A New Kind Of Nightlife With Cirque Du Soleil’s JOYÀ

Cirque Du Soleil’s JOYÀ is taking over the Riveria Maya. Roseli Arias and Joshean Mauleón sit down to talk preparing for nightly acrobatics, navigating an audience, and more.


Nestled just a few miles away from the party town of Playa Del Carmen is a new kind of nightlife. Close enough to feel its roar, but far enough to enter uncharted territory. Once the sun sets past the Riviera Maya horizon, the only Cirque du Soleil show in Mexico rises into itself. JOYÀ tells the tale of a mad scientist passing on his life lessons to his rambunctious granddaughter, complete with a dinner component, swashbuckling pirates, a brief Magic Mike-style tease, and no shortage of trapeze artists.

For one night, spectators revel in special performances preceded by 40 years of the acrobatic machine, Cirque du Soleil. And then, the lights go up. The guests go home. But the casts of Cirque du Soleil remain relentless in their acrobatic pursuits to captivate crowds nightly. Consider it Broadway taken to extremes, where the main cast members need to know how to act, entertain, and dance while simultaneously being suspended from the ceiling on a harness and doing other circus tricks.

For the two leads, this means knowledge of the stage. Roseli Arias, who plays teenage Joyà, had initially been a dancer in musicals like Cats and Saturday Night Fever. Zelig, the grandfather, is played by Joshean Mauleón, whose previous credits are in Spain as part of the National Classical Theater and various television projects.

Below, Roseli and Joshean discuss conquering the shows, their biggest fears, and their nightly acrobatics.

To start, I’m curious how you both got involved with Cirque du Soleil and JOYÀ itself.

Roseli: In my case, I always saw Cirque du Soleil as something significant. In [the] pandemic, they were looking for a backup of JOYÀ. I was at home recreating the audition because everything was online. And I was like, ‘Why not? Let’s try. Let’s do something different.’ Magically, everything went well, and I’m here.

Joshean:: My first experience was with Cirque du Soleil almost twenty years ago. Just when I finished my studies, I did a casting in Barcelona. I wasn’t successful at the time because I didn’t grasp the casting process. For JOYÀ, I wrote a letter to the casting saying, “Cirque du Soleil, please give me another opportunity because now I know what you want.”

What was that audition setup like, especially from home? Was there circus stuff involved or was it dance?

Roseli: [The audition] involved more dancing, acting, and doing some cues, which is how I started in JOYÀ. After two years of doing the backup, I’ve moved on to playing the main character. I have more knowledge and the ability to insert things I have never done before. So, it was like a big door opening for me.

How have your skills developed since you first started performing?

Roseli: I never used a harness because I was always dancing [or] acting, but now I do. Then, of course, I started to learn how to do aerial things. Right now, I’m a big fan of doing hoops. You’re always developing, and Cirque [has] a lot of opportunities to learn and grow as an artist. In every show, they always give us notes. So, when we see that the character is resting, we push ourselves to try different things, like changing the script a little bit, or maybe I will jump [with] different timing. If you are not funny right away, or you don’t have these tools, [the audience will] lose the attention, and they are not engaged with the story. Every day is different.

How do you prepare for a night of performing and getting in your character's head?

Roseli: Before [my] entrance, I’m in the scooter sitting. I’m thinking [about] where I came from, the feelings of that, and the energy I will bring. But once I enter [the] stage and notice everyone’s energy, it changes. Maybe people [are] not laughing; you need to change everything you planned because it’s not working. It’s more to go with the flow, feel the audience, feel the energy.

Joshean:: I believe every artist needs a small personal warmup. Not only [physical] but also emotional [and] imaginary, too. The clown [in my head says], ‘Hello, good morning! Time to wake up. It’s showtime!’ I have my games with myself and with a group of clowns I call my imaginary trainers. For example, every night before the show, I talk with Charlie Chaplin, Popov… Just more acting than thinking.

“I have my games with myself and with a group of clowns I call my imaginary trainers. For example, every night before the show, I talk with Charlie Chaplin, Popov… Just more acting than thinking.”

What do your typical rehearsals look like? Could both of you walk me through a daily routine, from the moment you wake up to closing on a typical show day?

Roseli: I’m a very active person. I think that’s why I love to play JOYÀ. I just wake up and go for a walk with my dogs. After that, I come back and have breakfast. I sometimes have cycling training [or] gym training. Sometimes, I do some ballet, or we go to classes on the beach together. After 2, we know we have some rehearsals and training and get ready for the show.

Joshean:: It’s about the same for me. I wake up at six in the morning. I walk the dogs. Your instrument needs to be strong— take care of your voice and your body. It’s good to take some dance classes. You become more expressive.

Do you guys have any fears or nerves about the nightly performances? Have they gone away as you continue the show, or have new ones popped up?

Roseli: In Spanish it’s called, ‘Nerviocionada.’ Something between nerves and emotion. You have this adrenaline to go on stage. You start to sweat. I never relax. In my case, I’m never like, ‘Okay, I got this.’ Every day is a new nerve, and more when you know someone who knows you is in the audience. I think we always have this feeling. It’s not [a] bad feeling. It’s something that you can control.

Do either of you still have any fears regarding the tricks?

Joshean:: The first time I flew was like, ‘Ah, flying! Very happy.’

Roseli: I love the heights… With time, you lose that kind of fear because it’s a fear you can control. I think that when you have a fear that you cannot control, it’s dangerous to do these kinds of things. That happened to me last week. Sometimes, I have a rotation day, and I’m not playing JOYÀ, but I’m doing some cues like JOYÀ #2. There is one cue that’s called ‘The Swimmer’ — that is when JOYÀ jumps in the lake and another JOYÀ appears. That moment, it’s you alone on stage. After two, three weeks that I didn’t, I was upside down, and I was like, ‘Woah, everybody’s just looking at me.’ I need to swim. I need to keep the control and the flow. You feel secure because our team always protects us in case something bad happens.

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