Totem is a touring Cirque du Soleil production written and directed by Robert Lepage. This is the second collaboration with Robert Lepage with the first being Ka. The theme of Totem is inspired by the various humanity founding myths. Totem premiered on April 22, 2010 in Montreal, QC and took its final bow on March 11, 2020. The show was reported being retired in October 2021.
Totem is considered Cirque du Soleil's first hybrid production being able to perform in amphitheater arenas and the Grand Chapiteau without requiring significant changes to the stage and equipment.
Set and Technical Information
Stage Design, The Marsh, and The Carapace
Totem stage is made of two parts: The Marsh and the main stage. The Marsh serves as an entrance to the main stage. it is surrounded by reeds which conceals the artists and some set elements before they enter. The reeds are inflatable to save weight and facilitate storage while touring.
The main stage for Totem is based upon the mytheme of the World Turtle; a giant turtle or tortoise supporting the world on its shell. Unlike previous Cirque du Soleil stages, the edges of the stage are curved inward to give the outer appearance of a turtle shell. The stage surface is covered by hand-drawn images inspired by the patterns found on the plastrons (underside of a turtle) of several turtle species.
One of the major elements of Totem is a large oval turtle Carapace. The Carapace serves as a decorative piece and used for the beginning act of Uneven Bars. The Carapace weighs 2,700 lbs (1,225 kg), contains two horizontal bars, and is coated with a non-slip finish. It can be lifted to the top of the Chapiteau/Arena and can be opened at an angle like an shell. At the beginning of Totem, the Carapace is covered with a cloth printed with the shell markings of a forest turtle.
The Scorpion Bridge
Another major stage element of Totem is a mobile platform called "The Scorpion Bridge". Loosely inspired by the Rolling Bridge in London, UK, The Scorpion Bridge serves as an entrance to the main stage. Made of 10,000 lbs (4,500 kg) of steel and containing eight hydraulic motors, The Scorpion Bridge can rise, descend, extend, retract and curl in on itself. The base of the bridge houses lighting equipment, a laser, speakers and cameras. The bridge is monitored by an operator using four infrared cameras.
The stage for Totem uses interactive projection technology to create various different environments and elements projected on the stages. These scenes include swamps, volcanos, oceans, a starry sky, and other naturalistic environments. The projection system are projected by four infrared cameras positioned above the stage and around the Marsh to detect the performers movements to produce kinetic effects such as ripples, splashes, and reflections.
The projection images were shot at various parts of the world including Iceland, Hawaii, and Guatemala by Image Content Designer Pedro Pires. Photographs taken by Guy Laliberté during his trip on the International Space Station are integrated into the projections.
Equipment and Props
The unicycles are 7 ft (2m) tall and are very light. This makes it easier for the performer to maneuver down the ramp at the beginning of the act.
Totem's costumes are inspired by the show's theme of evolution. Costume designer Kym Barrett researched animals, birds, plants, and traditional cultural and tribal designs for various costumes worn throughout the show. The cycle of the seasons was also another inspiration for the various color pallette of the costumes. Neon-bright colours, vivid, and shiny fabrics would represent the season of summer. The unicyclists’ costumes feature seed pods, flowers, trees and leaves would represent the season of autumn. The two roller skates costumes would feature white and silver to represent the season of winter.
Kym also focused on the treatment of the fabrics rather than materials themselves to replicate the elements found in nature. Advanced printing techniques, fluorescent pigments, and utilizing mirror fragments and crystals allowed Kym to work with various materials such as lycra and leather.
The Crystal Man's costume is made up of a velvet leotard covered with about 4,500 reflective components. The Hoop Dancer’s costume is inspired by the traditional, ceremonial clothing of a number of North American Indian tribes, rather than an accurate portrayal of any one culture. These includes a Hopi cross and a headdress, and features extensive use of leather.
Totem features a cast of 46 acrobats, actors, musicians and singers from 18 countries: Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, France, Poland, China, Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Germany, Japan, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia, Spain, Ukraine and United States).
- The Tracker: Environmentally conscious and friend of the animals, The Tracker helps the Scientist in his explorations.
- The Scientist: A Darwinesque explorer visiting the different worlds of Totem. With the help of his monkey assistants, the Scientist completes his physical experiments.
- The Amerindian Dancer: The Amerindian Dancer traces the history of the evolution of species with his rings.
- The Crystal Man: Originally from space, The Crystal Man sparks life on Earth.
- The Fisherman: Owner of a speedboat, The Fisherman is a practical man, is wary of fuss and extravagance
- Valentino: A Italian Tourist who out to foil The Tracker. He rides on water-skis on a speedboat driven by The Fisherman.
- Carapace (Uneven Bars)
- Hoop Dancing (Part 1)
- Rings Trio
- Unicycles & Bowls
- Clown Fisherman
- Contortion (Rotation)
- Foot Juggling
- Escalade (Chinese Pole)
- Fixed Trapeze Duo (Rotation)
- Clowns Water Ski
- Aerial Straps (Rotation)
- Hoop Dancing (Part 2)
- Roller Skates
- Russian Bars
- Zama Magudulela: December 2019 - Present
- Esi Kwesiwa Acquaah-Harrison: April 2010 -February 2011, January 2012 - June 2013, November 2013 - August 2016, July 2017 - December 2019
- Coco Mbassi: March 2011 - May 2011
- Odessa Thornhill: May 2011 - December 2011, July 2013 - November 2013
- Betina Quest: August 2016 - June 2017
- Christian Laveau: April 2010 - December 2018, February 2020 - Present
- Christian Kit Goguen: December 2018 - February 2020
For more information on the songs featured in Totem, please visit Totem (Soundtrack).
