Cirque colonizing Greensboro

by Lenise Willis

From the imaginary world of a child to a power struggle beneath a gothic dome, Cirque du Soleil has created entirely new worlds that push the limits of artistic imagination. This month, the Québecbased circus (and the world’s largest theatre producer) is bringing a new premiere to Greensboro and showing its audiences what lies beneath the magnifying glass.

OVO, which was originally created in 2008 and has since been recreated for a new premiere this year, depicts the world of insects, a tiny yet colorful and joyful ecosystem full of life.

“The show is a very colorful, energetic, happy show with a very simple story,” said Marjon Van Grunsven, one of the show’s artistic directors. “It’s one of the only shows that we have that has a story that everybody, young and old, can follow because it’s so clear.”

The story is that of a ladybug who falls in love with a fly. But the fly must prove that he is worthy of the ladybug’s love and so he goes through a series of tests. The name of the show actually comes from the Portuguese word for “egg,” a symbol of birth and a bug’s lifecycle.

“It’s very fun; very colorful,” she said.

“A lot of our shows are a little dark and mysterious, but this one is just happy. You’re going to be in for some real good laughs— laughing and amazement and jaw-dropping acrobatic acts.”

Van Grunsven, a native from the Netherlands, began her career with Cirque in 2007 as the touring artistic director for Delirium, the company’s first arena show, and has since worked on the creation of the original show OVO, Quidam and now OVO’s 2016 refresh.

“It’s a refresh, but we like to call it a, ‘re-creation,’ because it really feels like a new creation almost,” Van Grunsven said. “So it’s vey exciting.”

Van Grunsven explained that the original show, which ran under the big top until 2015, was an intimate experience that wasn’t designed for the arena. The company began rethinking its development and changing it in 2014 in order to present its story to arena audiences.

“There was no absolute need to change it, but when we knew our show was going into the arena format, the vice president asked me, ‘Would it work the way it is now?’ and I said, ‘No, I think it would be an absolute disaster,'” Van Grunsven said with a laugh. “It’s a very intimate show; it’s a very familyoriented show. You want to feel close to it as an audience and the arenas are huge. ” Van Grunsven said she doesn’t want to give away many of the refreshing surprises, but a big change that she’s very excited about is the use of projections on a 64-by-30-foot wall to help draw the audience closer to the insect world.

“We’ve never had (this) before,” she said. “This is something quite remarkable; I’ve never seen anything like it. (The projections) are so beautiful. It brings you into the microcosm of the universe of the insects, which was the initial idea of this show—to bring the audience really close into the world of insects. And the projections, I think, are highly achieving that. It’s gorgeous.”

Van Grunsven mentioned that during the original tour of OVO, as well as on other tours, it’s tempting to think of new ideas and edits along the way, but it’s simply not feasible to change the show beyond minor edits because they don’t have the rehearsal hours on the road. This is one reason why it’s so satisfying to get to participate in a re-creation.

“This is the time to go as far as we can with our fantasy,” she said. “Here, because of the expertise of the people that work for this company, a company that’s known for picking the best of the best of the best, they make dreams come true. I have to remind myself of that. It’s been nine years that I’ve worked for this company and I’m still amazed what they can come up with. When an event comes to life with lighting and smoke and music and the artists, of course, it just looks like a beautiful, beautiful gift.”

In addition to adding new projections to the show, the team also adjusted some of the acrobatic acts for ones that were more “readable” for the arena. There are 50 performing artists total, and acts include foot-juggling ants, contortionist spiders, a hand-balancing dragonfly, and ten very energetic crickets on trampolines, to name a few. !


OVO will be at the Greensboro Coliseum, 1921 W. Gate City Blvd., April 20-24 for seven performances only. Tickets start at $35. For tickets and more information visit