Kurios by Cirque du Soleil: Klara the Telegraph of the Invisible’s makeup transformation, and the method in the madness behind her beauty look

Welcome to the big top

Text: Emily Heng

The circus is in town, folks. Cirque du Soleil is back with a spanking new show and cast, Kurios — Cabinet of Curiousities, which distinguishes itself from typical circus fare with a steampunk twist on acrobatic acts, clever contortions, and balancing feats. Performers are outfitted in extravagant, Victorian-era garb while faces are painted in a riot of shapes and colour to complement the elaborate sets and stunts.

A striking visage amongst the cast is Klara the Telegraph of the Invisible with her teal-painted lids, bold liner arches, and distinctive gravity-defying hair 'do, also known as the human antennae that receives alpha waves with a turn of her heel. Played by Kazuha Ikeda, the professional dancer doesn't just bring her boogey skills to the table, but her talent with the brush, too. She does her own makeup — a feat made all the more impressive considering Ikeda's minimalist beauty approach on the day-to-day. We take a trip to the Big Top to witness the magic for ourselves and delve deep into the methods and madness behind Klara's powdered mien.

How did you become a Cirque Du Soleil performer?
I'm from Japan, Tokyo, and it all started when I moved to Los Angeles in 2003. I took a trip down from L.A. to watch my first Cirque show in Vegas, and I remember being so impressed by the whole performance. I've never seen anything like it. As a dancer, I didn't think I'd be able to be a part of it because the show was mainly centered around acrobatics. Then I learned that there were so many other roles within the show, and that you didn't actually have to do acrobatics. That was when I decided to actively pursue getting into the Cirque. I auditioned many, many times before I got the role as Klara in 2017. It was a dream come true.

You do your own makeup. Is professional makeup application a mandatory skill at Cirque?
No! [Laughs] When you sign with Cirque, you'll be sent to Montreal for training where makeup lessons are provided. Mine was four weeks long. During the training sessions, the designer behind the look teaches you how to do it step-by-step, and I'm given a template guide to refer to until I reach a point where I can do it from memory.

How long does it take for you to get your full face done?
Now? I'd say it takes up to two hours. It might be because I'm always pausing in between to check my phone, relax... [Laughs] When I'm in a rush, I can get it done in an hour and a half. I used to take three and a half hours when I first started!

There are a lot of elements to your look. How do you keep track of them all?
It was really easy for me to miss out on certain parts in the beginning. I always used to forget the lines right down my nose. The only way for me to remember was to do it as the first step until it became an ingrained in me. I spent a lot of time trying to work out an order to all these makeup steps so it's easier to remember.

How does ensure your makeup stays on throughout your performance?
One of the methods Cirque employs is double application. You always apply your makeup first in cream form, then you double back with the same product in powder form, only then you set everything. This prevents you from sweating any makeup off on-stage... It's the technique used for our water show in Las Vegas as well. In those shows, the actors actually jump into a pool and they'll come out of the water looking just as fresh. It's a fool-proof method. We do a two-and-a-half-hour show, sometimes two shows a day, and I only ever really need to touch up my lipstick. Other than that, nothing ever comes off or peels.

That sounds like quite a bit of makeup. Does it take a toll on your skin?
Nah. But that's probably because I have really strong skin.

Klara's makeup might not impact your skin, but does it play an integral role in helping you get in character?
Yeah, it definitely helps me get into her frame of mind. The whole process of putting on her makeup takes a while, so I make it a point to come to work early and get it all done. The process calms me down and really allows me to get into her headspace.

What would you say is your favourite part of Klara's makeup?
The earrings! I draw them in. It's such a small thing, and a lot of people don't notice that I have actual makeup on my ear, but you know... that's the fun of it.

How has stage makeup changed your relationship with beauty?
I'm terrible when it comes to my personal makeup. [Laughs] Through this job, I feel like I've really learned how the human face works, like I understand how to make my face look more appealing and I feel that it is translating to my makeup in the day-to-day. Slowly.

How so?
Well, I now know that I should be using more than one type of foundation to make my flat, Asian face pop! [Laughs] They also taught me the exact placement of blush where it is most flattering, like I should be dabbing it right at the apples of my cheeks. It's just all these things where it's like, "Oh, I never knew that!"

Do you have any makeup tips for someone doing stage makeup for the first time?
A good tip to get these precise lines and details right is to use rulers. A lot of people I know don't use them, but for someone with asymmetrical eyes, it can be a real challenge.

What's more challenging — putting on your makeup, or taking it off?
Oh, definitely putting on my makeup! Taking off my makeup is really easy. It takes all of fifteen seconds, because I use a really good oil cleanser. Putting it on is a lot more challenging, but I also like to use the time to meditate and really get into Klara's mindset for the show. I love it.

Catch Klara in action at Kurios by Cirque du Soleil from 5 July to 18 August 2019. Buy tickets here.

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