I’m supposed to be talking with Montreal-based contortionist Leilani Franco about the new Cirque Eloize show, iD, which opens at the Sony Centre this week, but I can’t seem to get her to focus on the interview. Instead, she has commandeered my laptop and is busily flipping through Facebook, looking for photos of hot guys.
“Oh my God, you have got to see his abs!” she squeals as she clicks from page to page. The abs in question belong to Fletcher Sanchez, one of her co-performers in the piece. Before we actually delve into talking about the show, she has insisted I see one of the troupe’s most physically gifted members. Eventually, she finds a pic that displays Sanchez in all his semi-nude glory. Yup, those are some pretty spectacular abs.
“There are some seriously hot guys in this company,” Franco says. “Circus performance requires people to be in really good physical condition, so you’ll get to see some impressive bodies on display.”
“I’m the only girl in the company who’s available,” she adds. “I haven’t hooked up with any of the guys from the group yet, but we’ll see what happens on tour.”
iD features Franco and Sanchez, along with eight other nubile young circus performers whose special skills include juggling, break dancing, trampoline, aerial silks and something called “The Chinese Pole.”
“It’s sort of like a stripper pole that you can do acrobatics on,” she says. “You need to have really strong abs to do it, so that’s one of Fletcher’s specialties.”
Created by the company in collaboration with director Jeannot Painchaud, the show brings the audience into the streets of a futuristic city, with an original hip-hop influenced electronic music score and a barrage of video projections pulled from science-fiction film, comic books and graffiti.
The show is made up of a series of loosely woven vignettes that are suggestive of West Side Story, though not a literal retelling.
“Thematically, the show is exploring identity, so the director wanted all of the performers to bring their own unique thing to the piece,” she says. “Each of us has a sort of character in the show as well as our specific physical abilities, but there isn’t really a story.”
“My character was pretty easy to figure out,” she adds. “I’m really flirty in real life, so I ended up being the whore of the village.”
Despite all the sexiness on-stage, Franco is quick to point out that the piece will appeal to a wide range of audiences.
“The director wanted the show to be able to play in a lot of different markets, so it’s actually very family-friendly,” she says. “I kept trying to make my character more sexual and then he would calm me down. It’s a show that appeals to a lot of different people: children who want to see crazy stunts and adults who want to see hot bodies.”
The formula has certainly worked for the company so far. Since it was founded in 1993, Cirque Eloize has given more than 4,000 performances in 375 cities. Franco has been with the company for just over three years now and has spent a considerable part of that time on the road. So what kinds of antics do a group of really hot 20-something get up to on tour?
“We get drunk a lot,” laughs Franco. “We were in Holland a while ago, and the whole group decided to take mushrooms one night. About half of us went out to walk around in this park called The Magical Forest. The rest of us stayed in the hotel room and listened to classical music for nine hours straight.”