I wake up, roll in glitter, and off I go!
If you’ve ever fantasised about running away to join the circus: meet energetic, passionate and creative Canadian Francis Jalbert, who’s literally living the dream.
Francis, 25, who is currently touring around the world with the big top production TOTEM from Cirque du Soleil, spoke to me on his day off, while in Melbourne.
Originally from Montreal, where Cirque du Soleil is based, Francis grew up in awe of the breathtaking spectacle that is the artistic entertainment company. He first joined Cirque du Soleil in January 2010 as an intern of the Corporate PR Department before becoming Senior PR Advisor/Asst. PR Manager of the company’s Arena Show Division.
In February 2012, Francis (pictured) made the momentous decision to pack his life in two suitcases and leave his homeland to become the full-time tour publicist and official spokesman of TOTEM.
He is now one of 112 Cirque du Soleil employees – including a 46-strong cast made up of acrobats, actors, musicians and singers – plus 64 technicians, who are currently on the road in Australia.
Since its world premiere in 2010, more than three million people worldwide have experienced TOTEM, winner of the 2013 NYC Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience.
Francis says like all Cirque du Soleil shows, TOTEM is an uplifting display of athleticism, comedy, heartfelt emotions and surprising visual effects. “I take care of all the media relations in each city we go to so I am basically living and breathing with the show,” he says, in a very pleasing, strong French accent.
“I’ve been with the show for three years and for me it’s been about 19 cities now and on the road non-stop.
“Brisbane will be the 30th show from the beginning. It’s amazing – your work with a group of 112 people from 21 countries and actually you not only work with them, but you live with them, you grow with them and you eat with them and you travel with them, so it’s a very multicultural show and interesting experience.
“On top of that, we are travelling the world so we’re constantly moving from one culture to the other and we are dealing with the total absence of familiarity. The one certainty we have is the show itself and the people you are travelling with.
“It’s such a cliché to say it, but it really is like a second family. We didn’t pick each other, but we are all on the road together. Every day, we’ve got each other’s backs, so we are always there for each other.”
And while Francis says he has plenty of “pinch-me moments” on tour when he’ll look back and think: “Oh my goodness, what am I doing here?! What is this lifestyle!” he says it soon becomes a happy routine, with the touring company settling in each city for months at a time.
“On a day-to-day basis, what we try to do is make 2600 people dream every night, but this is a lot of work at this level,” he says, “For the artists, they perform about 8-10 shows a week and the technical team also is always maintaining everything and making sure everything is always perfect for each performance, so a lot goes into getting ready and performing the show on a daily basis.”
As to whether there’s any downside to living out of a suitcase, Francis jokes that he’s become an expert packer. “It can be challenging; you really get used to it. You have to really learn how to pack too; some people travel around with their Magic Bullets to make juices because we can have about four suitcases on tour with us. It’s a lifestyle, it takes a few months to get used to it, but once you embrace it, and you live it, it becomes normality.”
So, what makes TOTEM special? Written and directed by Robert Lepage, it reveals “a fascinating journey into the evolution of mankind”, according to the publicist. “TOTEM is about evolution: evolution of the human body and of the human civilisation and the evolution each human being goes through in his/her life,” Francis says.
“We’re not presenting the story of evolution in chronological order, we are moving the audience from one part of the world to the next and back and forth into time.
“What’s special about this show first of all is that it is very intimate – there aren’t 40 artists on the stage all the time and you don’t know where to look.
“This one is very focussed because the acrobatic artists we are featuring are mostly unique – acts you’ve probably never seen before and if you have, the way in which we have integrated them into the style of the show and the world of TOTEM is really very surprising and clever.
“It’s a show that doesn’t try to be something other than it is; it’s very human-based so people can really relate to the different scenes on stage.”
Francis says Australian audiences are a delight and each city has varied reactions to the show. “It’s really interesting to see the differences,” he enthuses, “but Australian audiences have been amazing since we started last October in Sydney.
“We got lots of standing ovations which I know are not a regular thing for theatre in that part of the world.”
Francis says while choosing his favourite part of the show is impossible, he says the TOTEM opening scene –Bars (Carapace) – (pictured above) is very strong. It features a giant turtle at centre stage, which represents the origins of life on earth. “It is very difficult to pick a favourite part, it is like you are asking me which child I would prefer!” he says.
“In the turtle structure you have about 20 artists dressed as fish and frogs and it’s a high-energy acrobatic number.
“I really believe this is the strongest opening act of any Cirque du Soleil and really sets the bar high for what audiences can expect after that.”
And while the youngest TOTEM performer on tour is 18 and the oldest is 57 – both are acrobats – Francis says most of the 46-member cast are in their 30s.
The 112-strong touring party live in large corporate housing and almost become adopted residents in each city they perform. Mondays are their day off, with weekly performances from Tuesday-Sunday.
“This cast is a very ‘mature cast’ for a Cirque du Soleil show. A lot of them already have partners, but some love stories can arise!” he enthuses.
