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Local woman flies high: ‘Luzia’ Marymoor features Seattle’s McDonald

“Luzia” performers toss Adagio flyer Kelly McDonald through the air during a performance. The show will be at Marymoor Park through May 21. - Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil
“Luzia” performers toss Adagio flyer Kelly McDonald through the air during a performance. The show will be at Marymoor Park through May 21.
— image credit: Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

A Cirque du Soleil show at King County’s Marymoor Park near Redmond is not new.

But when Luzia opened Thursday, there was an added layer to the show’s run, which is through May 21. This is because it features a hometown performer.

Seattle native Kelly McDonald will be featured in “Luzia” as an Adagio flyer.

Having performed as a general acrobat in Franco Dragone’s production “Le Rêve” in Las Vegas, flying through the air is something McDonald has become accustomed to. But before she was doing it on stage, she was flying through the air in a different environment as a competitive gymnast.

McDonald got her start at the age of 5 at Seattle Gymnastics Academy. She switched clubs to Cascade Elite Gymnastics in Lynnwood, which later moved to Mountlake Terrace. McDonald stayed at that club until she graduated from Roosevelt High School in Seattle and then moved on to compete for the University of Washington Huskies.

She retired from competitive gymnastics in 2006 and started her stage career in Las Vegas the next year.

COMPETING VS. PERFORMING

There was a transition McDonald had to make going from competing to performing, as there were marked differences between the two.

She said as a competitive gymnast, she was restricted to rules and a code of points she had to follow. Any new skills she learned and mastered were assigned a point value.

In performing, there is more creativity and she could learn a new skill that does not have a name but would be connected to a specific emotion she is trying to convey. McDonald said performing is also different from competing because the latter is more individually-focused and the former is more collaborative as she works with others to create an entire scene.

Despite these differences, McDonald said there are some similarities such as the mental preparation she goes through such as visualizing her performance before a show. She added that her experience performing on stage has made her fall in love with gymnastics all over again as well.

Another difference McDonald has noted is the environment. A competitive environment stays pretty much the same, but while performing on stage, she has to take herself into a new world, as she could be performing in a jungle scene, in the desert or even in a different time period.

OF DREAMS AND INSPIRATION

“Luzia” will take audiences into the world of Mexico, as the show takes its inspiration from Mexican culture, landscapes and architectural wonders.

Mark Shaub, artistic director for “Luzia,” said the idea came from the show’s director, Daniele Pasca, who had lived in Mexico for 10 years and pitched the idea of a Mexican-inspired show to Cirque du Soleil.

Despite its source of inspiration, Shaub said the show is not a travelogue. He said while there is not really a storyline, “Luzia” does feature a main character as they go into his dream and follow his journey of discovery.

“A dream allows you a lot of flexibility in terms of storyline,” Shaub said.

Shaub said it takes about two years to plan and design a new Cirque du Soleil show. Performance artists like McDonald are not brought on board until about a year-and-a-half into the process. Once they have joined the show, the performers work to create the routines.

McDonald joined “Luzia,” which is currently in San Jose, in October 2015 and knew the show would be opening with a North American tour starting in Toronto. Then she learned the show would be coming to the Pacific Northwest.

“I was thrilled,” she said.

McDonald is excited to be doing the show in her hometown and performing for those who have helped her get to where she is today. She said with a smile that there will be a lot of family and friends there to support her on opening day.

Shaub joked that they extended the show’s run just for McDonald.

A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING

When asked about their favorite parts of the show, neither Shaub nor McDonald could pinpoint a particular scene or section. They both said the whole show was their favorite.

McDonald said there are high-energy group numbers as well as solo acts that “truly are breathtaking.”

“There’s nothing you don’t want to miss,” she said.

Like other Cirque du Soleil shows, “Luzia” features circus-style acts but showrunners have also added layers that they have never done before.

Shaub said the hoop divers are performing on a treadmill that moves back and forth, which “adds a new element” to the act.

McDonald added that in the swing-to-swing act, performers are on larger swings and so they are flying higher.

There is also an act featuring futbol, or soccer, which both Shaub and McDonald said is very Mexican.

In addition, Shaub said the show will feature rain, which is a technological achievement to have on a touring show consistently.

“That’s something we’ve never done in a Big Top show,” he said.

For ticket information, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.

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