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Interview by: Diane Fleischman
There’s a lot of excitement buzzing around Allentown for the return of Cirque du Soleil.  Their last performance was in 2019, and now, post pandemic, they’re making a triumphant return with their production of Corteo, which opens on Thursday, March 28th, and runs through Sunday, March 31st. at the PPL Center. We had the opportunity to speak to Andrea Dillon, an amazingly talented aerialist, touring with this production.
It was late in the afternoon when Andrea called from Greensboro, North Carolina.  It’s like they’re inching their way up the coast towards the Lehigh Valley, on this North American tour, and we can’t wait to hear about Corteo, and the many accomplishments Andrea has received in her life.
TVL:  So Andrea, where do you call home, besides from being on the road so much, where are you from?
AD:   I live in San Francisco, California and get home once or twice a year.  With touring there’s always the pros and the cons. I’ll be working with Cirque until the end of the year.
TVL:  San Francisco is a beautiful city!  What do you love the most about it?
AD:  Growing up near the ocean, it’s very special to me. I miss it when I’m not around. I’m very much a water person. Also, the San Francisco Circus Center. I just want to give a shout out to them as I had some of my early training there. It’s just a really amazing place that has been there for so long.  So many amazing artists and coaches have passed through that facility. I’ve had a lot of my formative training years there. It’s definitely a special kind of stronghold of the San Francisco Circus community. I still go back and visit when I’m in town.
TVL:  As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?  What were your dreams?
AD:   I wanted to be an astronaut, it’s still something I think about! But I grew up as a theatre kid. Ever since I was a kid, I was always like a total ham.  My background is in theatre, I’ve done acting, and plays and musicals since I was a child. I also have a background in dance,  jazz, ballet and some modern. I’ve always been upper body dominant, so I was always into swimming and rock climbing.
TVL:  I saw your resume, and noticed you have a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brown University.  That seems so far at the other end of the spectrum compared to where your life is now.
AD: I spent a long time working in the humanitarian industry dealing with emergency refugee aid all over the world.
TVL:  And it was while you were at the University that you discovered aerial arts?
AD:  Yes, I was introduced to aerial arts while dancing, kind of by happenstance. I was with a dance company while I was at the University. So, they like to bring in different disciplines to add something different to the shows we put on and one of those disciplines they introduced us to was aerial silks.  The moment I wrapped my head around the apparatus and tried to climb for the first time I was totally in love!  It’s everything I’m interested in, the theatrical, the musicality, the dance, and then the sport, the technical. It was a perfect mix of all my interests. From that moment on, I was really dedicated in that and pushed forward in that area. Silks was my first discipline and for a long time it was my specialty. Now it’s silks and straps.
TVL:  So, you started working with Cirque du Soleil in 2019. You had a little time performing shows before the pandemic hit and everything was shut down. That must have been hard.
AD: I was working on Cirque cruise ship shows. There were six different Cirque du Soleil kind of dinner theatre style shows.  They were in a bit more of an intimate venue. It was an incredible theatre that was custom designed for these shows. It was a really special introduction to the company. I was onboard until the pandemic hit. It was a special experience and I’m really happy to be back with Cirque again, post pandemic. This is my third contract with the company, so I’ve had the pleasure of working on ship shows, on a residence show in Vegas, and now on a tour in the touring division.  It’s been fun to see the different sides of each division, and learning how Cirque du Soleil works at its different capacities.
TVL: To be able to perform at such a level of perfection, you must be working out all the time.  What is your fitness regime like?
AD:  I like to take a couple of rest days a week. It’s important to let the body recover, especially when we have a significant show load. There’s a conditioning routine that I have that’s a mix of weights, depending on the day.  Definitely getting the cardio training in. Then we also have regular training before the show for our acts. So, for whatever discipline we’re in, we’ll have time dedicated to train on stage or backstage. It’s all like a puzzle that’s put together to make sure that my body’s staying healthy and on top of my game.  Then when the weekend rolls around, i like to give it a rest with some sleep and recovery time as well.
TVL: Wow, you must have incredible discipline. And I would imagine in your environment, there is a ton of “teamwork makes the dream work” type attitudes.
AD:  To succeed in this industry, you definitely need a lot of discipline, that’s for sure. I feel really lucky to work alongside some of the most incredible artists in the industry.  I feel that anyone who makes it to the show at this caliber has put an incredible amount of work into their bodies, and to their mind. It requires a lot of discipline. Fortunately, everyone’s super kind and down to earth, so it’s the best of both worlds.    I’m inspired everyday by my co-workers, and they push me to be the best artist I can be, and also, I can inspire them as well. I think we make a really great team.
TVL: And this is something I have to ask, I’m dying to know, what are you thinking about when you are climbing, spinning and twirling up high? What’s going through your mind?
AD: That’s a really great question! There’s a psychology called flow state. It’s when people are focused on a singular activity, like swimming laps, or a singer who’s performing. That’s what’s going on with me. It’s a place I sink into when I’m performing or even when I’m training. I’m only focused exactly on what I’m doing at that moment. It’s a really beautiful way to be brought into the present.  I think that’s what keeps performers going for that long. It’s a really special feeling, it’s an absolute focus where you can’t be thinking about anything else. You have to be focused on what you’re doing to do your best work.
TVL:  I also noticed that you traveled and performed in Saudi Arabia.   Did you find that performing in another country, a different culture, that your work is perceived differently, or more universal, and is that relatable to Corteo?
AD:  Every audience is different. Even here in the States, people react differently. But one of the things I love about Corteo in particular,  is that it’s a show that across all cultures people can understand and relate to it. It doesn’t matter, for example, the lead character, the clown, what language he is speaking in, the show is about a celebration of life.  It’s a clown imagining his own funeral and it’s really a joyous imagination of that. In the show there’s moments of nostalgia, moments of beauty, moments of remembering former lovers, and fun times with your circus troops putting on your own shows. So, no matter what culture or state, city or country we’re in, people can relate.  I think it’s more about what we’re putting on stage then who the audience is.  And Corteo is a really nice production that bridges cultures in that respect.
TVL:  So, in Corteo, what is your role?
AD:  Here at Corteo, I’ve had the joy to branch out to Chandelier.  It’s most similar to an aerial hoop that has been a really fun opportunity to work on some of the things I already have skills in. Also to branch out and learn on a new apparatus. That’s sort of been my aerial journey.
TVL:  I saw a promotional clip for Corteo on the local news recently with the Chandelier scene. What part of the show will that be in?
AD:  My scene is with three chandeliers, and four women.  It happens at the top of the show. We always like to give people a heads up that it’s important to get to the show nice and early and find your seats. Because some of the best acts happen first, wink, wink!
TVL:  And that’s very good advice to remember!  Andrea, it’s been a pleasure to speak with you, thank you so much for your time.  And if there is one thing I would like to share with our readers, something they can’t hear in this phone conversation, is the amount of passion in your voice regarding your work. There’s no doubt that you find success in everything you do!  We look forward to seeing you in Corteo!
AD:  Thank you!
Corteo will be appearing at The PPL Center :
Thursday, March 28th at 7:30pm
Friday, March 29th 7:30pm
Saturday, March 30th  3pm and 7pm
Sunday, March 31st  1pm and 5pm
Purchase your tickets at the PPL Center, or online: