Flying High at the Oscars

How would you like to perform acrobatic dance routines in front of Hollywood A-listers while the rest of America watches from their couches? For Bruce Weber, dance captain of the Cirque du Soleil show Iris that performed at this year’s Academy Awards, it’s all in a day’s work. Weber, who majored in dance at Point Park University and danced with Springboard in Montreal before being discovered by a Cirque scout, tells DS about what it was like to dance in one of the year’s most high-profile shows. --Gretchen Schmid

Dance Spirit: What was it like to perform in front of so many celebrities?

Bruce Weber: We actually knew beforehand who was going to be sitting where, because there were pictures of all the actors and actresses on the chairs. During the show we weren’t thinking about them because everything goes so fast, but afterwards we looked out and there were all of these talented and famous people standing and clapping for us. It was completely overwhelming and amazing.

DS: Wow! Did you get to meet any of them?

BW: Billy Crystal gave us a hello and a wave, and at one point I was really close to Gwyneth Paltrow! It was hard to talk to them because of the tight security, but everyone backstage was really nice.

DS: You usually perform Iris at the Kodak Theatre, where the Academy Awards are held. How was this different from any other show?

BW: The Kodak Theatre is our home, and usually we have dressing rooms. For the Oscars we were kicked out of them. The only place we had was the dance studio.

DS: In the show, are there separate dancers and acrobats, or does each person do a little bit of both?

BW: For both Iris and the Oscar performance, there is a group for each specialty--dancers and acrobats. Occasionally, there is a crossover if a performer is able to do both. For instance, two of the dancers in the Oscar performance are "hand to hand" acrobats in Iris. As the dance captain I primarily deal with the dancers, but I'm responsible for some of the choreography in the acrobatics sections, too.

DS: What are your responsibilities as dance captain?   

BW: Being a dance captain means that I manage all of the dancers, try to keep the integrity of the choreographers' movement, work closely with the creators and keep everyone in check!

DS: As a dancer, what was your favorite part of the Oscar routine?

BW: I love the long finale--it’s high-energy and full of acrobatic tricks. Plus, I love fast, crazy choreography! But the most memorable part was  sitting in the chairs onstage and looking out at the audience.

DS: Do you have any advice for readers that are interested in joining Cirque du Soleil?

BW: Make yourself known. There are so many dancers that want to be a part of this company, so you need to keep in touch with casting, update your file periodically and persistently let the Cirque agents know that you're available and interested. Also, you need to be as well-rounded as possible. Take as many different classes as you can. The more styles you're proficient in, the more valuable you are.

Click here to watch the cast of Iris perform at the Academy Awards.

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