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First Look: Costumes for Cirque du Soleil's 'Iris' are part of the spectacle

June 16, 2011 |  7:58 pm

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A private audience got a sneak peek Thursday at L.A.’s first exclusive Cirque du Soleil residency show, "Iris: A Journey Through the World of Cinema," scheduled to open July 21 at the Kodak Theatre.

The aerialists, acrobats, artists and dancers were tasked with bringing the history of cinema to life in true Cirque du Soleil style via movement, sound, small bursts of dialogue and, most colorfully, their costumes.

Award-winning French costume designer Philippe Guillotel did extensive research into the history of film to come up with the concepts that his team of more than 250 cutters, textile designers and seamstresses brought to reality.

"It took me three years to do my homework for this project," he said. "Normally, I can do it in two, but this time it took longer. I watched a lot of movies: 'Dick Tracy,' Charlie Chaplin's first movie, [Georges] Melies films and the first movies made with the Edison machines. I saw a lot."

The "Dick Tracy" influence was as clear as the smoke in the mock machine guns in the action and crime chapter of the show. Mobsters donned plaid suits in red, yellow and blue, jumping off buildings into hidden trampolines, all while shooting at their targets. Thankfully and magically, there was no blood.

Some film references had to be kept to a minimum so as not to infringe on copyright. Guillotel said the audience will note the hand of a creature that will remind them a lot of King Kong. But the giant ape himself will be absent from the show.

Praxinoscope_0089 copy The designer's favorite part of putting together costumes for this show was creating the man-machine hybrids.  One character boasts a skirt inspired by the Praxinoscope. If you look closely, you will see two boxers fighting as the skirt twirls. "That skirt was a tribute to the old moving picture machines," he said. "I also had a character that came out of the stage dressed as one of the first sound machines used to detect the sound of bombs in the war."

Don’t mistake it for a flower like this journalist did.

Guillotel used a combination of fabrics including Lycra and silk. However, he stressed that the fabric was not as important as the body that it adorned. "You can design the best costume in the world, but if the dancer or the acrobat doesn’t know how to wear it, it's no good," he said. "The Cirque dancers have the most beautiful bodies, so I try to show them off to the maximum."

This is evident in the aerialists whose costumes were inspired by early 20th century corsets and in the tribute the show makes to the films of the Roman era. Guillotel said the muscles of the dancers would most definitely be showcased in those scenes.

Preview performances begin July 21. For more info, visit


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-- Raha Lewis

Photos: From top, a scene from the Dick Tracy sequence; the Praxinoscope. Credit: Mark Dulong / Cirque du Soleil