Josianne Levasseur is living out her hoop dreams.
You probably played with a hula hoop as a child. Ever think about riding inside it instead of having it ride around you?
That's what performer Josianne Levasseur does in iD, the new Cirque Eloize production that opens the refurbished Sony Centre, celebrating its 50th-anniversary season (see sidebar, this page).
The device - think of bracing yourself, hands and feet, inside a large hoop that spins around the stage - is actually called the Cyr wheel, designed and named for former company member Daniel Cyr.
"It was built for me and is as tall as I am," says the 5-foot-2 Levasseur, who's been with the company for the past decade and here gets to perform her first solo act. "The spinning is the easy part. I just have to be sure to use my body as a counterweight to do all the routine's moves. If the wheel were bigger than I am, I wouldn't be able to balance inside it."
The show, a blend of acrobatics and projections, has an urban setting. It's been described as a mashup of West Side Story and hip-hop circus.
"There's not a detailed story, but the audience gets the sense of two opposing gangs, each of which is trying to express itself differently," notes Levasseur, a former gymnast who was turned on to acrobatic circus work when she saw Cirque du Soleil on TV.
"My character doesn't like fights or confrontations, but she has a sister in the rival gang with whom she's reunited at the end."
She's impressed by the production's video, which she describes as a blend of "a cartoon vision of street people and images from a video game."
And if the Cyr wheel didn't give Levasseur enough of a workout, she's also one of the performers in the TrampoWall sketch, which suggests - with the help of an invisible trampoline - that the characters are walking up and down a wall.
As exhilarating as it is to work with, does the Cyr wheel, which she always assembles herself, have its drawbacks?
"Yes," admits Levasseur with a smile. "It took me a while to learn to lift my fingers so I didn't roll over them. In the beginning, I had lots of bruised knuckles."