Alumna Is Loving Every Second with Cirque

Posted: October 19, 2011 at 2:53 pm, Last Updated: October 20, 2011 at 8:08 am

By Jason Jacks

Melanie Lalande

Melanie Lalande. Photo courtesy of 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. Recently named the new artistic director of the five-year-old spectacle, Lalande is in charge of about 70 artists, as well as everything from hiring to overseeing the show’s aesthetics 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 New York City, America’s dance capital. In addition, she was once the tour choreographer for the hip hop band The Roots, and she is the founder of Mayzsoul, a Washington, D.C.-area dance company that helps young dancers expand their résumés by giving them ample opportunities to perform.

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

Scene from "Love"

A scene from Cirque du Soleil's "Love." Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

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 and colorful look back at the evolution of the Beatles set to the music of the Fab Four. It was created by late Beatle George Harrison and Cirque founder Guy Laliberté. “It was such an historical collaboration,” Lalande points out.

When interviewed in early October, 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 doesn’t hesitate to give 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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