Michael Bergeron
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Toruk extends Avatar saga

Toruk extends Avatar saga
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There’s a new Na’vi in town. A new Cirque du Soleil show, Toruk – The First Flight comes to Houston (Toyota Center) for seven shows starting Thursday, February 11 through Sunday, February 14, 2016.

Toruk explores the world of James Cameron’s Avatar with an eye placed on design, production, over 20,000 square feet of projection screens (including projections that swell out into the audience), and puppetry along with the dazzling gymnastics of Cirque du Soleil performers. “While it’s based on the idea of Cameron’s Avatar the show stands on its own,” says Dustin Walston to Free Press Houston. “Toruk occurs 3000 years before the events in the film. The characters and the ideas and the planet all come from the movie but the storyline is not connected to the movie you saw or the sequels coming out.”22871_TORUK-IMG_8220_ORIGINAL

Walston, a native Texan, has been performing since 2010 first as a troupe member of Il Circo, and for the last few years with Cirque du Soleil. “The show has five different tribes, each tribe has a specialty they’re known for,” explains Walston.

“For instance, there’s a tribe of weavers, and there’s a giant loom apparatus that they climb on.” Each tribe has a distinct personality. “The viperwolfs, those dark creatures that look like panthers, expect to see those. And there are some new characters that you haven’t seen yet,” says Walston referring to creatures like an austrapede, a cross between a pink flamingo and a dinosaur, or a turtapede, a creature that combines a turtle with a shark.

Walston’s first show with Cirque du Soleil was in Las Vegas on a Chris Angel show. “Cirque du Soleil first got together with Angel about six years ago on Halloween, that was their first foray into magic,” says Walston. “Angel brought a nice rock ‘n roll feel to being an illusionist,” says Walston adding, “The magic industry is a very tight community and they choose not to share their secrets.”22509_IMG_7289_ORIGINAL

Anyone having seen a Cirque du Soleil act knows that the athleticism is beyond belief. First is the actual physical strength itself. “You have to do workouts and training,” says Walston. “There’s a side of the regimen I call maintenance – making sure that the secondary muscles are conditioned. Pilates or yoga help build the supporting muscles. For me I do a workout with weights, and then follow that with a supplemental workout of conditioning. I spend about two hours a day, not including the show,” says Walston.22879_TORUK-IMG_7758_ORIGINAL

“Many of the people cast in Cirque du Soleil have world champion status,” says Walston. “Cirque looks for a combination of artistic talent as well as competition accolades. In the last show I was in we had 11 Olympians.”

Walston starting his training at age 15. “My sport was trampoline and tumbling. If you’re doing all around gymnastics like you see in the Olympics it’s very important to start early.”

Toruk began its North American tour last month in Bossier City, Louisiana and continues through 2016. At this point, Houston is the only Texas show listed on the schedule.

— Michael Bergeron