It’s out of this world!
An alien planet will emerge from the movies and invade Brooklyn during eight performances of “Toruk: The First Flight” at Barclays Center, starting on Sept. 7. The high-flying Cirque du Soleil acrobatic troupe created the show, inspired by the James Cameron sci-fi flick “Avatar,” which dazzled audiences with its blue-skinned aliens and special effects. In a similar fashion, the immersive spectacle at Barclays will use projected visuals, puppetry, and stagecraft to transport audiences to another world, said one performer.
“It’s really unique in how we’re combing technology and the visuals,” said Jessica Ward, an acrobat whose performance will include an aerial rope number, dancing with sprawling flora fans, and soaring through the arena on a giant kite. “It’s something different and it’s nice to help people get away from the world and be part of something completely different, at least for a couple of hours.”
The spectacle, set 3,000 years before the events of the film, involves no humans — just the Na’vi, a race of blue-skinned cat-people who inhabit the lush jungle moon of Pandora. To help pull audiences into the vibrant alien world, the arena is treated like a giant movie screen, with a projection surface more than five times the size of a standard Imax screen, said Ward. In one scene, waves projected among the audience crash onto the stage, while in another, a starry sky turns the arena into an upside-down planetarium.
“It becomes this really massive world and the whole space is transformed into lush forests,” said Ward.
Puppeteers breathe life into the world’s exotic fauna, including the dragon-like Toruk of the title, which has a 40-foot wing span and requires six puppeteers to maneuver. Packs of six-legged viperwolves, herds of direhorses, and bioluminescent woodsprites also dart across the stage to create a living, breathing environment.
Some effects are synced to the performers’ movements, including a bioluminescent trail that forms as they meander through the forest. The show requires a blend of multiple art forms, said one director.
“It’s the language of film applied to the performing arts,” said Victor Pilon, co-multimedia stage director. “And we alternate between large-scale, spectacular effects and more intimate moments that evoke emotion.”
Making the world feel intimate and real requires great attention to detail. The different shades of blue in the body suits reflect different families of the Na’vi, for instance, and the performers spend a painstaking amount of time applying makeup in order to transform into the alien beings, Ward revealed.
“It’s really tough, it takes me about an hour. When I started it took me two,” said Ward. “It’s all those details that really add up to make the show.”
“Toruk: The First Flight” at Barclays Center (620 Atlantic Ave. at Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Heights, (917) 618–6100, www.barcl
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