Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia” is a waking dream which transports the audience to an imaginary Mexico. “Luzia” runs from June 1 to July 9 under the Big Top in the Pepsi Center parking lot. For tickets and more information go to

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DENVER (CBS4) – When Cirque du Soleil sets out to create a new show, they start with a theme, a place, a vision. With Cirque’s latest show, “Luzia”, it was a vision of Mexico forged in an emotional reaction to the country itself.

“This show is a journey. We take our guests into Mexico, but not a traditional Mexico, not the beaches that they’re used to, not the stereotypes that they’re used to. It’s a dream world, it’s another vision,” said Heather Reilly, company manager of “Luzia”.

“Luzia” (credit Cirque du Soleil)

The music, the colors, the countryside of Mexico, all come alive in “Luzia”. But what you’re not going to find in this show is what you may have come to expect about the culture of the country.

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“We just want people to come along and enjoy that. It’s not going to be a stereotype. It’s going to be something that’s new, a new vision. So we start in a field of flowers. There’s 5,000 flowers that are going to be on stage. We go from there to a cantina, then we go to the desert, and then we continue on this journey and it allows people to escape,” Reilly explained.

(credit Cirque du Soleil)

The framework for this production of Cirque is filled with imagination and imagery that perfectly fits the acts within.

Cirque du Soleil is meant to amaze and with every show it steps up it’s thrill factor both onstage and backstage. Those backstage thrills are delivered by the technical crew run by Mikey Newnum of Westminster, Colorado.

Mikey Newnum with Cirque Du Soleil (credit CBS)

“There’s 26 people on the technical team, so it’s anywhere from wardrobe, lighting, automation, rigging, sound, props, carpentry,” Newnum told CBS4.

The technical crew deals with costumes, props and moving large acrobatic apparatus on and off stage, plus dealing with the fickle nature of the new water feature.

“It’s a good challenge, I won’t lie. We’re learning a lot each city. Each city we go to we take the experience we learned from the last city and we kind of continue on,” Newnum explained.

It is a challenge. Newnum and his crew have to control pressure, temperature, and filtration, and all from controls on a large milk tank behind the big top. But even with all the high tech checks, the water always wins.

“Underneath the stage, during the show, right like six feet from our singer, she’s sitting in her chair, singing into her microphone and there’s four or five technicians running around with head lights, trying to be quite so they wouldn’t bother her, but at the same time, trying to fix this leak that was shooting up and drenching everything under the stage,” Newnum recalled.

Despite those challenges, the water feature offers a new and arresting visual to “Luzia” especially when images begin to appear in the water curtain.

(credit Cirque du Soleil)

“One of the things that’s pretty cool. What we’re able to do is use a computer and literally print out images, so every time the water comes out in those shapes and sizes… it always brings some ‘ooo’s’ and ‘ahhh’s’, which we weren’t necessarily sure was going to work. But it’s a pretty big hit every time it happens,” Newnum said.

Rachael Salzman is a master of the Cyr wheeel, the open loop that rolls around and through a crowded Cirque stage to amaze the audience. It wasn’t easy to learn.

(credit Cirque du Soleil)

“The first thing you have to learn is how to fall, and not be afraid of falling because the Cyr wheel is basically a constant controlled fall from one-side to the other, and you’re just kind of learning how to catch yourself,” Salzman told CBS4.

She always has to pay attention, knowing exactly where fellow performers and the set pieces are at all times.

“So this number is all about the precision, we have turntables, we have trees, we have all sorts of things in the way. So you have to do your technique, you have to perform, but there’s always having eyes kind of everywhere,” Salzman said.

(credit Cirque du Soleil)

Then you add water, lots of it, and there’s no way to prepare for that.

“It was pretty hard. But it was also hard because you can’t practice it for hours and hours like you might something else. So, you know, you go and you have to have sort of this concentrated moment, where you just do it,” Salzman explained.

Even with the training, you can’t rely on a slick steel wheel to hold a turn on a wet stage, so they had to add a bicycle tire to the edge of the Cyr wheel.

(credit Cirque du Soleil)

“So the wheels are heavier, and there’s a bike tire on the outside, and even still it takes training to know what angle. You’re going around the curve to know what angle you can and cannot do with the water,” Salzman said.

The downpour takes the act to a new level, which is nothing new for Cirque du Soleil.

