Cirque du Soleil TOTEM

Alexandra Park, Auckland

22/08/2014 - 28/09/2014

Production Details

Cirque du Soleil is returning to Auckland with an all-new Big Top production! 

Cirque du Soleil is pleased to announce the long-awaited return of its trademark blue-and-yellow big top to Auckland this Spring with an all-new, awe-inspiring production. TOTEM, a fascinating journey into the evolution of mankind, will open on August 22, 2014 at Alexandra Park for a five week engagement.  No further extension is possible. 


Since its World Premiere in 2010, more than 2 million people worldwide have been mesmerized by the intimacy and beauty of TOTEM, winner of the 2013 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Unique Theatrical Experience. Featuring a cast of 46 acrobats, actors, musicians and singers, TOTEM is an uplifting array of athleticism, comedy, heartfelt emotions and surprising visual effects.

“…spectacular, artful. Breathtaking and deliciously ironic.” – The Toronto Star

“On a visual and aural level, TOTEM is one of Cirque’s most beautiful creations.” – The Globe and Mail

“This is one very sharp show. TOTEM is thrilling” – The New York Times

“This celebration of sheer human achievement and audience appreciation is simply thrilling. It’s why we love Cirque du Soleil, and always will.” – Los Angeles Times

Written and directed by multidisciplinary artist Robert Lepage, TOTEM traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly. The characters evolve on a stage evoking a giant turtle, the symbol of origin for many ancient civilizations.

Inspired by many founding myths, TOTEM illustrates, through a visual and acrobatic language, the evolutionary progress of species. Somewhere between science and legend TOTEM explores the ties that bind Man to other species, his dreams and his infinite potential.

TOTEM, a fascinating journey into the evolution of mankind: 
August 22 – September 28, 2014 at Alexandra Park, Auckland

Tickets are available to the general public at
or by phone on toll free 00800-154-80000 (12pm-10pm Monday-Friday).


To watch Robert Lepage’s official interview about the concept of TOTEM, visit

For more information, visit   

Stay connected with TOTEM on Twitter: @Cirque #TOTEM 

Follow TOTEM and Cirque du Soleil on: Facebook / Instagram / YouTube / Tumblr / Google + 

Cirque du Soleil gratefully acknowledges DHL and XEROX as the official sponsors of the TOTEM Auckland season.

About Cirque du Soleil

From a group of 20 street performers at its beginnings in 1984, Cirque du Soleil is a major Québec-based organization providing high-quality artistic entertainment. The company has 5,000 employees, including more than 1,300 artists from more than 50 different countries.

Cirque du Soleil has brought wonder and delight to more than 100 million spectators in more than 300 cities in over forty countries on six continents.

For more information about Cirque du Soleil, visit 

TOTEM Official Trailer – viewing copy 

Cirque Evolution

Review by James Wenley 28th Aug 2014

Theatre-types will be interested to know that Totem comes to Auckland via collaboration between Quebec’s Cirque Du Soleil (now celebrating their 30th year) and Quebec’s writer-director Robert Lepage. Theatre visionary Lepage, whose work Needles and Opium and The Andersen Project have toured to the Wellington and Auckland Festivals respectively, is known for fusion of technology and performance and transformative visual spectacle. Totem makes for a rich creative collision.

Breath-taking awe begins early: a sparkling silver spinner drops from the heavens above and a giant turtle shell is uncovered to reveal a skeletal frame housing creatures from a primordial stew. The creatures bounce and spin so quickly that their abilities do indeed appear non-human, their tongues flicking out to signal applause. 

This is a changing circus environment full of surprises, as incredible graphics, machinery, and good old stage tricks change the setting – from the beach to the moon – to suit the act. It’s certainly one of the most visually impressive shows I can claim to have seen, and that’s before even the performers, exquisitely costumed, are taken into account. [More


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Pure artistry and teamwork a delight from go to whoa

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 23rd Aug 2014

Being back in the Grand Chapiteau for Cirque Du Soleil’s latest extravaganza to reach our shores is a fully immersive and totally satisfying experience. Totem is a visual powerhouse which takes the audience on an effortless journey of expected world-class production artistry and astounding themed performances, as mankind’s evolution is played out, Cirque-style.

Totem also features an internal evolution in a way, as more than a sprinkle of satire is spread throughout the artistic mix. Cirque Du Soleil artists always communicate fully with their incredible physical skill – plus there is the frivolity of the lovable pre show characters, who revisit us throughout the night.

Here, we all fall in love with Valentino and his elastic legs, plus Clown Misha with his deadpan stare and ping-pong magic. But in Totem, this sophisticated play spreads into the main acts’ body language and facial expression, courtesy of legendary writer and director Robert Lepage, working alongside the collaborative minds of Artistic Guide Gilles Ste-Croix and Director of Creation Neilson Vignola, all overseen by Guide and Founder, Guy Laliberte. 

