A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Alumna Is Loving Every Second with Cirque

By Jason Jacks on October 19, 2011

Melanie Lalande

With sold out shows and a slew of glowing reviews, Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles anthology Love has certainly conquered all in Las Vegas, including Mason alumna Melanie Lalande, BFA Dance ’01.

“I love this show!” Lalande happily exclaims, sounding much like the thousands of other fans who have caught this magical trip through Beatlemania.

But Lalande is not just a fan. She also runs the show, as she was recently named the new artistic director of the five-year-old spectacle. The position puts her in charge of about 70 artists, as well as everything from overseeing the show’s aesthetics to hiring to creative tinkering.

“We are sort of the keepers of the creative quality of the show,” Lalande says from her new home in Las Vegas.

A Cirque veteran, Lalande has been with the wildly popular performing arts company since 2008. Before that, she choreographed and taught dance up and down the East Coast, including in America’s dance capital, New York City. In addition, she was once the tour choreographer for the hip hop band the Roots, and is the founder of Mayzsoul, a Washington, D.C.,-area dance company that helps young dancers expand their resumes by giving them ample opportunities to perform.

The Fairfax, Va., native says she began pursuing a position with Cirque about four years before being brought on. The last year of the courtship involved multiple trips up to Cirque’s headquarters in Montreal for a series of grueling interviews.

Liking what they saw in her, Cirque eventually hired Lalande as one of its artistic directors, and she spent the next three years living like a gypsy while touring the world with such shows as Kooza and Totem. But Lalande can finally put away her suitcases, as she has a more grounded gig with Love.

“For me, it was time to settle down a bit,” she says.

Housed in a theater at the Mirage Hotel and Casino built specifically for the Cirque show, Love is a mesmerizing look back at the evolution of the Beatles set to the music of the Fab Four. It was created by late Beatles guitarist George Harrison and Cirque founder Guy Laliberté. “It was such an historical collaboration,” Lalande points out.

A scene from Love.

When she spoke with the Mason Spirit, Lalande had just arrived in Las Vegas and had yet to fully ensconce herself in her new role. But, in the near future, she says, she hopes to infuse some of her own touches into the program.

“You first look at what’s been done, what’s been tried, before adding your two cents,” she says. “But with time, your style comes in.”

And while much of her success is attributed to her own hard work and persistence, Lalande is not shy about giving credit to her training at Mason, where some of that style was undoubtedly groomed.

“I had a lot of phenomenal teachers,” she recalls of her time spent in what was then the dance department, now the School of Dance. “Those people taught me how to construct and deconstruct a show.”

As for her future, Lalande is not resting on her creative laurels. Outside of Cirque, she’s still involved with Mayzsoul as its director and is working on a children’s book that she hopes to turn into a movie someday.

“It’s been keeping me very entertained,” she says of working for Cirque. “But life is long, and I have a lot more ideas.”

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