Singing VAREKAI: Jamieson Lindenberg on the Cirque du Soleil show

Jamieson Lindenberg is just one of 50 artists from 19 different countries who will be performing in Cirque du Soleil’s VAREKAI at the Liacouras Center November 22-26. Jamieson’s first contact with Cirque du Soleil was at the age of 16, when he became an usher for Quidam while it was touring in the US.  After pursuing a career in theater, Cirque du Soleil came knocking in 2008 and offered Jamieson the leading singing position on Quidam. “A full circle”, as he says. The show pays tribute to the ancient and rare circus tradition of Icarian games and Georgian dance, along with Russian swings, aerial straps & hoops, handbalancing on canes, dancing on crutches, and Cirque’s famous clowns!

[The Liacouras Center] November 22-26, 2017, cirquedusoleil.com

Varekai Cirque du Soleil

VAREKAI. Photo by Cirque du Soleil 2014, Costumes by Eiko Ishioka.

Debra Danese: What was the training and rehearsal process like for VAREKAI?

Jamieson Lindenberg: Training for singers begins at the International Head Quarters for Cirque du Soleil in Montreal, Quebec. It can last anywhere from two weeks to two months depending on the role and timeline. For VAREKAI, I had three weeks of training. I worked daily with a vocal coach who helped me learn the lyrics of the made-up language I sing in, as well as the musical score. An acting/staging coach helped me with character development and the actual staging of my role. I also had daily class with a professional -usually Pilates, Yoga, or sometimes Tai-Chi. It is kind of like your recess at the end of the day.

DD: What is the most challenging aspect of the show?

JL: For me, it is the amount of singing and time that I spend on stage. You may not notice because we float in and out- but the singers are pretty much on stage and singing the entire show. The average acrobat spends roughly 10-15 minutes on stage for their act and a few transitional cues. However the musicians and singers live out on that stage. In Act 2, I have three really vocally challenging songs back to back. Each show is like a vocal marathon.

Jamieson-Lindenburg-

Jamieson Lindenburg

DD: What is your favorite part of being on tour?

JL: Seeing the world and getting a taste for other cultures and places. This really changes your entire perceptive on life when you get to learn from our neighboring countries. I draw on those experiences daily. I think it should be mandatory that everyone who turns 18 has to visit a foreign country. Also, I love having movies nights at the hotel with friends on tour. Ordering pizza, grabbing some drinks and binge-watching a series in our pajamas is like adult summer camp all year long.

DD: VAREKAI is a large-scale production. What is it like behind the scenes of the show?

JL: You would be surprised how little drama there is backstage. Because we perform roughly 300 shows per year, we all really get into our zones when it’s show time. There is usually a group “hackeysack” game, warming up and stretching on the mats, lots of phones and swiping, candy crushing and always lots of practical joking backstage.

DD: There are thousands of wardrobe pieces in the show. Tell us about some of the costumes used in VAREKAI.

JL: VAREKAI has approximately 2,000 costume pieces such as shoes, wigs, hats and other accessories. Each artist can have up to six pieces and every costume is specifically designed for them. Our vibrant and colorful costumes were designed by the famous costume designer, the late Eiko Ishioka (1938-2012) who has had a hand in movies like Bram Stoker’s Dracula  and The Cell. Eiko explored unusual creature shapes to show the artists’ movements, enhancing their beauty and grace.

DD: As a performer, you apply your own make-up for the show. How long does this take and how do you keep it consistent?

JL: Yes, it’s part of our daily ritual and is Zen time for many of us. I like to pop in some tunes and paint away. Each day is a little different depending on my mood. It takes me roughly 45 minutes to apply, and 1 minute to remove after the show. I have been performing with Cirque since 2008. I can’t even imagine how much makeup I have slathered on this face over the years! We often joke about sleeping in our makeup, and how much extra sleep we would have on a 6 show weekend. It does take a toll on the skin, but hey, that’s Show-Biz, Kid!

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About the author

Debra Danese

Debra graduated with a degree in dance from the University of the Arts and also holds a B.A. in Arts Administration. She is accredited at the Master Level with the National Registry of Dance Educators. Debra has performed in Europe, Tokyo, Canada, and the Caribbean. She teaches and choreographs world-wide and has been an international guest artist in Switzerland, England, and Slovakia. Debra has been an Artist in Residence on five occasions in Norway where she showcased full length dance productions at the acclaimed Nordland Theatre. She has also presented an original dance production at the Elspe Festival in Germany. Debra has been featured in Dance, Dancer and Dance Teacher Magazines for her work in dance education. Additionally, she has been a contributing writer for Dance Studio Life Magazine since 2010.