Q and A

Cirque-ists Taguchi and Viens
Image: Rie Miyoshi

Ever wonder what life is like for a circus performer? Meet Norihisa Taguchi (NT), expert jump-roper, and Jean-Philippe Viens (JPV), who plays Boum-Boum in Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam, at the Blaisdell Center Oct. 4-14. Joined by spokesperson Jessica Leboeuf (JL), they sat down with the Weekly to talk food, relationship drama and traveling woes.

Jessica Leboeuf

What’s a typical day like at Cirque du Soleil?

JPV: It depends on which act you’re part of. I play the Boum-Boum character, and also part of the group in the skipping rope art. I have training for both, so that can make my day longer. I like challenges and learning something new, so I stay and work out in other disciplines that I might not do in the show.

So basically your day is working out?

JPV: That’s pretty much my job! I get to work at 12 and I leave at around 12. In between that, I eat, I rest, put on makeup and train.

What do you guys eat?

JPV: It’s actually a secret. It’s called super food and once you eat it, you become a Cirque Du Soleil performer.

JL: The catering company becomes part of the Quidam family . . . their job is to cater to about 100 people from 23 different countries with about 20 different jobs. Usually two different proteins, a starch, steamed vegetables . . . Two hot meals everyday.

I want to join the circus. What do I do?

NT: What do you like?

Um, I, like, jump-rope?

NT: If you like jump-rope . . . then just do it. Before I joined Cirque, I was just an office worker, and one of my friends called me on the phone while I was working on web design. I knew basic skipping, but he showed me the different imagination of skipping, like under legs, behind neck . . . I never saw performance style skipping so I was interested. He told me . . . I could get to world championships in one year. I went to the US and Europe to learn . . . then one of the members of the World Skipping Federation sent me an email about Cirque du Soleil. I applied, sent demo tapes and got it.

Do you remember your first time on stage?

NT: Nervous, but excited. On my first show I made a mistake in the group skipping act, and nobody had told me that after a mistake, you’re supposed to do the routine again!

What about you, JP? Do you make mistakes on stage?

JPV: Every day. I fell down the stairs coming out to here . . . As the Boum-Boum character, I get a lot of freedom to act and play with people depending on how they perform on stage. Sometimes, the rope gets caught in their feet and they’re going to do the trick again. I’m not going to redo [my act], so I look at them and go, “What did you do?!”

So what’s your character like?

JPV: It’s a fun character. I don’t come from a theatre background . . . I did 15 years of karate, my background is martial arts. It’s very structured and . . . Boum-Boum is a total opposite; he is a person who is boiling with emotions. They leap from everywhere but he doesn’t know how to manage it. If he’s angry, it’s because he [was] over-happy before.

Do you ever feel like you’re him even when you’re not playing him?

JPV: You have to. And you have to be careful. Even when I’m talking now, you can tell I’m all over the place! I’m not like that. Okay, I’m a bit like that, but it’s part of the process . . . you have to feel it.

Wow. So when you sleep, do you see yourself in clown makeup?

JPV: [Nodding] And our makeup takes a long time to do . . . Between two shows you take a little nap backstage and if you roll, you might smudge your makeup and it takes an hour to redo. So at night, I roll and I wake up going, “Ah!” then “Oh, thank goodness.”

What happens if you get stomach flu, break a leg, get a cold?

JPV: Tough it up!

“The show must go on?”

JPV: Nah. We have plan Bs, we have backups, we have backups for backups.

NT: There’s about 20 skippers on stage. Sometimes there’s pain or injuries, we rotate. Every show, I manage the lineup.

What about relationship drama? Romance?

JPV: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

JL: That’s not taboo for us. They might hide it at the beginning to avoid being teased at the beginning. We respect relationships more because that person’s always there . . . if you break up with someone . . . maybe that person is holding you in the air. It’s also like dog years. Being a couple on tour for a few months is like a few years in real life. We’re sharing everything, even apartments, so we learn if this is going to work or not.

JPV: Do you watch “Friends?” It’s like that, except you don’t have the laughing in the background. Actually you do, and that’s the problem! But no, we’re very aware and very supportive.

You guys live a nomadic life; do you own lots of stuff?

NT: Two suitcases, 62 kilograms with carry-ons. My wife comes with me, so one-and-a-half is her stuff.

JPV: But I recently found out you have exceptions. I can bring my electric cello! And it’s important to make every place feel like home . . . I have a pirate flag, which I put it over the hotel light and it makes my room unique. Plus it dims the light. Just that, for me, is enough.

JL: Even though we’re so nomadic, we’re still creatures of habit. Nori, for example, his makeup table is always precisely the same and in the same spot with 14 brushes.

NT: Except for one time.

JPV: Eric did it!

NT: Someone rearranged my makeup kit. I was staring at it for the longest time, thinking something’s wrong.

JPV: If Quidam was a country, Nori’s makeup table would be a monument. It’s so organized and beautiful to look at.

Is this your first time here in Hawaii?

JPV: The closest I was to Hawaii was when I was in California and I swam too far off shore.

JL: To be honest, thinking about Hawaii was keeping us from being depressed during those little cities which weren’t so interesting . . . We were thinking, “This is one more city to Hawaii.”

Neal Blaisdell Center, 777 Ward Center, Thu.-Sun., 10/4-10/14, 7:30pm, $40-$95, [cirquedusoleil.com], [ticketmaster.com]