Rockette Lindsay and Mystere Dancer Arnaud

March 18, 2009

Making Up

Arnaud spends hours transforming into the Green Lizard.

During the past month, Arnaud Bertrand’s gig as the Green Lizard in Cirque du Soleil’s Mystère has meant whipping through two shows a night, five days a week. Through the grueling schedule, he has more to worry about than just pointing his toes and keeping on cue.

For each performance, Arnaud (along with the entire Mystère cast) has to perfectly apply elaborate makeup to complete his transformation into a surreal creature. The preparation begins hours before each show and is nearly as complex as the Green Lizard’s modern-based choreography.

Cirque du Soleil’s makeup designer, Nathalie Gagne, designed the colorful look for the Green Lizard, as well as the faces for all of Cirque’s shows since 1995. During Arnaud’s initial Cirque training in 2003 in Montreál, he knew a complex process lay ahead when Gagne handed him a 53-page booklet detailing Cirque’s makeup techniques. Makeup assistants are on hand backstage to help new performers, but the majority of the cast is responsible for applying their makeup alone.

Arnaud makes sure he eats before applying his makeup, which includes a blended base of green, blue and white creams with penciled red details around the mouth and eyes. “The process was very difficult for me,” he explains. “At first, it took two hours to apply my makeup. Now, the whole process takes me an hour.”

Arnaud typically arrives at the theater two hours before curtain. After makeup, he spends the rest of the time warming up and getting into costume. With just over a year in Mystère under his belt, Arnaud has his pre-performance ritual down to an art, which lets him concentrate on delivering a razor-sharp performance for hundreds of audience members each night. –Lisa Arnett

Taking the Stage

Lindsay settles into the season at Radio City.

On November 24, 2004, the Radio City Rockettes in Lindsay Howe’s cast traded their rigorous rehearsal schedule for an equally demanding performance schedule, with an average of three 90-minute shows danced a day. Even though this is her second year dancing in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Lindsay was a little jittery. “I’m just glad to get over those first nerves,” she says. “Opening night was so surreal.”

The intense rehearsal period before opening night served as a major stamina boost that helped get her body in gear. “We rehearsed seven hours a day, six days a week,” says Lindsay. A typical day began with a 5- to 10-minute warm-up led by the director, John Dietrich. “We learned the entire show in four days or so, and then we worked on cleaning it,” Lindsay says.

All of the pieces are mapped out in great detail and stored in master binders for dance captains and assistant dance captains to reference as needed. Each dancer is assigned a letter based on height for each piece. If a dancer forgets where she’s supposed to go in a section, a captain can look up her letter. “I am always in the L, M, N, O range, but I have a different letter for each [piece],” says Lindsay. “They want to make sure that our heights match sitting and standing, so in the numbers where we sit, like ‘Reindeer,’ I move up in the line because my torso is longer.”

With such a grueling schedule, it’s tough to stay energized. “I drink a lot of Red Bull,” she says. “Different people have different ways of doing it. In our dressing room, we turn on Britney Spears to get our energy level up before the third show.” (The 40 dancers in the cast are divided across five rooms.)

Lindsay is also happy to report that her knees, which were bothering her before rehearsals began, are doing well so far thanks to a biweekly Pilates regimen that includes private sessions on a Reformer. “My goal is to stay healthy, fit and uninjured,” she says.