Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve 2013

Between Christmas and New Year's, all 5 of us got sick.  Just a virus - some fevers and head colds, nothing dire.  But it was enough to put a damper on a number of planned activities this week - we are here at my parents' house in Massachusetts, and we'd been hoping to spend a lot of time with my sister's new baby, and going out to celebrate New Year's Eve, etc.  Since it was me that was sick on New Year's Eve, I decided that braving the 25-degree temperatures for the various New England First Nights wasn't the best idea.  And we're all jet-lagged - including the kids.  It seemed an opportune time to have our first New Year celebrated all together, on the couch.

We played board games, made popcorn, and watched the ball drop on TV.  Happy 2014 everybody!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

It's a strange Christmas for us (but no stranger than any of our other years on tour) - Greg had to work on Dec. 24, then again the 26th-29th.  The kids and I are eager to get to Boston, for a belated Xmas with my family and also to welcome our their new baby girl cousin into the world (she should be here any time now!)  So we have spent today, Christmas, all together here in Irvine, and then the 4 of us will get on a plane tomorrow.  Greg will join us on Dec. 30 in Boston.

Our tree is a little scraggly and poorly-decorated.  But we enjoyed it anyway, and Santa was generous.  There's the pile under the tree, and you can see that Ayla got a new hula hoop, and I got a road bike!  (more on that below)

The other big gifts this year were - for Baz, a Lego Millennium Falcon; for Ayla and Isa, a whole variety of Monster High dolls; and Greg is going to get the new iPad, which he's been wanting for a while.

I've been wanting this for a while, too.  I'm so excited!  It's my first real road bike.  It's not new - it's a secondhand Bianchi Premio.  But it's got all the right parts - drop handlebars, gear shifters on the lower tube, and water-bottle mounts and a rear rack.  It's sturdy, and has logged a lot of miles.  It's just the entry-level bike I have been looking for.

I took it out for a spin today - the weather was 80 degrees and sunny - and discovered that "it" is clearly a "she", and she has a name - Shari.  Shari and I spent a couple of hours out on the trails getting to know one another today, and a bond has been formed.  2014 is going to be fun.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Party 2013

Cirque du Soleil, as always, knows how to throw a party.

This year's Christmas Party was held on a beautiful 4-level boat, cruising around the Newport Beach harbor at sunset.  There was a catered dinner, an open bar, a DJ and a dance floor.  After the sunset, we got to enjoy the Christmas light displays lining the harbor route - amazing!

Below is a video of the children's experience of the evening - in addition to the clips below, they also had a Santa Claus who delivered presents to all of them.  


I so enjoyed the evening, sipping champagne, seeing all of my tour mates dressed up in fancy clothes, and having great conversations with grownups while the kids scrambled around with their friends.  My only regret is that I wish it could have lasted a few more hours!  :)  

To celebrate our fancy-ness today we had a family portrait taken...

Thursday, December 19, 2013


This month is kind of wearing me down.  I injured my back after a yoga class; I was incapacitated for several days, and I'm still not quite back to 100%.  Then, last week, we got lice!!  ... well, really only Isa got lice, and it was thankfully only a few bugs, but an apocalyptic head-toxing and deep-cleaning of our whole family and apartment still took place.  One other child at the school got it, and so the Cirque site also had to tackle some extra preventative cleaning measures.  

In addition to our usual weekday scrambling of school, homework, and extra-curriculars, the kids and I decided to do handmade crafts for Christmas gifts.  We are elves.  (or sweatshop workers, it's beginning to feel like)

We've still managed to do the Christmas shopping, the shipping of packages, buying a tree (expensive here in OC, $57 for a fairly small one) and rehearsing Christmas songs and dances for next week's party.

And of course there are all the regular things we are still doing - weekly library trips, English lessons, circus school visits, bike rides, PSCA conference calls, circus classes.  Life is ever busy, which is how I like it.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

34 seconds of Isa

Every once in a while I need to post a child's view of the world....


Friday, December 13, 2013

Totem profiles - Genevieve Caron

Genevieve Caron, age 41, from Quebec City, is Totem's Assistant to the Head of Wardrobe.  She has been working for Cirque du Soleil as a costumer for 15 years, and has been with Totem since the beginning of the tour.  Here's her story....

It's easy to imagine the child costume designer.  From a very young age, Genevieve loved dressing up, and making clothes for paper dolls.  She was particularly drawn to bright colors, and complained to her parents that real life was not as bright as the comics!

