Cirque Travel Blog: Belo Horizante, Brazil

Belo Horizonte Travel Blog

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A room with a view. (my hotel room's view)
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Cirque Blog 1: Belo Horizante
CIRQUE BLOG 1 (1/15/08) : Belo Horizante

Hello Everyone! Welcome to my first travel blog. I know it is long over due,…but hopefully I can get in the habit now and it will become more of a regular thing. The plan is to at least do one blog per city. As the length of my stay is various cities changes, I may add a few more blogs here and there. So,….for any of you reading who may not know,…I ran off and joined the circus! Cirque Du Soleil, to be more precise. Back around July, I received an e-mail from Cirque Du Soleil casting, and it was to inform me that a position for percussionist was opening up on the touring show "Alegira". I made an audition pack and about a month later I was given the news that I got the job.
a day trip to a nearby town. Highest road in Brazil. Beautiful. (good excersize too)
It had been five years since I last worked with Cirque, on "Dralion". But this was a permanent position, and one that would be taking me on an international tour. First stop: Brazil. Well, getting everything done and ready before I left was INSANE!!! I ended up filling my storage locker �" to the brim! I really had SOOOO much stuff. Much of it ended up getting sold or given away or left for scavengers. I barely got everything done before I left (and some things like utilities have just today finally been finished being taken care of). But as the song goes..."I get by with a little help from my friends..." Luckily some friends came by and helped me pack and move stuff on the last day. (Shout out to Paul, George, Beth, and Stone) So,.
a day trip to a nearby town. Highest road in Brazil. Beautiful. (good excersize too)
...I had been up since 5 am Monday morning. My flight left at around 9:30, and about ten and a half UNCOMFORTABLE hours later,...I arrived in Sao Paulo, Brazil. [no sleep] (Ironically, customs in Brazil was WAY easier and less problematic than freakin' Canada!) So then after a five hour layover, I finally get to board the plane to Belo Horizante [no sleep]. After about an hour and a half I arrive in Belo [no sleep] I get picked up at the airport from Lucy, the assistant to the tour manager, Josito. We drive about 30/40 minutes into town to the hotel. I drop off my bags, take a shower, e-mail my parents (so that they do not die of worry),...and then head off to the show.
a day trip to a nearby town. Highest road in Brazil. Beautiful. (good excersize too)
I get on site, meet the Artistic director, Michael Smith, and the Tour manager, Josito, and we watch the show together (front row center!) During intermission, I go back stage, get introduced to some people, and then meet and eat with the band in the kitchen. I watch the second half and then again meet with the bandleader, JF, and we take a shuttle back to the hotel [no sleep]. I am then invited for some beers at the bar with the band and technicians and we talk about various Cirque stuff, band stuff, music stuff, etc. [no sleep] Get back to my room, do some light unpacking, do some e-mail,.....and CRASH! [I had been up for 47 hours, no sleep] ..........I wake up 12 hours later, and head to the site. I then meet some more people, see some more of the site, and make appointments for the next day.
A couple of beauties at Freud Bar - in the jungle!!!
I learn that the singer is new (Swiss-Morrocan), a new keyboardist is coming (French-Canadian),...and me. So, get this,......the band leader (bass) - French-Canadian / the accordianist - French / the drummer - French-Canadian / the keyboard/sax - French-Canadian / the other singer - French............do we see a pattern here? So, its pretty obvious that my French will be improving a lot! But, with my French background,...it is a BIG help. I have already been speaking with some people in French,...so just have to keep at it. No Chinese on site. One guy, Ansun, on the cooking staff is from Singapore, and he is ethnic Chinese. He speaks 4 different Chinese dialects/languages,…..so it is nice to try and keep up with my Mandarin by speaking with him.
A Brazilian BBQ with Cirque friends! left to right: Robski (transportation manager), Harold (technician), Thomas (technician), Malika (singer), Casper (fast-track)
The second night I dressed in a black robe and watched the show from behind the musicians and got to see the percussionist in action,.......this was a BIG HELP,....as there are visual things he has to hit in the show that you can't tell on the recordings and also a bit of electronics that you need to see what he is doing. They will be starting to build my in-ear monitor mix,...and I will sit-in on some of the soundcheck. It is scheduled that I will be having rehearsals with the dru,m,er and bassist to prepare me for the show. Also I am to meet with HR and go through some paperwork, get acclimated to the site, and get introduced to some other people. There are one other Chicagoan here. He works as a technician here, and ironically enough he worked on the shows I did at Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago.
