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Entertainment & Arts

Director Michel Laprise aims for the unpredictable in Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Kurios’

Director Michel Laprise aims for the unpredictable in Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Kurios’

Mr. Microcosmos (Karl L’Ecuyer) surveys the audience in Cirque du Soleil’s new “Kurios.”

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Having directed Madonna in her MDNA tour and logged significant time behind the scenes at Cirque du Soleil, Michel Laprise is someone who knows how to make a strong visual impact working in a gargantuan, arena-sized space.

The Quebecois director has let his imagination run wild in “Kurios,” his big-top Cirque production running at Dodger Stadium through Feb. 7. But it’s also a show in which intimate, human-sized moments coexist alongside the spectacular.

“I wanted to go back to the feeling of performing on the street,” Laprise said by phone from Cirque headquarters in Montreal. “You have to grab [the audience’s] attention. You have to have this relationship with them based on generosity. It’s not about you. It’s about them.”

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The show, which debuted in Montreal in 2014 and is touring North America, is a steampunk science-fiction fantasia set in the 19th century.

The mostly plotless production includes the kind of white-knuckle acrobatics that audiences have come to expect from Cirque. But Laprise said he wanted to inject a different kind of energy into the show.

“We were becoming a bit predictable,” he said of Cirque in general. “So I made a list of things that we do repeatedly in our shows — do we do it out of necessity or comfort?”

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For “Kurios,” he put a virtual ban on turntables and trap doors. “I don’t want turntables. We always have that. So we took the money to create other things — big contraptions and set pieces.”

One of the show’s most technically complex moments features an acrobat climbing a tower of chairs to meet in midair another acrobat descending from the ceiling in a mirror-image act.

But there are many more low-tech moments, such as an acrobat performing a simple but increasingly difficult balancing act involving a series of cylinders.

Another sequence involves a performer using only his fingers to enact some comic scenarios. “It had to be convincing because it’s not an acrobatic. So it was important for us to take us outside the comfort zone,” Laprise said.

The director has worked various roles at Cirque, including the events department, which oversees private performances for corporate and high net-worth clients, as well as casting, where he was involved in auditions for new performers.

“This company gave me everything — sometimes I’m critical of it,” he said. “Our relationship is genuine.”

Laprise said his agreement with Cirque allows him to take on outside work. He collaborated with Madonna on the MDNA tour, which kicked off in 2012, and on her appearance that year at the Super Bowl half-time show.

In keeping with Cirque’s tight-lipped public relations policy, he declined to say what new Cirque shows he’s directing, except to add that he’s hard at work.

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Laprise recalled his first encounter with Cirque as a young boy.

“I was with my dad. My parents had just divorced,” he recounted. “I heard a strange music — it was worldbeat music. I approached the big top.”

The performers he saw that day left a big impact: “I was born in Quebec City. It’s very conformist. So to see that there was a possibility of diversity, the permission to be different ... I wanted to see the show that night.”

Laprise said he conceived “Kurios” as a way to replicate that “intense emotion of joy — the feeling that everything is possible.”

He added. “I want people to think that Cirque du Soleil is as crazy as we were in 1984.”

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT

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‘Kurios’

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Where: Dodger Stadium Parking Lot 1, enter at Elysian Park Avenue, Los Angeles

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 4:30 and 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 1:30 and 5 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 7.

Price: Varies, but currently about $50-$165, not including VIP packages

Info: (877) 924-7783, www.cirquedusoleil.com/kurios

Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes


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