As a teenager, Genevieve fell into theater, becoming serious about acting.  (but, she says, in the amateur productions she was involved in, she still always ended up making the costumes!)  Her teenage years also had a "punk" phase, which was a turning point - unable to find the kinds of clothes she wanted, she learned some basic sewing skills from her mother.  At that point, however, her skill was mostly in just assembling things.  She was not a patient seamstress, but she has always had a drive for detail and organization.

She went to college, planning to be an actress - but she soon learned that she needed a field that was more stable, and less judgmental.  At the age of 22 she enrolled in fashion design school, accepting that she truly needed stronger sewing skills for her work.  And she specialized in hat design, following a few years of hat-making and collecting.

After college, she did freelance work for a couple of years.  This was the late 1990s, when Cirque du Soleil was booming in Montreal, and they needed staff in their costume department.  Genevieve started with short contracts in October 1998, but within a year was on a permanent contract.

For the first 5 years, she was based in Montreal, and in 2003 she rose to the position of Costume Coordinator.  She then participated in the creation and installation of costumes for 11 different Cirque productions, which had her travel to Japan and to Las Vegas.

In 2010 Genevieve needed a change, and joined the touring life of Totem.  The constant travel was a big change, and it took her some time to adjust.  She says that what she appreciates most is the people she meets in different cities along the way.  She is outgoing, and makes new friends everywhere she goes, and then maintains these connections.  Developing a life outside of the touring community has been essential for her, and it has made the journey more rich.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


...is closing.

It is on our minds this week, because Totem is producing a farewell video to send to the show, with all of our company members singing the song "Alegria".   This is something of a tradition at Cirque - whenever a show opens or closes, the other shows produce videos of iconic songs or dances in the production, their own little tributes.  The kids have also gotten in on this one, learning the song (a bit), enough to make their own video:


Four of the children in this video were born on tour with Alegria.

It's given me a moment to reflect on Alegria.  I remember seeing the show, in the mid-1990s, in New York.  It was the second Cirque show I'd seen - Saltimbanco was the first - and so I was somewhat prepared to be amazed.  Alegria didn't disappoint.  It was otherworldly.  Its magic swept me completely off my feet, leaving me speechless and teary.  I can still feel it when I hear the music.

At some point along this Totem tour, it dawned on me that a number of my tourmates were part of that magic.  The Russian bar artists were in Alegria from the very beginning.  They were younger, more nervous and edgy, in America for the first time, and they were treated like royalty.  By all accounts, that era of Cirque touring was luxurious - the best lodging, the finest amenities. The artists were celebrities, and their families shared the glow.

The Russian bar wives, who I spend a lot of my time with, get wistful and dreamy when they talk about that time period.  I remember Nastia, one day when an Alegria DVD was drifting around, saying with fondness, "да, это наш Алегрия."  Yes, that's our Alegria.  It was theirs, their world that I came into that day in New York, never guessing that I would be living with these people 16 years later.

I wonder if everyone feels this way about Alegria - a slight possessiveness.  I know I do.  That night (my Alegria) was part of a big change in my life, a time of discovering my true passion.  The lyrics of this song articulated something very deep inside me; I suppose I thought I was alone in this, but clearly the hundreds of thousands of people who have appreciated Alegria have had their own powerful connections to it.

Alegria had a long life, its beauty fading only a little in the later, arena years - and I hope it has a glorious sendoff.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Totem profiles: Maggie LiuWei

Maggie LiuWei is the Chinese interpreter on Totem. She is 30 years old and from Beijing.  An only child, Maggie grew up in a small town, and attended boarding school.  (She settled in Beijing as an adult).  She studied English at school, and later at college, but found herself, after graduating, unsure of what she wanted to do next.

Maggie held a variety of jobs in her early 20s - she worked for a paralegal, and then for a radio station, writing English news stories.  But then she saw an ad - CPAA, an agency that provides interpreters for Cirque du Soleil, was seeking an interpreter for Zed in Japan.  Maggie applied, got the job, and spent the next year in Japan, assisting the Chinese lasso act in the show.  Fortunately, she speaks Japanese as well.

Zed closed after a year, and Maggie was transferred to Quidam, to work with the diabolo act during the arena tour.  She accompanied the 4 girls in the act for almost a year, and then, when that act changed, she was sent to Montreal, and began working with our new group of Chinese unicyclists in January 2013.  They all arrived at Totem shortly thereafter.

One of the challenges of being an interpreter is that Maggie needs to take care of her charges at work and at home - she is essentially available to them 24/7.  Most of our unicyclists cannot communicate in English on their own.  They tend to stay close together, a tightly-knit group, and Maggie is their liaison to the rest of the world.

Maggie says the best part of the job is the travel, being able to see so many different parts of the world.  It's fun, dynamic, and very different from a regular office job!