cool lake shot
Small world eh? The food at the site is GOOD! They also always have soy milk, fruits, granola, salads, etc......and then have daily selections including "vege" options. I have been staying away from the desserts. Obviously EVERYONE has an amazing body here,....so THAT is motivation! (sigh) On the Sunday following my arrival, I was thrown into the show. The percussionist had a hernia and did not come out onto stage for the first show. Since I was there, the bandleader decided that I should do the act. This is the number where the percussionist plays a djembe on stage for the fire act. So,...with less than an hour's notice, I got into costume, put on my makeup, put on my wireless in-ear monitors, and headed to the stage. It went really well.
Mercado Central. (Central market) Lots of handicrafts, food, pets, music, supplies, etc.
I got tons of very positive feedback. People said that the my djembe playing sounded great, and that I had good stage presence as well. (by the way,...there was no rehearsal for this number,...I just had to wing it) But, yeah,..most importantly, the other musicians came to me and said how much they liked my playing (which meant alot)..... Monday was our "dark" day (day off),.....so, obviously people go out Sunday night, which I did as well. A bunch of people went to a music club and saw a live samba band. It was great! (...and yes,...Brazillian women are on average,...VERY beautiful) The band was great. It is interesting how clubs work here. There doesn't seem to be a cover,...but you are given a ticket that is a sort of drink menu. When you order drinks, you don't pay,.
Thats why they call it "Belo Horizante" (Beuatiful Horizon)
..but they write it down on your ticket, and you pay when you leave. (very similar to dim-sum places). So,....after sleeping in Monday morning,...I got some work done at the hotel,..got my bank card un-blocked, e-mails, etc. Then, people decided to go out again Monday night. First I went with Marcos - the Brazilian clown on Alegria, along with his wife, the Singaporean chef, and some of Marcos's friends. We went to "Sushi Beer", a sushi place, where he knew the owner. We got the royal treatment there. Food after food after drink, etc. At the end we only had to pay something like $7. He even sent us home each with a bottle of this crazy cool vodka called "GAS",....which you drink with a little spoonful of sugar on top of the drink in a shot glass,.
Freud Bar Jam in the jungle!!! JF on bass, David on drums, Luke (tech) on congas, and me on cajon.
..and you slam the shot down on the table,...and then the sugar and gas-infused vodka create a chemical reaction, which starts to bubble the drink,...and then you down it!......Very tasty! Afterwards we went out to a cool bar/dance club. They had a live cover band and a dj (separate rooms). When you are with Cirque here in Brazil,...you are treated like celebrities. I got free drinks from people all night, and there was an endless supply of attractive girls to dance with all night long. Fun times! I eventually made time to take a walk around the town �" Belo Horizante (which means beautiful horizon). I ate some "Pao de queijo" (puffy cheese bread), fmous in this province, Minas Gerias. I also had this very Brazilian dish "Acai com granola com banana com guarana".
Samba party (the real stuff) in Belo.
.....This rocked! More like a frozen soup, very deep purple/black and similar to blueberries with chocolate. Supposedly this fruit, acai, comes from the Amazon. It has tons of health benefits as it has the highest amount of antioxidants than any other fruit in the world. It is very good also for energy �" especially when it is mixed with guarana. Another favorite here is called "caiperina". It is the drink of choice here. It is a lot like a mojito, but stronger. They use a liquor called caxasa. It is made from distilling sugar cane juice. They add this to limes and sugar and grind it up in the glass. Very sweet and tasty. But, you have to be careful, because one caiperina is always followed by another, and before you know it you have a bunch of empty glasses in front of you, and you have to figure out how to make it back to your hotel room.
the site tent in Belo
? So, as it just had to happen, my first full day in the show is the same day that the big head-artistic director from Montreal comes to watch the show. Just my luck. However, I got great reviews from everyone. The bandleader and all the musicians said 'great job.' In fact, during the show, the keyboardist and saxaphone players asked the sound technician to put more percussion into their mix. (always a very good sign) AND,.... During intermission, the Artistic Coordinator (the on tour head honcho),...came into the cafeteria looking for me. He said I did a fantastic job and he loved my character for the Fire act. He was smiling and laughing and said all good things. The stage manager said that they would not have put me into the show if they didn't think I was ready,.
