5 Things I Learned at Cirque du Soleil Tonight

We were P 11 and 12 for the dress rehearsal of Ovo in Atlanta tonight. We are not Cirque du Soliel novices; we expected contortions and clowns, a unique language and bizarre music.

And, in addition to that great entertainment I picked up five valuable learning points:

1- Reaction could take a few repeats.

Six girls with kiwis ran out and began to do amazing things. (I know, that sentence sounds bizarre, but it was Cirque!) They completed amazing thing number one without an audience reaction, and morphed smoothly into more amazing thing number two. A few audience noises--not much--and they moved to totally amazing thing number three. Still not much noise from seats, but that changed with number four.

Good for us they didn't need instant validation to go to the second part.

Good reminder not to stop at one, or two, or three if I'm not getting roaring applause.

2- There are new things. Things that haven't been done. and you could do them.

As a repeat visitor I kinda-sorta thought I'd seen most every way the human body could contort. Not! Watching the girl with the silks brought an awe response from everyone.

There are ne ideas to think.

You (and I) could think and do them.

3- Use tone and rhythm and gesture and movement with purpose. 

Several years ago John Molidor showed me that the common conception about Mehrabian's research is wrong . . . and at breakfast a year ago he pointed me to Mehrabian's own website for clarification. The misinterpretation is that 70% of meaning is communicated without words. Not true. It's 70% of liking that is communicated non-verbally.

Tonight I watched several hundred people follow meaning without understanding a single word. Well, we knew what WOW! meant. It was a reminder that even though the misconception is wrong . . . it's still right. Those bits do send meaning, and they can be interpreted.

4- Professionals practice. A lot. And then some more.

Recently I was interviewed for a book about professional speaking. The interviewer asked if I was a "from the hip" speaker, and I replied that I don't know any professional who is. The interviewer persisted with questions about practice making a speaker appear stilted, and tonight's Cirque performance proved to me that doesn't happen.

There is no doubt these gymnasts were well practiced, and then a little more.

And it was that level of confidence that allowed performers who were (spoiler deleted) to turn and smile at the audience with enjoyment.

5- It's okay to start before you're ready.

If you've seen a couple of Cirque shows you may have already picked up on the pattern, but it didn't click for me until tonight.

There is a loudspeaker announcement that the show will be starting in 15 minutes; then another in 5. But you know how people are, they wait, and que, and that causes delays.

Cirque has a system for that. On time, when they say it will, the show starts with performers mingling among the seats. (Tonight actors with butterfly nets were trying to catch other actors waving butterflies. You kinda had to be there.)

So while our attention was on the show, and the lights were still up, stragglers were seated without being disrespectful to people who were in their seats before showtime.

For every problem there is a solution.
Professionals invent it, and practice it, and enjoy it,
and we beat a path to their door to show our respect
with patronage.

Bravo Cirque du Soleil.

Photo courtesy of Derek Key