By MIKE CHAIKEN
The basic premise of Cirque du Soleil’s production “Corteo” sounds a bit bleak.
The story follows a clown imagining his own funeral.
But, according to Cirque performer Erin Cervantes, the show is not about the death of a clown. It’s about the celebration of life and fond memories from that clown’s life.
Cervantes, who will be part of the production when it comes to the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport from July 18 to 22, explained the show finds the clown visiting different times of his life. He imagines the loves of his life. He remembers the fellow clowns he has performed with. He remembers jumping on the bed of his grandmother when he was a child.
The show is more about looking back on your life and remembering your best and happiest moments, said Cervantes, an aerialist who performs as one of the clown’s loves in the Chandelier act as well as numerous other roles in the touring production.
For this show, Cervantes said the cast members, including her, don’t really play characters. She said they primarily play themselves. This adds to the fun of the show for the performers because each of them can be themselves and show support for their fellow performers as they go through these incredible “death defying acts.”
Cervantes is now part of one of the most recognizable circus companies in the world. But as she explained it, a career as an aerialist was not something she anticipated growing up in Iowa.
Cervantes said she loved to perform when she was young. She danced ballet and contemporary.
But there were no circus schools in her hometown in Iowa.
As someone who liked to perform (she started at age 10), Cervantes moved to Los Angeles after college. She joined a dance company in L.A. While there, she discovered a circus school and started taking lessons, primarily as a way to work out.
However, Cervantes said she soon realized she had a passion for the circus arts. The owner of the circus school took her under her wing for lessons and mentorship. Soon Cervantes said she began to choreograph her own aerial pieces and found herself booking gigs.
Cervantes said she never thought of aerial work as her primary career. “It really was just a different way of expressing myself and movement.”
But the more she trained, the better she got, and the more confident she got/ Cervantes said she then began to think that the circus could be a career.
When Cervantes performed her first professional gig, which was in L.A., it was as a member of her coach’s company. The pressure was doubly on, she said. Not only was she performing in front of an audience and she was performing high above the ground (rehearsals are kept low to the floor), she was performing for her coach, “someone I greatly respect.”
“Performing is never an issue (for me),” said Cervantes. It was just a matter of “getting out of your own head.”
And once she calmed down, the performance went well.
As an aerialist, Cervantes knew about Cirque du Soleil and its reputation. And when she learned the company was holding an audition in Las Vegas she signed up to participate.
Cervantes said she didn’t expect to make the cut. But she also hoped she didn’t get cut on the first day of the two day audition since the first day was focused on her own choreography—the second day was about learning new choreography.
Fortunately, she made it to the second day. And she made the cut.
At that point, she was in the Cirque database although she wasn’t performing with the company just yet. But she updated her file regularly, waiting for the call that an opening was just right for her. Her first call was for a show that closed before she could join. However, a remounting “Corteo” followed and she found herself part of the company in 2017.
“It’s amazing to see all the amazing things people are able to do with their bodies,” said Cervantes of her peers in Cirque du Soleil. “There are really interesting acts that aren’t typical (for circuses).”
When “Corteo” comes to Connecticut, Cervantes said families will find it will appeal to everyone in tow. She said children who come to the show watch with “their jaws on the floor… their eyes huge. The littlest ones are mesmerized.” And adults will enjoy the show because it’s a “celebration of life, family, and togetherness,” said Cervantes.
“Corteo” comes to the Webster Bank Arena, 600 Main St., Bridgeport on Wednesday, July 18 to Saturday, July 21 at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 21 for a 3:30 p.m. matinee, and Sunday, July 22 at 1 and 5 p.m. For tickets, go to www.WebsterBankArena.