacle of the whole show and it’s happening at the very end. It’s him literally breaking through and being so comfortable in his own skin and showing people ‘This is who I am.’ And it’s a really beautiful moment. The music is so good and I love the lighting. You know, Cirque du Soleil lighting can be so extra. And in this part of the show it’s very minimal. It’s four little spotlights, a little tiny spot traveling around the stage , which I think is so beautiful.
That’s so cool. I’m look forward to that part of the show. So, you’re leaving Volta after the Chicago run. What’s next for you? What plans do you have?
I’m going to take a break from Cirque du Soleil. I do want to come back eventually, but I just need a little break to try out some things. I’m getting older, you know, I’m 29 now. So, I want to still do some of the ‘hardcore circus’ that I still know I can do now. I want to do it now before I can’t do it anymore. So, something that’s in the works right now is I’m going to work with a contemporary-based circus on a smaller, more intimate show called Backbone. It’s a company called Gravity and Other Myths. Its an Australian company from Adelaide.
How did you get started hoop diving?
It was at the circus school in Montreal (ENC). I got into school as a dance trapeze major. I was an acrobatic aerialist obviously because of my gymnastics background and I always liked to be multidisciplinary, but it wasn’t until I met my crew in Montreal who were the San Francisco Boys. And once I met them and I started playing with them a little bit in hoop diving and I decided that I wanted that to be my minor.
You have worked with The Seven Fingers before. How does working with a smaller company like that differ from working with Cirque de Soleil?
It’s very different. Cirque du Soleil is the reason why I started circus. I saw Varekai on TV when I was 16 years old and it completely flipped my world upside down. I was blown away. That’s what I was missing. I was a gymnast when I was a kid, but I wanted to be more artistic so I went in to dance, but dance wasn’t as exciting. So in joining this company, it is a dream come true. They treat you really well with the living conditions and the food. The amount of shows that we’re doing is very hard on the body, but it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve always wanted to challenge myself.
The main difference for me is that, I do my act on stage, I do a couple of cues and then I go backstage and I’m chilling. Where with The Seven Fingers you are 100% implicated the whole time. You feel like you are so important to every moment in the show. In Cirque du Soleil, you have your moment and then after that you’re a part of the background and you blend in, you become a part of the ensemble because you want to give focus to other people who are having their moment. Whereas in The Seven Fingers everybody is having their moment the whole time to show off their artistry, if that makes sense.
You saw Varekai and you knew ‘this is my dream.’ Volta is showcasing street sports. Does that help young people to dream big? Do you think it inspires people to become circus performers or to go for a certain dream?
I thinkVolta is extremely inspiring. We’ve had many people send us letters and come to see us after the show and they talk about how moved they were. I truly think it’s because the abstract of having these extreme sports, the trampoline, the hoop diving—all of these huge acrobatic acts. But at the same time, we have a very simple and heart-wrenching story that is going along the same path. I think a lot of people connect with that, not just the extreme sports and the craziness and the energy. We follow the story of Waz and he has blue feathers as hair, and it is his Achilles heel. He is so ashamed of himself, that he can’t even live. Everybody has that. Everybody has their blue hair. It’s obviously not feathers, but it could be how my stomach looks or it could be the way my teeth look or it can be my age. So, yeah definitely people are inspired by the show.
You can see Volta at Soldier Field starting May 18. Ticket prices start at $49.