By Melissa McKenzie
Five former Santa Clara Aquamaids take to the pool each night to perform in the highly touted, water extravaganza that is Cirque du Soliel’s “O” at the Bellagio Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
“O,” rated as one of the must-see Las Vegas shows, contains the dangerous, circus stunts audiences have fallen for, as well as a unique, water element that features former Aquamaids Kari Kreitzer, Bill May, Brynn Butzman Coseru, Christina Jones, and Suzannah Bianco.
“One of the best things about coming here with teammates is that you have the same working style, you have the same swimming style, you move the same for the same kind of high quality movements and Santa Clara Aquamaids is one of the best clubs in the world,” said Bianco, who has a gold medal in synchronized swimming from the 1996 Olympic games, and performed with the Aquamaids from age eight through 24. “So, everyone coming from there has a really high standard of excellence and high standard of technique. One thing that’s really great about that is that we can, as a group, influence the standard of technique here.”
Bianco is quick to give credit for her standard of excellence to longtime Aquamaids head coach Chris Carver. “[She] is so instrumental in driving in this creative force,” said Bianco. “I think it was easy for me transition here because we created and created with Chris and it was in the same way as our director … that manner of drawing out the best from us … So, for me, the transition was very natural … Chris is part of the heart and soul of why I can be here.”
Over 23 countries are represented among the 85-member, 150-stage technician cast, and Bianco is one of approximately 20 cast members who have been with “O” since the show premiered on Oct. 15 1998.
“We created the show for a year before we actually put it on for the public,” said Bianco. “All the choreography is from the artists, which is amazing because one of the things that it does is give it a very raw feel … We [the 16 synchronized swimmers] are on stage probably the most out of anyone except the main characters because we are … constantly in the realm of influence … We are in the water all the time giving influence [over the other characters].”
Diving into the avant-garde, “O” hits all of the Cirque hallmarks - jaw-dropping trapeze, contortion and aerial performances, all done with an element of danger - only it centers around an a 88 degree, 1.5 million gallon pool that is 24 feet deep (17 feet when the performance lifts are added).
As with most Cirque shows, the meaning behind “O,” which was inspired by the concept and elegance of water and celebrates the beauty of the theatre, is left entirely up to the audience - a sentiment that Bianco echoes. “Understand the story from your point of view and through your filters and from all of the experiences that you bring from your life because all of those things will given meaning to what you see on stage - just like it would a piece of art.”
O is performed twice nightly at the Bellagio’s “O” theater. Tickets are between $109 and $180 and can be purchased by visiting www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/o/tickets/las-vegas.aspx.
Bianco is one of the many former Aquamaids attending the organization’s 50th anniversary event on Saturday, Aug. 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Santa Clara University’s Louis B. Mayer Theater. Tickets are $80 (event and reception) and $40 (event only), and available through www.eventbrite.com/e/santa-clara-aquamaids-50th-anniversary-celebration-tickets-11435105709