Lars (fast track) in action backstage - belo
..and obviously I was. After the Sunday show, I was playing full-time. The other percussionist left and so I was now permanent. During the "dark days" I was able to come in and set up my own instruments. This took quite a long time to do as I have a MASSIVE amount of instruments for this show. [I will post pictures on a picture site soon]. I am using a couple new instruments that the former percussionist did not use. I felt like I could open up the 'sonorous possibilities' with some new additions and so far everyone has approached me with positive feedback on the new choices. Most of my equipment is new - from my endorsement deal with LP. (yay!) While in Belo however, I have to resolve to playing on skin heads as I had some problems with defective synthetic heads for the congas and bongos, before I left.
A local piano-bar player in Belo Horizante, Brazil does her piano randition of Vai Vedrai for Brian Beech - the trapeze artist for the number in Alegria.
I have ordered new hardware for the congas, which will allow me to put on a different brand of synthetic head that they have here on site. It will arrive in the next city �" Rio. During the run in Belo, my friend Adam, from Chicago, came to see the show. He was in town for a wedding and so I had him come see the show. It was his first experience of Cirque Du Soleil. So, needless to say, he was speechless. Alegria is such a wonderful show. After the "double dark", I went with one of the singers, Mailka, to another town about an hour away. We went there to climb Brazil's highest road (don't remember the exact figures on it though),....But Man! It was sooo beautiful. We took a taxi to the bus station, a bus to the mountain, and then by foot walked up more than 4 K to the top. At the top, the view was amazing! (pics will be posted) We talked in half-English half-French throughout the day (she is Moroccan/Swiss but lives in France).... Then, we were lucky enough to run into a guy who just happened to be driving back to Belo, and we hitched a ride. We got back to town and went to an outdoor courtyard with a cafe and live music, and we had dinner. It was a wonderful day. Sunday night was a blast. Because we have off on Mondays, general people organize a fun outing on Sunday night after the shows. It's the one time of week where everyone gets to let loose, go out and get crazy (i.e. drunk). So, there is this bar just outside the city called "Freud bar"...and it is in the middle of the jungle!!! It took forever to get there,...and we drove about 10 minutes into the interior of the jungle to get to the place, but it was well worth it. Super cool. Never experienced anything like it before. Soooooo many people were there. I was asked, along with the other musicians, to bring along some gear. There was a cover band there, but then at one point in the evening, I set up my instruments, and we started to play. One of the ushers at Cirque is a really outstanding percussionist. And so the two of us really got things started with an acoustic drum jam,...then a bass player joined in, followed by a drummer, and a keyboardist. We had the whole place jumping! Malika then started to sing and we did an arrangement/version of a famous Brazilian tune that everyone here knows. It was a hit. I think the Brazilians appreciated it. I even broke out the didjeridoo for a set. That got a lot of reaction! The band has been super cool. Since they all speak French (as a first language),...I told them that it is my intent to get to the level where everyone can speak in French during the show with me (over the headsets). It is coming back slowly, but everyday it gets better,....BUT MAN,...that freakin' Quebecqouis accent!!!!! That takes some getting used to. So, that concludes my Belo Horizante blog. At the time of compiling this blog, it has already been 2 weeks in Rio. I hope that when I move to Sao Paulo I can get the Rio blog up more quickly. Also, if anyone has any questions/comments on anything, feel free to ask, and I will try to answer general questions as separate blog entries. I hope to post another blog at some point about "the cirque". The lifestyle, schedule, shows, training, people, etc. If anyone else has any suggestions, please let me know. -brent
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A room with a view.
(my hotel roo…
A room with a view. (my hotel ro…
a day trip to a nearby town. Highe…
a day trip to a nearby town. High…
a day trip to a nearby town. Highe…
a day trip to a nearby town. High…
a day trip to a nearby town. Highe…
a day trip to a nearby town. High…
A couple of beauties at Freud Bar …
A couple of beauties at Freud Bar…
A Brazilian BBQ with Cirque friend…
A Brazilian BBQ with Cirque frien…
cool lake shot
cool lake shot
Mercado Central. (Central market)
…
Mercado Central. (Central market)…
Thats why they call it Belo Horiz…
Thats why they call it "Belo Hori…
Freud Bar Jam in the jungle!!!
JF…
Freud Bar Jam in the jungle!!! J…
Samba party (the real stuff) in Be…
Samba party (the real stuff) in B…
the site tent in Belo
the site tent in Belo
Lars (fast track) in action backst…
Lars (fast track) in action backs…
A local piano-bar player in Belo …
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photo by: Paulovic