For Emmanuel Cyr, the puppets in Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia” are dance, they’re performance, they’re art.

(credit Cirque du Soleil)

“Two puppets, two main puppets, there’s the horse and the jaguar. Both of them are manipulated by three people, so the two persons who are doing the legs are the ones having the weight of the horse at the same time,” said Cyr, the puppeteer for the show.

The puppets, very reminiscent of the horses in the Tony Award winning play “War Horse,” take on a level of realistic movement that simply explodes on stage and delights the audience.

“Watching a video of horses, we mostly look at the step motion video, like an animation movie, to really see all the steps of the horse. How it works after we went through training and training with outside eyes looking at like to make it right,” Cyr told CBS4.

The puppets only make a few appearances between the curtains of “Luzia,” but they become a memorable part of the show, just one of the many that make Cirque du Soleil one of Denver’s favorite attractions.

When you throw your body at a hoop hoping to catch nothing but air on the way through, your timing, speed, and body position have to be just right. Now add movement to the equation, back-and-forth, side-to-side. That’s what’s facing the hoop diving acrobates of “Luzia” from Cirque du Soleil. The show has added that movement with two treadmills set on a rotating stage.

(credit Cirque du Soleil)

“It completely changes the anticipation of the trick, so when you jump what you aim for. I mean even with the turning stage, with the stage turning, if you jump straight, you’ll end crooked. So you have to tak into account the turning stage, and you’ll end up jumping crooked to land straight,” said Dominic Cruz, one of the Cirque acrobats.

With enough rehearsal, the performers know the routine, but they also have to know the guys who run the machinery back stage.

(credit CBS)

“They have the control team behind us and they’re telling the treadmills when to go, when to stop, when to switch directions,” said Devin Henderson, another acrobat.

“It’s like silent communication,” Cruz interjected.

“Exactly,” Henderson continued. “And so we fell the treadmill and we know more or less the cue for when it’s going to stop or slowdown.”

For both the performers and the audience, the moving treadmill add a new level of suspense to an already difficult trick.

“So in some ways it makes it a little bit harder to anticipate how the trick is going to go, but that’s part of the fun,” Cruz told CBS4.

Basically it’s catch your breathe and hang on.

The costumes of “Luzia” from Cirque du Soleil are as much a character of the show as the performers themselves, capturing the color, tone, and style of Mexico.

“For ‘Luzia’, it really stemmed from wanting to celebrate Mexico in a way that wasn’t seen by others in the past. We didn’t want to do the stereotypical idea of what Mexico represents. We wanted to focus more on the subtler things, like the landscape, the regions, the architecture, these types of things,” said Amanda Balius, head of wardrobe for “Luzia.”

(credit Cirque du Soleil)

There are some 760 costumes, shoes, wigs, and accessories in “Luzia.” Some are standard, some with a very specific purpose.

“In dealing with a rain curtain and water in ‘Luzia’, we wanted to make sure that we used fabrics that worked well with the water. A lot of our artists that are in the rain have more synthetic fabrics that their costumes are made out of. So that we weren’t going to be adding to wear and tear every time they got wet, and at the same time, nylon is going to be much lighter once it’s wet than a cotton,” Balius explained.

And there are those that add a subtle magic to the show itself.

(credit Cirque du Soleil)

“So this is what the inside of the robotic flowers look like, minus the stem, this is just for us to show a little sample. When they’re triggered, they open as such, and that is the flower at 100-percent open. And then we put the cover on top which actually showcases the flower side of it,” Balius showed CBS4.

The costumes add magic, a sense of subtle wonder to the constant and colorful action on the stage. Bits of fabric and worlds of imagination all under the grand chapiteau.

CBS4 Critic-at-Large Greg Moody’s Review:

You come to expect a certain spectacular something from Cirque du Soleil, and then every time, they up end those expectations and push the boundaries of spectacular. 

That can be said for “Luzia, A Waking Dream of Mexico”. The costumes, the acts, the imagery capture the flavor of Mexican tradition, in the way that only Cirque can. 

The acts are woven into and through the story line, and into the cultural imagery, standing on their own, but also of the piece. It’s brilliantly done with lights, props, clowns, and computer generated imagery built even into the falling water. 

Every time I see Cirque, I wonder how they could possibly top themselves with music and performances and the dramatic theme of the show; and then, well, they just go do it…go figure..go see it. “Luzia” is a marvel.