I Went on a Backstage Tour of Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk: The First Flight

I watched the first show of Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk: The First Flight last night and fell in love with how they transformed the Mall of Asia Arena into Pandora, the moon where the Na’vi live. It was a visually spectacular show mixed with gravity-defying acrobatics. Before I saw Toruk, I was given the opportunity to do a backstage tour and see how they produce everything.

The most prominent thing about the show is the shifting landscape of the Arena, but when you see it in between performances, it’s just a massive gray slab. During my tour, I saw the performers practicing their flips, aerial silks, and choreography. Most of them were just sitting around and chatting. Without the projections, it looks more like a penguin enclosure you see in zoos and aquariums. Except here, the “penguins” are world-class acrobats who can leap into the air like gazelles.

For those who are not familiar with the show, Toruk: The First Flight is inspired by the 2009 film Avatar, which has become the highest-grossing film of all time. However, Toruk is set thousands of years before the hit film and follows three young Na’vi as they try to stop an Armaggedon that will wipe out the entire race.

We went backstage to the wardrobe department, where the wigs and costumes were arranged by tribe. The costumes were made by the Na’vi in mind, meaning the materials used are materials that can be found in Pandora. The entire show was made in consultation with Avatar director James Cameron, so every detail was pored over and approved. To understand the level of detail in the film and in the show, Cameron created an 80-page treatment of the film as early as 1994.

We also got to see where the props were kept, like the different creatures that inhabit Pandora. My favorite is the titular Toruk, a majestic dragon with a 40-foot wingspan. It’s so big that at least five puppeteers have to maneuver it around.

Part of our tour was a makeup demo, where three guests could volunteer to unleash the Na’vi within. I wanted to join but I had another event to go to after, so the three candidates were actor John Arcilla, writer Emerald Ridao (who speaks fluent Na’vi!), and an intern from Preview.ph. It turns out that the performers do their own makeup, so three performers were invited to do the representatives.

The attention to detail is also present in the makeup. Over 25 shades of blue were initially selected, which was cut down to four. From afar, it looks like they have the same look but up close, each artist can express his or her creativity with little flourishes. What was most impressive to me is how they can create such killer cheekbones!

Overall, there are over 40 performers, six puppeteers, one singer, and one storyteller. Given the breadth of Toruk, I am amazed at how everything is organized to the tiniest details. I wasn’t able to ask, but I feel like no one panics before the start of the show. Our tour was held on the day before the premiere and everyone was just milling around, doing their own thing. Maybe it’s a Na’vi trait?

Globe Live is the official partner of Toruk: The First Flight. This tour and story were made possible by Globe and Cirque du Soleil. Toruk: The First Flight will be staged from June 23 to July 2, with performances at 1PM (Sundays), 4PM (Saturdays), 5PM (Sundays), and 8PM (Fridays and Saturdays). Globe customers get 30% off on tickets. For more information, visit the Globe website.

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