Toronto woman honoured to become Cirque du Soleil assistant artistic director
Carol Charles, CTV News Toronto
Published Sunday, July 14, 2019 2:13PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 19, 2019 10:58AM EDT
A Toronto-born woman says she is honoured to hold the position of assistant artistic director of Cirque du Soleil, shaping the creative direction of the global theatrical production.
Kafi Pierre assumed the role last year and says she feels blessed to be a part of the company.
“The fact that the company is moving forward and they understand that having our voices behind the table is incredibly important, and the fact that I am part of opening the door, is golden to me,” she said.
Pierre’s storied career spans nearly two decades and starts in her hometown of Toronto.
At the age of nine, she was accepted at the Claude Watson School for the Performing Arts. When she was 15 year old, she convinced her parents to send her to New York to dance with the prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – a move that would make the city her permanent home.
“It was intense,” she said. “I was taking five dance classes a day. I was taking ballet, jazz, flamenco and African dance. It was an explosion of joy and growth and it really shaped what I thought about myself as a dancer.”
That experience carried forward to many new opportunities. Her first big show was the 2001 production of the Lion King in Toronto. The show holds many fond memories for Pierre.
“It’s a really special show. It was the first show that I had been in with a predominantly black cast. It was a lot of work, rehearsals, staging, as well as being a swing in the show.”
In 2006, she stepped in to fill a last minute role for a Cirque du Soleil production. Pierre ended up staying with the company for close to six years, working on two productions: Delirium and Dralium.
She has also performed in Bombay Dreams, America’s Got Talent, Fela! The Musical and she was recruited as the associate choreographer for the critically-acclaimed production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Chicago.
“The cast was predominantly local talent that came from that really rich gospel tradition.”
In 2015, Pierre accepted the artistic coordination role for “The Han Show” in Wuhan, China, where she worked alongside Franco Dragone to restage and choreograph the world class production.
Age and injuries led her to transition from being a dancer to working behind the scenes. Twelve years after dancing across Cirque du Soleil stages, Pierre rejoined the company’s artistic direction team, touring North America with various productions.
“As a performer, you have the luxury of not worrying about ticket sales or money being spent. On this side, your decisions have massive impact, especially financial, your casting decisions if something goes wrong with the show, how you get back up and running, and technical challenges.”
Pierre says this is the hardest job she has ever done, but one that is most rewarding.
“Theatre is a living breathing thing and Cirque is no different,” she said. “I like to multitask. You get to work with all these departments that are creative, super talented and super nerdy. I also get to coach artists who want to learn more, do more by providing workshops for them, finding really great choreographers to help them grow.”
“I love the direction that Cirque is going and I feel super honored and super blessed to be part of it.”
Pierre is currently working on Cirque du Soleil’s VOLTA, which is performing across the United States.