How Kailah Cabanas pulled a few strings to be in Cirque du Soleil

TORUK- The First Flight, Cirque du Soleil's touring show inspired by James Cameron's AVATAR, opens in Brisbane on October 5, the first of the Australian shows.

When Kailah Cabanas was watching The Muppets and Sesame Street as a child she loved it but hardly thought of it as a career opportunity.

Yet here she is, at the age of 29, playing with puppets.

Not just any puppets mind you. This Australian is part of the team of performers bringing together the latest Cirque du Soleil show TORUK – The First Flight.

Kailah Cabanas
Australian actress and puppeteer Kailah Cabanas features in the new Cirque du Soleil touring show TORUK – The First Flight.

She admits her introduction to puppetry was completely by accident, after studying acting in Sydney and then taking on a role as puppeteer on a children’s show The Amazing House.

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“I went in and gave it a go, completely winged it,” Kailah said.

When she found it came somewhat naturally for her, Cabanas then went on to the National Theatre’s production of War Horse Australia.

Now she’s been touring the world with TORUK for the past two years and preparing for her first shows on home soil.

She’s learned new skills since starting with Cirque du Soleil too, and they’ve even managed to get her feet off the ground with aerial work, despite admitting to not being an acrobat by any means.

Puppetry is a new feature for Cirque du Soleil.

Fans of Cirque du Soleil are in for a thrill if they head to this show. “It’s so different to other Cirque du Soleil shows,” Cabanas says.

It’s the first one that features puppets, large scale ones at that, but Cabanas says it’s the visual aspect, of what has been created, that is like being part of a special effects movie. “Even our costumes – they glow.”

There’s also the added bonus for the audience with interaction through a downloaded app. “The audience feels like they are part of the show.”

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While the show is inspired by James Cameron’s movie AVATAR Cabanas said you don’t need to have seen the movie to follow what is going on.

Narrated by a ‘Na’vi Storyteller’ and populated by unforgettable characters, TORUK – The First Flight is a mythical tale set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film AVATAR, and before any humans ever set foot on Pandora.

Cabanas admits to feeling homesick while on the road and she’s looking forward to her parents travelling from Mackay to attend the Brisbane shows, kicking off from October 5, before they head to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

“There’s something very special about performing in front of family and friends.”

TORUK – The First Flight is Cirque du Soleil’s 37th production since 1984. The company has brought wonder and delight to more than 155 million spectators in more than 300 cities on six continents. Cirque du Soleil has close to 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from close to 50 different countries.

Once the production finishes Cabanas has another special event lined up for next year – her own wedding.

Have you been to a Cirque du Soleil production?