Meet a Cirque du Soleil Master of the Mat
Gymnast Vincent Lavoie previews Alegría, in Houston through January 2.
Under the Big Top at Sam Houston Race Park, Cirque du Soleil’s Alegría continues to wow audiences during its return engagement following their canceled shows in March 2020. It’s Cirque du Soleil’s first touring show to relaunch since the world’s largest circus producer had to shut down during the pandemic. (Yes, intermission is officially over.)
This Alegría is a reimagined version of the 1994 production, with music, acrobatics, set designs, and costumes more dazzling than ever. The popular and high-energy Powertrack act features gymnasts tumbling and flying over each other off of two long trampolines that create an X on the stage.
Vincent Lavoie has been a part of this act since 2017. “It’s great to be back,” says the 29-year-old Canadian. “Everyone is super-excited to be back, and the audiences love seeing live performances again, so their energy just feeds us.”
Lavoie was destined to be part of Alegría. A native of Drummondville, Quebec, he took a tumbling summer camp at age 8 and was hooked. At 11, he saw a video of Alegría, Cirque du Soleil’s most popular show that has been seen in 255 countries by more than 14 million people. The show’s Grammy Award-winning theme song is the most popular Cirque du Soleil video on YouTube. Right away, he knew he wanted to join the Powertrack act and make the circus his home.
As a teen, Lavoie began competing in tumbling, and in 2014 he became the first Canadian in 16 years to compete in the Tumbling World Championship. During his competition years, he would run into Cirque du Soleil scouts and talk to them. They encouraged him to take dance lessons, which he did for three years in college. The call finally came when he was 22, and he joined the Powertrack act in the resident show La Nouba that Cirque du Soleil performed at Walt Disney World Resort. Although that show closed in December 2017, Lavoie has now rejoined the act of his dreams in the Houston revival of Alegría.
Despite his high-flying antics, he’s never had a serious injury. But he has had a case of the twisties—that feeling of being lost in midair while trying to change direction. The world learned about that dangerous condition after it took hometown legend Simone Biles out of competition during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
“I experienced it once in training when I was about 12,” Lavoie recalls. “It’s very common. I haven’t [experienced it during] a show, but I did when I was competing. You have to stop and go back to basics and work it out.”
During the pandemic, he returned to his home in Quebec. “I was lucky to have a friend there who has a gymnastics school where I could work out almost every day to keep in shape and stay mentally grounded.”
The Alegría team went back to training earlier this year, and arrived in Houston four and a half weeks before opening in November to rehearse under the Big Top, which accommodates 2,600 people. While audience members are encouraged to wear masks, they are not required to.
“We all wear masks backstage,” he says, “and we used to run through the audience to get to the stage, but we don’t do that now. Plus, we get tested every week.”
Lavoie, who is gay and single, is hoping to find a few dates who will take him around to see the sights in Houston this month. His parents visited here from Canada for a weekend, and they visited the Hines Waterwall Park and some of the great graffiti walls and parks in town.
Lavoie’s dream job with Cirque du Soleil is one that he doesn’t see ending anytime soon, even as he ages. “I hope someday to move into a character that does more acting and less gymnastics—maybe doing artistic work backstage, or coaching.”
He is definitely that little boy who ran off to find a home in the circus.
What: Cirque de Soleil’s Alegría
Where: Sam Houston Race Park, 7575 N. Sam Houston Pkwy. W.
When: Through Jan. 2