Local Arts

Cirque du Soleil gymnast on how he approaches shows: ‘I like to feel a little fear’

The bouncing beds act in Cirque du Soleil’s “Corteo.”
The bouncing beds act in Cirque du Soleil’s “Corteo.”

The Cirque du Soleil circus troupe — which will return to Charlotte next week, for the first time in five years — has long been known for its gravity-defying acrobatics and daredevil stunts.

And as you’re watching, you may wonder (especially knowing that Cirque acrobat Yann Arnaud died following a fall during a March performance of “Volta” in Tampa): Do the performers have any fear?

“In some shows where you do the same act and it becomes very routine, you can get complacent,” says competitive gymnast-turned-Cirque performer David Resnick. “I like to feel a little fear before I go out because it keeps you focused. I haven’t had a show in ‘Corteo’ where I haven’t had a fear before I go out. We all know to trust our gut and if we need more training, but there’s something about doing it live. It’s the fear I’ve had my whole life as a gymnast.”

The Canadian theatrical group’s latest arena production — “Corteo,” which is derived from the Italian word “cortege” and described as “a festive parade imagined by a clown” — will be performed seven times at uptown’s Spectrum Center between Wednesday and the following Sunday.

Originally conceived as a big-top show, it was altered to fit arenas in 2017, adding a suspended pole and hula hoop to its baroque bouncing beds, teeter boards, floating chandeliers and tournik (which marries horizontal bars and circus arts). Directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, “Corteo” premiered in Montreal in April 2005 and became a tour that has been visited 64 cities in 19 countries.

Resnick — who joined Cirque du Soleil in 2012 after performing on cruise ships and in shows in Nevada — is just one of the 51 acrobats, musicians, singers and actors in its international cast.

After spending years performing while wearing ornate costume and makeup with Cirque’s “Totem” show, Resnick now plays someone closer to himself on stage.

“I was shy (early on), he says. “When I was a monkey, frog or Crystal Man, it was a character to play. When it’s just you and your self-confidence, I felt like I was weak. The opportunity to do something new and progress is why I made the change.”

“You need to keep progressing and pushing.”

His challenge of late has been maintaining his professional focus despite personal tragedy: He recently took some time off from performing while coping with the loss of a close personal friend.

But coming back, Resnick says, has been cathartic, and he adds that “Corteo’s” story — which sees a clown named Mauro picturing his own funeral taking place in a carnival atmosphere, watched over by quietly caring angels — is even more relatable than ever.

“It’s a procession of his life in the old-school, gypsy circus, with his brothers and lovers and the different people he’d been out (on the road) with,” Resnick says. “When Mauro rides away at the end of the show, he’s riding off into heaven. I’d never cried on stage before, but in that moment, I was crying in front of the crowd trying not to let the mascara run down my face.”

That human quality in “Corteo,” he says, is what sets it apart from other shows.

“It touches your heart. It’s the only show where we get to be ourselves on stage,” Resnick says. “We have guidelines — I’m a young boy and a gentleman — but you’re allowed to express how you’re feeling on stage.”

Cirque du Soleil: Corteo

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Spectrum Center, 333 E. Trade St.

Tickets: $55.50-$143.50.

Details: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com.

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