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Backstage at Cirque du Soleil's acrobatic, insect-theme Victoria show

OVO performances are at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre until Sunday

About four hours before the Thursday opening night of Cirque du Soleil’s OVO, Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre is abuzz with the focused energy of a well-oiled machine designed to immerse thousands of people in the world of acrobatic insects.

The day prior, a dozen ­semi-trucks had arrived, and with the help of 100 locally hired stage hands, the arena was transformed for the Cirque du Soleil universe.

Now, more than 100 Cirque du Soleil employees, including 52 aerobatic and acrobatic artists, are preparing for their first Victoria show — one stop of many on the OVO international tour.

As showtime approaches, tailors busily adjust and repair costumes, light technicians rewire stage equipment and a French performer juggles next to a line of human-sized cricket costumes.

A percussionist practises for the night’s live music ­performances and overhead, aerial artists converse between breaks from Russian Cradle, a trapeze act where a “flyer” displays aerial ­acrobatics as they are tossed from one side of a large metal framework to another by two “carriers.”

That backstage buzz is at least in part due to excitement about returning to the stage after the pandemic, an energy that’s reciprocated by the audience, said Janie Mallet, senior publicist for Cirque du Soleil.

“Nobody was prepared for what happened,” Mallet said. “We went from 44 shows on the road to zero.

“To be on stage now and to be able to tour again, it’s not taken for granted. There’s definitely a renewed sense of appreciation. And for the audience too. You can definitely feel it from both sides.”

OVO — which means egg in Portuguese — is a show of things both big and small. The audience is enveloped by a grand set, which includes two large mechanical flowers and an ecosystem of artists playing spiders, ladybugs, scarabs, spiders, crickets and more.

Although the performers span about 25 nationalities, the story is told in the universal language of bugs — fluttering, buzzing, clicking and dancing.

Alexis Trudel, who plays a “night butterfly” with aerial straps partner Catherine Audy, says it’s an interesting exercise for a performer. “You also find different ways to move that you wouldn’t have simply being a dancer.”

On Thursday afternoon, the pair practised the aerial dance of their winged characters, weaving through the air, delicately balanced by one another’s weight.

Even practising — without the silver-blue wings and face makeup they will don that ­evening — they embody the dazzling fluidity of their insect roles.

That’s not just a happy ­accident, Trudel said. He and Audy studied National Geographic videos and images to develop a deeper understanding of butterfly movement.

“We do a lot of research trying to transmit that theme or that energy to the public. The way we move, it’s all inspired,” he said. “Even when we are doing technical things, we try to move it as butterflies.”

OVO is at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre until Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online at cirquedusoleil.com.

ngrossman@timescolonist.com