'An incredible moment': Cirque du Soleil acrobat gets to perform on home turf

·2 min read
Kooza premiered in Montreal in April 2007 and has since played in over 66 cities across 22 countries. It's being performed for the first time in the National Capital Region.  (Matt Beard/Cirque du Soleil - image credit)
Kooza premiered in Montreal in April 2007 and has since played in over 66 cities across 22 countries. It's being performed for the first time in the National Capital Region. (Matt Beard/Cirque du Soleil - image credit)

It's more than just a homecoming for Cédric Bélisle, it's a dream come true — the Cirque du Soleil performer from Ottawa is finally getting to perform in front of his friends and family in Gatineau.

Bélisle is playing the lead in the production of Kooza, which opened Friday.

"It's an incredible moment for me to be bringing my first show here at home ... I've never performed in front of a lot of my family and a lot of my friends," he told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

Bélisle said he left home to become a performer 13 years ago, and that he's happy his loved ones get to see him at the other end of the journey.

"It's a moment I've been waiting for for a long time," he said.

The show, which premiered in Montreal in April 2007 and has since played in over 66 cities across 22 countries, is being performed for the first time in the National Capital Region.

Matt Beard/Cirque du Soleil
Matt Beard/Cirque du Soleil

Artistic director Jennifer Lécuyer said people have a lot to look forward to.

"Kooza is one of the most acrobatic shows of Cirque du Soleil," she said. "[It has] really high level acrobatics mixed with a beautiful story, where we follow the innocence of the character."

Bélisle said the arc of his character, The Innocent, is one that most people can relate to.

"The storyline of Kooza is very simple, yet very poetic. It's the story of 'The Innocent' trying to find his place in the world. And you know what? Going through the pandemic, I think a lot of people went through a very similar story, where they were looking for where they fit."

Matt Beard/Cirque du Soleil
Matt Beard/Cirque du Soleil

Lécuyer said art has a role to play in helping people heal from the trauma of the pandemic, and that she thinks Kooza's storyline will strike a chord.

"I think it's a very universal story to find ourselves, to listen to the voice we have inside," she said.

Bélisle said the toughest part of being on tour was being away from family.

"I have a niece and nephew that were born while I was on tour, so I haven't necessarily been at home to see them grow up," he said.

"That's definitely been the trickiest part, however, the best part about traveling with the circus is that you build a family at work with the circus."

The group putting together the show consists of 110 people, including 52 artists.

"There's 26 nations represented on Kooza, with technicians and artists and acrobats included. Most of the people came back [after the pandemic] so it was a sense of finding each other again after two years," Lécuyer said.

The show will be in town until Sept. 25.