These detailed directives enhance my enjoyment of Totem: in particular the intensity and powerful gaze of the Amerindian Dancers / Hoops Dancers; the cheeky sass of the Rings Trio (all with impressive 6-packs); the relationship between the Scientist and his hairy side-kick; plus the mesmerising interplay of the highly skilled Fixed Trapeze Duo, who seem to redefine the laws of kinetic energy. Their performance is the most enjoyable Cirque duo I’ve seen in years.

Some acts need no dramatic embellishment as they are breath-taking for their simple skill, such as the consistent spin of the Foot Jugglers; the timing of the Devil Sticks or the astounding strength of the Hand Balancing. 

Totem is a delight from go to whoa, but I have 5 favourite moments:

First, the ‘it just should not be possible and yet they do it with ease’ moment goes to the Unicycles and Bowls act. The timing and control alone are impressive, but the fact that they do it with grace and style while constantly on the move is unbelievable. 

Totem’s depiction of artistic science – or scientific art – through the unique act Manipulation, in which an array of giant test tubes and other lab accessories become percussion instruments, gives me plenty to think about. The scientist attempts to quantify life through boxes and symmetry; and then control the expanding universe within his own giant cone of science.   

The transition vignettes are always amazing in a Cirque show. Totem’s crowning moment would have to be the well-suited line of monkey business, which closes the first half.  

If I describe the Roller Skates act as, “American Indian lovers arrive in a canoe dressed in white Lycra, tassels and roller skates”, it sounds garish and awkward. Yet the duo is amazing as they spin on a small drum with awesome precision and speed. 

Finally, the concentration on the men’s faces as they hold the Russian Bars, as the jumpers flip and leap from one to the other, is a reminder that trust, timing and teamwork underpin everything Cirque does.

The music of Totem is exceptional. Composers and Musical Directors Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard (aka Bob & Bill) have my toes tapping from the start, but my appreciation soon evolves into foot thumping, whooping, clapping and at times it’s hard not to jump up and dance in the aisles. The beats seem inspired by the best of Spanish plus Latin and North American Indian rhythms, with melodies intertwined with deep overtone singers plus driving percussion that sound designer Jacques Boucher delivers to my ears in perfect waves.  

For the first time in a Cirque show I hear a section performed a cappella, which is joyful. The musicians take centre stage at the top of the second half and are as tight and inspiring as the Gypsy Kings, with every note crystal clear. Again, I applaud loudly.  

Bob & Bill’s score is tangible and their musical stylings offer the perfect audio complement to each scene. I hear phrases reminiscent of ‘Mission Impossible’ by Lalo Schifrin during the opening act; a cheeky cameo appearance by John Williams’ ‘Jaws’ during Clown Misha’s fishing scene, plus tapestries of ‘Habanera’ from the opera Carmen by Bizet during his cute ping-pong solo; and finally, shades of the Doctor Who theme tune by Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire during the Russian Bars. 

For anyone heading to their first Cirque show, do make sure you are seated 15 minutes before the advertised start time, to give yourself time to take in the scale and technical mastery of the rig. I love watching the highly skilled follow spot operators climb into position then run through their pre show checks. The detail and precision of a Cirque show is incredible. Plus the pre show vibe from the roaming characters, is always fun. In Totem, Valentino and Clown Misha lead the way.

The combined visions of Lighting Designer Etienne Boucher and Projection Content Designer Pedro Pires transform the Grand Chapiteau from aquatic wonderlands to sky-high horizons and back again, while Sound Designer Jacques Boucher enhances the vision with just the right sound effect and perfect audio level, every time. 

Set and Props Designer Carl Fillion’s back drop of over sized reeds provide the perfect home for the amazing musicians; and his mechanical arm, which rises up like a scorpion at times and at one stage becomes a jet boat, is genius.  

It is impossible to single out one act that showcases Costume Designer Kym Barrett and Make Up designer Nathalie J Simard’s artistry more than another, as the entire cast is exquisitely dressed and presented. Though I did love Barrett’s nod to Daft Punk at the end. 

Add in the mastery of Pierre Masse’s Acrobatic Equipment and Rigging Design, the dynamic moves of Choreographer Jeffrey Hall and Acrobatic Performance Design of Florence Pot, and the result is pure art.   

The opening act is the perfect Cirque-team showcase: Bars (Carapace) features a giant turtle shell, a perfectly executed Kabuki reveal, smoothly descending-ascending luminary The Crystal Man, followed by the shell itself; the extraordinary sounds created by all musicians plus the agility of the stunningly costumed amphibious artists.

10-year-old Ella’s summary is:
“The ladies with the bowls, on tall uni-cycle poles, are amazing. Sometimes the acts are so incredible that I get scared, thinking about what might go wrong. But nothing goes wrong. Everyone is awesome. The monkeys are really funny. I especially like the evolution monkeys, plus the monkey who is kind to the scientist and the two mad monkeys with long arms that interrupt the dancers.

“It’s cool the way the clown uses mime to talk to us. It makes me feel really involved in the show. I love the way everything moves from act to act. There’s always something to look at. I think Valentino is my favourite character but then again, they all are. Totem makes me think about what you can do in your life if you work as a team, because none of those people could’ve done what they did on their own.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.


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