Mei Bouchard from Cirque du Soleil

By Leah Victoria

Cirque du Soleil is returning to New Zealand with Quidam, one of the company's most loved, classic shows. The Quidam arena tour will commence in Auckland on February 5, 2016 followed by Cirque du Soleil's debut engagement in Christchurch from February 17, 2016with limited seasons in both cities.

Mei Bouchard; who doubles as an aerial artist and the ‘Rabbit' character, was in Auckland earlier this week along with World Champion skipper Kata BanhegyiLeah Victoria sat down with Mei for a chat about the show, her background and her character.

Like many girls, you have been dancing from a very young age, but how did you get into Aerial training?

Well I started dancing at 11, and a girl from the studio brought in a teacher who did a little bit of aerial. It was only once a week, and I really liked it. It was fun, but I really wanted to be a professional dancer. When I left high school I thought, well I kinda really like it and want to keep doing it so I searched for some gyms around my home area, and ended up going every night, and yeah it became a bit of an obsession! I much preferred flying to being on the ground so I decided I might try to pursue that instead.

How did you get noticed by Cirque du Soleil?

I sent in some of my material to an audition that was happening close to my home, and about 3 months later they called me in for the show Quidam!

How did your parents/family react when you told them you were running away to join the circus?!

Oh they were super super excited! They were really supportive. It's good because they helped me so much along the way bringing me to dance classes, sacrificing so much time for that, all their time and the money! So I think they're glad that it actually lead somewhere!

How long have you been touring with Quidam and are you in any of the other productions?

Ever since I started 4 years ago! And no, just Quidam. Each show has it's own cast and crew. Quidam has a group of 45 artists, and a crew of 90, We're from 23 different countries! We live together, we work together, we travel together, eat together so it's a big circus family! It's really great!

The strength required to do your job is immense, how do you keep strong and healthy while on the road for such long periods of time?

Backstage we have a full gym. We also have rigging points from which we can hang aerial apparatus up in the air. I train about 4 times a week. Backstage before the show and we have on stage training for each specific act. I'm part of a group act, there are 7 of us with 5 ropes so we do onstage training together as well. And then after the show if we still feel like we have energy, we will throw something up in the air and hang off of it!

You perform at heights of up to 40ft, how do you combat that instinctive sense of danger?

You start pretty small at first. Doing things you're comfortable with, and when you want to learn, new, bigger tricks, and stuff you haven't done for a while, there are steps to do that safely. So we start low, checking all the wrapping, and we have our head coach on tour with us so that's really good to check that we are doing well. So yeah we start of slow and low! Some tricks are very similar to others so if you've learnt one, it's easy to apply the same techniques to something else.

Tell us a little bit about Quidam, and your character

Well the rabbit character... it's funny coz it's actually supposed to be a donkey! It's based on a French fairytale called Peau d'âne. She's one of the numerous characters that complete Quidam. The story is about a little girl called Zoe, and the Quidam arrives and opens up the door of her imagination. The acts and characters all make up her imaginary world.

Tell us about the make up! The faces are pretty spectacular! Do you travel with a big team of makeup artists?

No, actually when we first join Cirque du Soleil they teach us how to do our makeup! It takes like 2 hours at first! But now I can do my makeup in about 40 minutes! So, yes each artist does it themselves! Because there are so many of us it would take forever otherwise! But we do have a team for wardrobe. They are in charge of the makeup and costumes. So they double check us that everything is good and they also hand make all our costumes in the HQ in Montreal and they get shipped there so they can make sure they fit us perfectly!

How many countries have you visited with Quidam?

Woooah! It's been a lot! We did the North American tour, and then we went to Europe and did a lot of countries there! A little bit of Asia and now we are here doing Australia and New Zealand, so that's added to the list of at least 25 plus countries! It's really exciting!

When do you get to go home?

Usually we have 10 weeks of work, then a couple of weeks off. I haven't been home since April, but after this it's going to be holiday for me. So I'll go home for Thanksgiving and then back to Australia at the start of December. In February we are in New Zealand, performing here in Auckland, and in Christchurch for the first time ever so I'm really excited!

Quidam by Cirque du Soleil

February 5-14: Vector Arena, Auckland - Tickets via Ticketmaster

February 17 - 26: Horncastle Arena, Christchurch - Tickets via Ticketek

Cirque du Soleil Quidam

World Champion skipper Kata Banhegyi

All photos by Leah Victoria