“We always have time to explore each city and become kind of a local for two to three months,” he says. “When we start fitting in and when it starts to feel more like a routine then we know it’s time to pack our luggage and go!
“We are never staying too long in the same place so there is never time to get bored.
“We are very much looking forward to our shows in other cities,” Francis says. “We hope people will love it and feel the fresh air we are bringing.”
Cirque du Soleil, which celebrates its 30thanniversary this year, has entertained up to 150 million people in more than 300 cities in over 40 countries on six continents.
It has close to 4000 employees, including 1300 performing artists from up to 50 different countries. It is currently presenting 19 different shows around the world.
TOTEM, which is currently on show in Melbourne until March 29, is also touring Brisbane from April 10 until May 17; Adelaide from June 11 to July 5; and Perth from July 31 to August 16.
In the words of Alicia Keys, New York City is the place dreams are made of. And for so aspiring professionals, myself included, we are willing to go anywhere to chase down a dream. Whether your ambition is to move into a swanky flat in the city or venture to the land Down Under, finding a job in your dream city is never easy. But when faced with those (seemingly) vast, job applications, you can see equally vast opportunities – and adventures. The hardest part about planning a big move is actually landing the job to make moving a reality. Here’s some tips on how to land a gig in your dream city:
Bucket list #1: Live in (insert dream city here)
Type “dream city” into Google, and you’ll be bombarded with thousands of search results. Forget everything you’ve seen on Pinterest: the sunsets, model poses with delectable eats, and creeper crowds of random people having fun in the streets. You might be down for any adventure, but it’s crucial to narrow it down to one or two of your dream cities to keep from breaking the bank.
Don’t get us wrong, we’d love to frolic along the beaches of Fiji or hit up sun, sand, and surf in Hawaii, but you need to find a winning combination. Hone in on looking for jobs in a couple cities that have both summer excursions and career advancement opportunities. If you find yourself not feeling the love, take time to regroup and come up with a new strategy. Coming up with a long-term plan with your dream city as the end goal is a good stepping stone for opening up your options.
Look into companies that have multiple offices with one being in your dream city. It may not be exactly how you want to kick off your wanderlust escape, but you’ll have the opportunity to transfer down the road.
Upon grazing the potential job landscape, one has to use their primal instincts and connect with the herd. No, we’re not asking you to run wild into the Outback with the dingoes. One of the first steps you should take when searching for jobs in your dream city is reaching out to everyone (we mean everyone) you know who is living in the location you’re looking to move to. Sort through your LinkedIn connections to see if you know anyone who lives in the area or sign up for Google Voice phone number with the local area code. You can also hit up your college alumni association, this is a great way to remain plugged in.
Knowing someone who can connect you with a company contact, or provide you with a local address to borrow for your resume can be what you need to get to the next tier before getting an interview.
Book a ticket and just leave
At the very beginning of the job-hunting process, start saving for a travel nest egg, this chunk of change is what’s going to help you get to the last checkpoint. Schedule a trip a few months before your ideal move date and request an interview from all your job leads during the window of time you’ll be in town. By reaching out to request an interview on a specific date you might be more likely to get a response in a timely manner. Also, use your trip to scout out places to live and find new companies you may not have found through your online search. You can use MeetUp to search for events going on in the area. Getting your feet on the ground can greatly increase your chances of getting a new job title.
Don’t forget the nitty gritty details
If you’re moving within your own country, you can skip this pesky part but if you’re looking for work in an international company – you’ll need to understand their rules. In Australia it’s pretty common to ask to be hosted but not every company offers this option. This is the time to fully understand your own skills and what you can offer this company that their own citizens can’t. Go ahead and brag, this is the time when the spotlights all on you – let your inner narcissist shine. If you’re not in a rush, get those extra certifications you’ve always said you’d take, take a leadership course and brush up on your negotiation skills – you’re going to need them.
Keep moving forward
If all things go according to plan and you’ve followed some of the previous tips, we can only hope you’re packing up your life along with some snazzy new desk accessories for your new digs in a matter of a couple months. If location has been a huge barrier in your search the next step might be to bite the bullet and make the move anyway. You can always keep your items in storage if needed. This is definitely the most costly option, but you’ll be in your dream city 24/7 making it that much easier to get that job.
Throughout the process of moving also make sure to be tracking your expenses and hold on to receipts. Your employer might offer to reimburse you or you could be eligible to deduct the move as a job-related expense on your taxes, which would be the cherry on top after landing a job in your dream city!
The journey to your dream city can at times have some nightmarish obstacles, but as long as you do proper planning and stay fiercely focused you’ll be well prepared for buying that one-way ticket.
By Leah Rise, an accomplished world traveller and wolfdog charmer. She lives and breathes the balance of Search + Social every day in her dream city of Sydney, Australia. After touring over 20 countries, Leah has established her home base with seoWorks leading and developing strategies for several global clients.