Cirque du Soleil isn’t clowning around with multi-show presentation of Corteo

Photo by Nick Procaylo. Sante Fortunato performs her hoops routine for Cirque du Soleil's Corteo in 2018.

Greg Harder, Regina Leader-Post

Life on the road can be quite a balancing act for performers in Cirque du Soleil.

That’s why Canadian acrobat Santé Fortunato feels so blessed to combine all the loves of her life — personal and professional — into a big family adventure as she travels the world with one of Cirque du Soleil’s biggest shows: Corteo.

“It’s definitely a nomadic lifestyle but it’s fun — I get to see a lot of things,” said Fortunato, who grew up near Vancouver. “I met my husband back in 2017; he’s in the show too. In some cases maybe people get a little bit lonely being on the road but I don’t have that issue. I have my whole family with me. My daughter has been to over 20 countries and she’s only two. It’s a very cool experience.”

Fortunato has lost track of all the countries she’s visited over a 12-year career, but the next stop will be close to home. Cirque du Soleil is pitching its proverbial tent at Regina’s Brandt Centre this Thursday to Sunday — six shows over four days — before heading up the road to Saskatoon from Dec. 21 to 24.

Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.

The Corteo crew finishes up its Western Canadian tour with stops in Edmonton and Victoria prior to heading south in mid-January for a six-month trek across the U.S., plus a few stops in Eastern Canada.

Then it’s off to Europe in the fall.

Working a schedule of 10 weeks on and two weeks off, Fortunato has embraced the journey after several years of preparing for her dream job.

She started out as a competitive dancer at age 8 and got into rhythmic gymnastics about five years later. She enrolled in the National Circus School of Montreal at age 18, eventually graduating with a major in hula hoop and a minor in contortion and aerial hoop.

Since then, Fortunato has performed all over the world for various employers, including a cruise line in Italy. She also did some TV and film work, highlighted by a role in the 2012 movie Mirror Mirror featuring Julia Roberts.

Fortunato joined Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil in 2017.

“It definitely was a dream job,” she said. “Growing up in the Lower Mainland, it’s the only circus that I ever saw. I always thought it was really cool. Then when I went to the circus school, I had so much fun. I wasn’t necessarily set on working just for (Cirque); I was happy to be able to make a living performing (for other companies too). But obviously it was a dream of mine. It was the first company that I ever saw, the first company that inspired me to do circus, so it was a dream come true when I ended up getting a call from them.”

Corteo was originally launched in 2005 and toured the world for about 10 years as a traditional big-top circus show. It was revived in 2017 as a travelling arena show but another break was required early in the COVID pandemic before resuming again last year.

Fortunato has been with this version of Corteo since the beginning.

“I’ve done the show literally a thousand times or more,” she noted. “It’s not stressful (performing the stunts anymore). Everyone has a lot of fun bringing out their character in each acrobatic act they do.”

Fortunato has several roles in the 100-minute show, highlighted by an opening-act appearance as one of four loves in the life of main character Mauro.

Fortunato and three other acrobats open the show by swinging from massive chandeliers. She also performs with hula hoops and has multiple background roles in a cast of 53 artists who come from 28 different nationalities.

An overall crew of 120 people arrives in Regina this week along with 21 trucks carrying the mobile stage and other components. It takes 12-15 hours to build the set, with assistance from another 100 local workers.

The end result is a visually stunning show about a clown who witnesses his own funeral in carnival form, taking some time to reminisce before he’s summoned to the afterlife.

Corteo is an Italian word meaning cortège or procession.

“He is visiting old friends and also going back to moments when he was a child and all of these special moments of his life, so it’s very theatrical in that sense,” added Fortunato. “The subject is also very poetic and can be very touching for a lot of people. Sometimes I see people cry in the audience. Definitely I see people laugh too. You’re going to hopefully be wowed (by the acrobatics). It’s really colourful and full of amazing costumes. The set is beautiful — lots for the whole family to appreciate.”