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May 9, 2024

The Australian gymnasts bringing Cirque du Soleil home

As international entertainment company Cirque du Soleil prepares to bring its show Luzia to Adelaide, two star performers are back on home soil.

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  • Words: Isabella Kelly
  • Photos: supplied

Nelson Smyles and Helena Merten, both from Australia, have been performing in the Luzia show since 2017, and now they’re bringing it home for the first time.


Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia
June 9 to July 7
Adelaide Showground
Goodwood Road, Wayille 5034


“I haven’t found a sentence that can sum up perfectly how it feels…there’s no words for it,” Nelson told CityMag.

“It feels like it is very full circle, from watching the show as a kid and then being there on stage, seeing the audience and seeing the reverse…you feel like you’ve finally made it,” Helena added.

“Even though I’ve been on the show for a while it really feels like, oh, I’ve finally achieved my dream.”

Cirque du Soleil’s 38th original production, Luzia aims to take audiences on a journey to the bustling streets of Mexico, through a combination of light (luz, in Spanish) and rain (Iluvia).

In a first for a touring production from the company, the show heavily incorporates water into the performance, whether it’s appearing as rain on trapeze performers or showering down in the shape of animals.

The 10,000 litres of water used during the performance are all recycled for the entire duration of the show’s run at any city. It is filtered, disinfected, and maintained constantly at 39 degrees Celsius.

Nelson and Helena say the implementation of water in gymnastic performing had initially posed a new challenge.

“I didn’t think about it until you do slip and it’s like, oh yeah! But it’s beautiful more than anything,” Nelson says.

Helena told CityMag that the show developers had thought of everything from a special type of shoe to help performers grip, to putting a rubber tire around the wheels performers roll around in on the stage.

The wheel and trapeze make up one of her favourite acts in the show.

“Not to spoil it too much, but it’s when we first see the rain curtain, and it’s very like, lady power,” she says.

“It’s all females on the stage, and it’s in like an arid desert, the lighting, the way the stage moves, and the way that the girls are going around.

“It looks very poetic and surreal, and the way that the light is done. But Luzia is like that, it’s very dreamy – you get lost in it.”

The travelling show takes 99 containers and 124 people around the world, with the performance taking place under a big top circus tent, a set up process which takes seven days and 6000 hours of work.

“The big top show is such an amazing environment to perform in, because you’re so close to the audience and its so up close and personal, you really get the energy from the audience and we obviously get to give it to them very close,” Helena says.

“Even just the music, the sound, and the popcorn smell when you’re walking through, it’s all like a big dream to be performing there every night.

“You think about doing other things but really there is just nothing better.”

Cirque du Soleil is celebrating its 25th year in Australia this year.

Luzia’s Adelaide season will run from June 9 to July 7 at the Wayville Showground.

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