Since the first performance of KÀ took place over a decade ago, the underlying theme of overcoming tragedy has been beautifully executed by the 80 dedicated artists who bring the production to life every night. However, even though the emotional plot was revived nightly and the scripted defeat was triumphed on stage time and time again, once the final curtain dropped all of the storyline’s woes and victories were washed away with the performers’ stage makeup until the next show.
This was the routine, the act. It was not until the first fatal accident in Cirque du Soleil’s 30-year history took place on the KÀ stage that, for the first time, those aforementioned woes did not wash away with the performers’ painted-on expressions.
On June 29, 2013, a tragic accident during the “Battle” scene resulted in the death of KÀ cast member Sarah Guyard-Guillot, an acrobat from Paris, France.
Though many presumptions have been publicized about the cause of the accident, Cirque du Soleil Vice President of Resident Shows Calum Pearson explained that despite public reports, the root of the accident was not solely the result of human error, rather, it was various elements that ultimately led Guyard-Guillot’s wire to be severed by a sharp edge it should have never come into contact with.
Immediately following the accident, multiple, in-depth forensic investigations concluded the exact events that resulted in the performer’s death and through the rigorous examinations, Cirque du Soleil has implemented new technology for the “Battle” scene, designed to create new safety protocols and enhance the confidence of artists.
“The potential risks have been addressed and the entire cast and crew have worked extremely hard to bring ‘Battle’ back to KÀ,” Pearson explained. “After months of preparation, intense rehearsals and implementation of new technology and choreography, we look forward to reinstating this iconic scene into live performances.”
But while massive measures were taken to reconstruct the act’s safety protocol, there was also a great deal of mental rehabilitation that took place amongst the show’s cast in order to address individual needs relating to the tragic loss of a friend and co-worker as well as to the performers’ individual and group confidence to return to performing at their peak ability.
Marc-Antoine Picard, KÀ artist and act captain for “Battle,” took to his mentorship role and aided the KÀ team through the trying time after the accident. “It was a very long journey,” Picard explains. “We suffered together, that’s what we did so I feel that the team tightened up together as a clan way more than before because we suffered together and we’re a family – we see each other every day and I could really feel supported by everybody.”
Having overcome great devastation and even growing closer as a team since the accident, the 13 acrobats involved in “Battle,” as well as everyone else involved in the production, are excited to reintegrate the new and improved pivotal storyline scene back into the show nightly beginning Dec. 12, 2015.
“When something like that happens, you grow up so much as a human being,” said Picard. “I think that’s what everybody should do with experience because everything has the tendency to go back to calm, to go back to happiness and now that I went back to calm and happiness, I feel free to perform again.”