A dancer shares her experiences as a cast member of The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil.
By Linda Badger of Dance Informa.
Canadian Laura Cota has been living her dream for the last five years. Performing for The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil at The Mirage in Las Vegas, she has been part of the production’s ensemble cast and has even had the chance to be featured in a few of the major dance roles and understudy the character role of Lady Madonna. Currently, Cota serves as the dance captain for the wonderful cast of dancers in LOVE.
Dance Informa recently had the chance to interview Cota. She shared her dance background, what the audition process was like for Cirque, what her daily routine looks like and why she loves her job.
Firstly, tell us a little bit about yourself, your initial training and what previous experiences you had prior to joining the cast of LOVE.
“Originally from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, I had a passion for dance from a very young age. I trained from the age of four in ballet, jazz, tap and acrobatic dance. I attended Cawthra Park [High School for the Performing Arts] and won the coveted award of America’s Dancer of the Year at the American Dance Awards in Boston.
I got my first professional dance gig immediately after graduating from high school, as a featured dancer for Tokyo Disney. I then went on to complete a few contracts with various cruise lines. In Toronto, I was a company member of the Helix Dance Project Company for Linda Garneau, a dance company which is mainly rooted in modern dance. I also had a cameo appearance as a dancer in Save the Last Dance Part II and Degrassi High – Next Generation.”
What was the audition process like for you? Did you originally audition specifically for this show, or did you do a general audition?
“I did not specifically audition for LOVE. I sent an audition tape in to Cirque du Soleil that showed all of my skills. I was then invited to a private audition in Montreal, which was a five-hour drive from home. The audition was two days, each day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The audition consisted of many different styles of dance, from ballet to hip-hop. The audition also had a large portion of improvisation and acting, to get to know each dancer as an individual. After that it was a waiting game. Cirque du Soleil took time to determine which show best suited me, based on what they had seen in those two days.”
Any tips to making it into the company?
“From my experience, I feel that being versatile is a big part of being accepted into the company. By that, I mean being well rounded in many styles of dance. Sure, there are specific acts in the show that are very style-specific… but I found that my versatility got me here, and has kept me growing in the company. In our show, there are at least five different styles of dance.”
What does your daily routine look like, and how many hours a day do you rehearse?
“My daily routine at work differs every day. Every day I have a different schedule here at LOVE, depending on what needs to be maintained in the show. Normally, I will arrive at work by 3:30 p.m., put together the show lineup for all of the dancers, then attend the trainings that I’m needed for. Next, I will stretch or work out with a trainer until it is time to put on my makeup for the show.”
Being an elite performer of such a demanding job, do you have a set diet and alternative training regime on top of rehearsals for the show?
“I try my best to eat as healthy as possible. Here at LOVE we are definitely expected to maintain our bodies. We have a trainer that helps us do just that. Normally I will sign up to train every other day. We have a great facility backstage to train and work out to keep in shape.”
What was your initial training for Cirque like, and how did it differ from your original training?
“My initial training with Cirque was not in Las Vegas. It was in Montreal. I arrived in Montreal and learned my makeup concept for the show during the first week. I never thought I was going to understand the process, but just like anything else, practice makes perfect. Then the dance coach (which is not part of the on-stage cast) arrived in Montreal, and for the whole second week I learned the dance routines that I needed to perform in the show. After the two weeks in Montreal, I flew to Las Vegas and began to rehearse on the LOVE stage with all my other fellow performers.
Dancing and training for LOVE was very different from all of my previous training because the stage in the LOVE theatre was the most complex stage I have ever worked on. I couldn’t just worry about what dance routines I was responsible for. I had to be aware of absolutely everything around me.”
From your observation and/or experience, what tricks/skill sets are the most taxing? Do you do any cross training into the other skills?
“I wouldn’t say that it’s the tricks/skill sets that are most taxing, I would say it is maintaining all of the skill sets for 10 shows a week and staying consistent in all 10 performances. 10 shows a week is one of the most demanding parts of the job.
The great thing about LOVE… So many different people hold a wide variety of skills, we always have the opportunity to cross train and learn from each other. Cirque du Soleil is always offering classes and workshops to help me expand my art.”
What is the best or most interesting/unique thing about being involved in Cirque?
“Personally, I think the most interesting/unique thing about Cirque is that every day I’m surrounded by the best talent from all over the world. How many people can say that?!
It’s also very unique to see how many different styles of dance, gymnastics, acrobatics, aerial, and etc. can be mixed together to make such a magical show.”
What is the company vibe like, with so many different cultures involved in the one show?
“There are so many different cultures here, more than you would even think. Regardless of that, it’s such an amazing vibe. We are a family here. We respect each other very much, no matter where we all come from. We spend so much time together that this is our home away from home.”
Do you plan to continue performing for Cirque du Soleil?
“Of course! For as long as Cirque du Soleil will have me!!!”
Photo (top): Finale of The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil. Photo by Richard Termine. Photos courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.