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Laguna Beach

 Volume 11, Issue 99  | December 10, 2019


Behind the magic of Le PeTiT CiRqUe

Story by DIANNE RUSSELL

As if they’ve just emerged from an enchanted forest, the neon-colored fairyland creatures take the stage, and the audience, mesmerized, falls under their spell. But these elf-like beings aren’t creatures, they’re kids from 5 -16 years of age, who perform as cirque artists, acrobats, karate masters, musicians, singers, and dancers. This is Le PeTiT CiRqUe, and if one is lucky enough to see their show, prepare to be wowed. 

Laguna Beach was fortunate to see two performances at the Festival of the Arts last Sunday, a rare treat given the troupe’s international popularity.

Le PeTiT CirRqUe started with a vision that Nathalie Gaulthier, the founder and creator of LPC, had as a seven-year-old girl. “I grew up in Iqualuit, Nunavut, right below Greenland, with Inuits, Eskimos. I was a minority. I grew up with igloos around me and knew there was a bigger world out there. I wrote my first play at age seven, directed it, and it was presented at my school in half English and half Inuit. 

“When I saw how the audience felt and was moved, I knew in my soul I needed to create live shows that would touch people,” Gaulthier added.

But, it’s one thing to have a dream, it’s another to bring it to fruition. 

“I launched my full company at age 14 in Montreal, Canada and it grew!  We added the circus in 2007 and Le PeTiT CiRqUe was born in 2012.”

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Jeffrey Rovner

LPC performers mingle with the crowd on Family Day at the Festival of Arts

Le PeTiT CiRqUe has now grown into the only all-kid humanitarian professional cirque company in the world. The company has performed all over the US, Canada and Dubai, and for world leaders including the Dalai Lama, and the Sultan of Brunei. 

LPC has raised an incredible five million dollars since its launch five years ago.

Although the show is magic, it’s not magically conjured up, and ultimately appears on stage only after a tremendous amount of hard work, perseverance, and creativity by everyone concerned. All the elements, the performers, costumes, music, choreography, and staging, come together to generate the mystique. 

To achieve the stunning movements and dancing, each act is choreographed by the team of coaches and the kids, then policed by Nathalie, and she choreographs and directs the stage productions. 

“Luckily,” she says, “we have teamed up with Cirque du Soleil’s choreographer of 34 years, the renowned Debra Lynne Brown, and are launching an innovative young adults company, called MERVEILLE, and this will feature 19-30 year olds, many of whom will be our grown up LPC kids.” 

Nathalie designs the brilliant costumes, then has them sewn by local ladies who need extra income.  

While viewing the amazing acrobatic feats, many of which rely on precise teamwork, one can only wonder what happens if a performer is injured, but Nathalie says, “Every act has understudies, because often we have 2-3 shows on the same day. Hence, we have had to also purchase 2-3 copies of each apparatus.” 

During these acrobatics, as well as the acts on stage, the show is laced with haunting (and sometimes dramatic) music that heightens the otherworldly mood. All their music is original and created for LPC by the Cirque du Soleil violinist Martin St. Pierre in Las Vegas and Christine Aguilera’s songwriter, Heather Holley. 

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Tom Lamb

Acrobats wow crowd at Festival of Arts

Since the acts are so specific, where do they find new performers when they need to renew the company once kids age out? Nathalie replies, “By audition and referrals from other circus programs only, and mostly, parents come to us with a gifted child. They must meet a physical conditioning test and a set criteria of skills to make LPC. Extremely gifted ones make it into LPC. If they are close, they are placed on the B Team to train. Some only remain in B team and never move into LPC, but we train them on stilts and globe walking so they may do some events as ambiance only.” 

If a child succeeds, “A performer enters an extensive training program; 10-12 hrs a week in ensemble-group training in choreography, theatre, character work, but most importantly, doing intensive physical conditioning in strength and flexibility. Then an additional 2-5 hrs a week is spent in private one on one sessions to choreograph and develop their act.” 

But what happens when a child ages out, do some go on to Circus de Soleil or other professional companies? “Yes,” Nathalie explains, “we have placed over 15 artists in Cirque du Soleil, 7 Fingers Cirque Eloize and numerous others across Europe. Even AGT’S Sofie Dossi was with us before her AGT fame. Aging out can happen one of two ways: you are over 18 years of age or, you are over 5’5”!” 

It’s obvious that seven-year-old Nathalie’s dreams have come true. 

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Tom Lamb

Performers show feats of balance and strength

Even with all the acclaim, Nathalie still has dreams for the future. “My vision is mainly to keep finding gifted youths around the globe in circus, dance, music, martial arts, and so on, and keep presenting productions and entertainment that creates a sense of wonderment and touches people. There is still so much beauty in the world, and in children, this beauty is pure. I like to capture that and present it with a whole package of exquisite costuming, original music and songs, unique circus equipment and prodigy youths. My dream? Find an investor! It’s hard to do this all by myself, I have never had any help financially.”

LPC is also a 16-time winner at the National Youth Awards for Most Outstanding Production, Best Director, Best Original New Show, Best Costume Design. They are also stars of NBC’s “Little Big Shots”, and Gap Kids representatives with Ellen Degeneres.  

Everyone who has had the privilege of seeing one of LPC’s shows thanks Nathalie and her company of incredible performers for taking us into a world of pure imagination, the pure imagination of a seven-year-old’s dream. 

How the circus came to town

Yes - Le PeTiT CiRqUe dazzled the Family Day crowds at Festival of the Arts last Sunday. And as I mentioned it’s not easy to get tickets to see them. So how did this particular circus come to our town? How did Laguna get so lucky to watch a performance free of charge?

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Jeffrey Rovner

Talk about meta: Le PeTiT CiRqUe’s Anne holds Jeff Rovner’s pics of the troupe

Here’s the connection: Laguna Beach resident Jeff Rovner, whose fine art photographs of Le PeTiT CiRqUe performers qualified him as a first-time exhibitor in FOA just happens to be the father of Haley Rovner, the hula hoop wizard of the CiRqUe. Jeff suggested to the FOA that Le PeTiT CiRqUe would be a great attraction for Family Day.

And he was right. 

Before the show, the FOA attendees were fortunate to experience one of LPC’s ambiance performances, in which the company members mingle and interact with the crowd. 

Once the Technicolor-costumed sprites began the show (they gave two performances), the overflowing crowd simultaneously laughed, clapped, and gasped with awe at the stunning talent of this company. 

Click on photo for larger image

Photo by Jeffrey Rovner

Haley Rovner works her hoop magic 

From a diminutive pink nymph folded into a plastic box, to the martial arts duo twirling swords, to the acrobats spinning from high above like red-blossomed flower petals, and Haley’s amazing hula hoop performance, Le PeTiT CiRqUe took the audience to a different realm, a realm of wonderment I would happily visit again and again. 

At Jeff Rovner’s booth, where the performing arts and visual art came together as the troupe gazed admiringly at his photos, and where friends and family gathered to cheer on father and daughter, Jeff said, “Sunday is a day I will long remember.”

And so will we. Thank you, Jeff and Haley, for the connection that allowed the cirque to come to town.

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Lynette Brasfield, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

Stacia Stabler is our Social Media Manager & Writer.

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