Zara Tellander

INTERVIEW

What was your biggest artistic achievement prior to joining Cirque du Soleil?

I did 7 years of full time music studies in Sweden where I completed a Master’s Degree from Gothenburg Music University. After graduating I worked as a freelance singer in different ensembles and as a soloist, as well as working as a singing teacher.

On top of performing, I also wrote and arranged music for my ensembles, my students and myself. I have done radio recordings, appeared on TV, did many live gigs and in 1998 I recorded a CD with the vocal trio “Envisa".

I have also taken courses in Improv Theatre. In 2000 I took lessons at the “Loose Moose Theatre Summer School" in Calgary, Canada. I also performed with an improv theatre ensemble in Sweden for a couple of years.

  • Zara Tellander
  • Sweden
  • Singing
When did you join Cirque du Soleil?

March 19th 2002

What was your first contact with the organization? What was the context?

I happened to turn on the TV when the Swedish channel 4 was broadcasting Quidam. I got curious and searched the internet to find out more about the company. I could see they used a live singer and voice-work in the context of circus acts was new to me.

So I sent in my demo-CD and six weeks later I got a phone call from casting. Another six weeks after that phone call, I was in Montreal working in the creation of Varekai.

How did your integration go in Montreal and in the show?

I did five weeks of creation in Montreal, before Varekai had its premiere. It was very hard work, very long hours, and overall quite an overwhelming experience getting used to all the other artists from all over the world, and trying to get a grip of the creation team and of how the show as it was evolving. The creation of a new show is very intense work but I had coaches to help me, which was very helpful.

With my second show, “O", I already knew the company so the integration went very smoothly and quickly. The show is older, and everything was prepared for me meticulously. Within a week I was pretty much integrated, roughly speaking. The most touching for me was how the “O" sound guys even called my former head of sound to ask what preferences I had for my monitor mix. This made me feel very, very welcome.

How does being part of a Cirque du Soleil show allow you to express yourself in your discipline?

This is always a balance. Of course I have another kind of freedom to express myself artistically when I sing my own songs in my own context. On the other hand, influences from other artistic views than my own broadens me as an artist.

With Cirque there is a show concept to respect, but there is a way of using one’s unique qualities within the show concept. Sometimes it is difficult to judge where that thin line is between “artistic freedom" and “to blend in with the show". Very often the Artistic Team, Bandleader or Composer can be helpful in these situations.

For me, whenever I have the need to express myself “completely my way" I sometimes do smaller creative projects on my time off.

What do you like the most about being part of Cirque du Soleil?

The possibility to travel, learn new things, meet people I never would have met otherwise, to see people master disciplines I never even knew existed, to get to taste food from other cultures, speak other languages, to be influenced and inspired by musicians from China, Senegal, Canada, USA, Poland etc. To work hard together to feed an audience twice a day, push my own limits… many, many different things.

When so many different cultures meet I also get to learn a lot about my own culture and about myself. It broadens the perspective and it opens up to interesting conversations, daily. Not to mention the fact that I get to work full-time as a singer!

How did the transition go between your former career to your current Cirque career?

I had a very quick transition. There was very little time to even think. It was a very big change of life. On tour we had great support from one another, since we were all pretty much in the same situation of change.

Why would you recommend an artist to join Cirque?

Every artist should join Cirque for their own reasons! It is a great possibility to learn a lot…but it also depends on what we are ready to be curious of.

I took my final decision based on this thought: “When I get really old… I don’t want to look back on my life and wonder what would have happened if I took that job at that circus…"

How is life on tour/in Las Vegas?

Life on tour is like being married to 150 people you didn’t choose. We travel as a group and know way too much about each other! On the other hand, as we go from city to city, we know we can trust each other and rely on one another through thick and thin. Life on tour is very dynamic and also very different between the different touring shows.

Life in Las Vegas is completely different. The show schedule is planned well ahead, and it is possible to have a more “normal" life, with a home, car, family, hobbies, garden, etc.