The following color boxes indicate the region of each performance:
EU Europe NA North America SA South and Central America AP Asia/Pacific OC Oceania AF Africa
Grand Chapiteau Tour
2010 - 2018 Schedule
NA Montréal, QC - From April 22 to July 11, 2010 (show première)
NA Québec City, QC - From July 22 to August 29, 2010
EU Amsterdam, NL - From October 7 to December 22, 2010
NA Charlotte, NC - From March 3 to March 27, 2011
NA Baltimore, MD - From April 7 to May 1, 2011
NA Pittsburgh, PA - From May 12 to June 5, 2011
NA Montréal, QC - From June 15 to July 31, 2011
NA Toronto, ON - From August 10 to October 9, 2011
NA San Francisco, CA - From October 28 to December 18, 2011
(Totem played in the Royal Albert Hall in London, UK during this time)
NA San Jose, CA - From March 2 to April 15, 2012
NA San Diego, CA - From April 25 to May 27, 2012
NA Boston, MA - From June 10 to August 5, 2012
NA Washington, DC - From August 15 to October 7, 2012
NA Atlanta, GA - From October 26 to December 30, 2012
NA Miami, FL- From January 10 to February 24, 2013
NA New York, NY - From March 14 to May 12, 2013
NA Philadelphia, PA - From May 30 to June 30, 2013
NA Ottawa, ON - From July 11 to August 4, 2013
NA Columbus, OH - From August 22 to September 15, 2013
NA Los Angeles, CA - From October 11 to November 10, 2013
NA Irvine, CA - From November 21 to December 29, 2013
NA Santa Monica, CA - From January 17 to March 16, 2014
NA Portland, OR - From March 26 to May 4, 2014
NA Vancouver, BC - From May 15 to July 6, 2014
OC Auckland, NZ - From August 22 to September 28, 2014
OC Sydney, AU - From October 28, 2014 to January 11, 2015
OC Melbourne, AU - From January 21 to March 29, 2015
OC Brisbane, AU - From April 10 to May 24, 2015
OC Adelaide, AU - From June 11 to July 12, 2015
OC Perth, AU - From July 31 to September 27, 2015
AP Singapore, SG - From October 28 to December 15, 2015
AP Tokyo, JP - From February 3 to June 26, 2016
AP Osaka, JP - From July 14 to October 23, 2016
AP Nagoya, JP - From November 10, 2016 to January 15, 2017
AP Fukuoka, JP - From February 3 to March 19, 2017
AP Sendai, JP - From April 6 to May 21, 2017
(Totem played at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, RU during this time)
EU Brussels, BE - From August 31 to October 29, 2017
EU Madrid, ES - From November 10, 2017 to January 14, 2018
EU Sevilla, ES - From January 25 to March 11, 2018
EU Barcelona, ES - From March 23 to May 20, 2018
EU Malaga, ES - From June 1 to July 1, 2018
EU Alicante, ES - From July 19 to August 19, 2018
EU Zurich, CH - From September 5 to October 14, 2018
EU Paris, FR - From October 25 to December 30, 2018
(Totem played at the Royal Albert Hall in London, UK during this time)
EU Vienna, AT - From March 9 to April 22, 2019
EU Geneva, CH - From May 9 to June 16, 2019
AF Meloneras / Gran Canaria, ES - From July 5 to September 22, 2019
EU The Hague, NL - From October 11 to December 1, 2019
EU Düsseldorf, DE - From December 19, 2019 to January 19, 2020
EU Munich, DE - From February 12 to March 11, 2020 (Grand Chapiteau Finale)
EU Rome, IT - From April 1 to April 19, 2020 - Cancelled
EU Milan, IT - From May 21, 2020 - June 21, 2020 - Cancelled
EU Prague, CZ - From July 17, 2020 - August 2, 2020 - Cancelled
SA Sao Paulo, Brazil - Cancelled
SA Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Cancelled
2011 - 2012, 2017 Schedules
EU Royal Albert Hall, London, UK - From January 5 to February 17, 2011
EU Royal Albert Hall, London, UK - From January 5 to February 16, 2012
EU Bolshoy Ice Dome, Sochi, RU - From January 1 to July 30, 2017
EU Royal Albert Hall, London, UK - From January 11 to February 26, 2019
Behind the Scenes
- Cirque du Soleil. (n.d.). Totem Press Kit[Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/-/media/cds/images/pressroom/presskits/totem/pdf
- TOTEM. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/press/kits/shows/totem
- Soleil, C. du. (2017, October 14). Unearth Human Evolution - CIRCUS STYLE | The World of TOTEM | Cirque du Soleil. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAiS9WuvkAM
- Cirque du Soleil (2011). Evolution – The Creative Journey (Deluxe Totem Souvenir Program) (in English and French).
- The 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards. (2017, October 19). Retrieved from https://www.newyorktheatreguide.com/news-features/the-58th-annual-drama-desk-awards
- Desk, G. D. (2016, March 06). Drama Desk Awards 2013: Complete List of Winners. Retrieved from https://www.goldderby.com/article/2013/drama-desk-awards-winners-list-broadway-theater-news/
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