These tips come from Heidi Schauster’s book called Nourished which focuses on healing your relationship with food, body and self.
I had a chance to review this book and loved Heidi’s approach. I can tell you I was not always a healthy eater and it showed. When enough was enough I knew I had to change.
In the beginning of my journey I was very guilty of the “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” in step two at times. I knew I should eat the fresh fruit for dessert and shouldn’t eat my favorite sea salted chocolate chip cookies.
It doesn’t feel good to beat yourself up every time you eat something you shouldn’t. If you find yourself always tell your self you shouldn’t, incorporating the spot clean eating approach and giving yourself choices to choose better foods, can help you transition you into a very clean eater. At least that was in my case.
Overtime, once I started replacing sugary snacks with fresh fruit or replacing half of a mac and cheese serving with some veggies to go along with my steak. Eventually that became a habit.
Pretty soon the fruit tasted sweeter, the veggies kept me full longer and I lost the craving for the junk. As I watched the scale go down, my energy level increased. Adding in some exercise helped change my body shape.
Seeing the positive changes in the way I felt inside and out kept me motivated to continue.
My rule of thumb is an 80/20 approach. 80% of my diet choices are clean foods and 20% are more indulgent. If you know you have an occasion coming up where there will be plenty of indulgent foods you will want to partake in, be sure your meals prior to that are clean. Then when the time comes eat those forbidden foods, enjoy the indulgence and get back on track the next day.
Life is full of times where food is involved and you should enjoy those moments! Depriving yourself all the time just sets you up to fail. Using the spot clean eating method allows you to still have some of the foods you crave, which keeps it easier to stay on a path to success.
It’s a tough battle as we are the only ones that can control what goes into our mouths. As with any battle, you need some good training and tips to help you win the war.
If you are looking to make better choices in what you eat or wonder why you may stress or overeat, Nourished can help you get to the bottom of those triggers and give you a healthier and happier way to look at food.
4 Tips for “Spot-Clean” Eating
by Heidi Schauster, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S.
Everyone is talking about “Clean Eating.” I’m all for a let’s-get-back-to-recognizing-our-food way of life. I appreciate shorter ingredients lists—ones where I can find whole foods listed and not chemicals. I like shopping at farmers’ markets, eating seasonally and locally. I believe that our bodies and the planet benefit when we eat more whole food and more plants. But as a nutrition therapist and eating-disorders specialist, I worry about us taking clean eating too far.
Listen to What Feels Best for Your Body
Now, you might say, isn’t it clear that some foods are really more healthful than others? Remember, I’m not talking about unconscious eating here. I truly believe that when we make conscious choices, thinking about our own innate preferences (this sometimes takes trial and error), we end up eating in a balanced, healthy way most of the time.
No “Shoulds” or “Shouldn’ts.” Just choices
“Shoulds” get in the way of actually tuning in to what feels best in our bodies. Sometimes the foods we say we “shouldn’t” eat become more attractive just because they are forbidden. If I set up a “should eat” situation (that the rebellious part of me might want to undo), then I am using my mind and not my body to decide what to eat. The eating experience is bound to be less satisfying when I apply “shoulds” than if I am making choices from my own body wisdom, learning, and self-care.
You are the Guru
There is a flurry of conflicting nutritional advice on the internet. How can someone who doesn’t know my body and lifestyle tell me how to eat? Personally, I learned over many years the kinds of meals and snacks that “work” for me. And, in the process, I have maintained enough flexibility so that I can enjoy so many different kinds of foods in different settings. Every once in a while, I discover something that doesn’t feel great in my body. If I trust the latest advice from a nutritional guru on the internet, I might bypass the wisdom that my own body affords me every time I pay attention when I eat.
Black and white is out. Gray is in
My client Elizabeth has been working hard on finding gray areas in her life. She shared an instance where she found the gray regarding housecleaning. She read in a housekeeping magazine that she was supposed to wash her bathroom floors weekly. She has had that task on her to-do list for a long time but realized that it was often not getting done. And she was really beating herself up about it, particularly when time would go by and she really didn’t like the way the floors looked.
Black-and-white thinking kept her stuck. She either cleaned the bathroom entirely, moving all the furnishings and making the floors gleam—or she let it go and had to live with floors that were messier than she liked. It never occurred to her—until recently—that she could spot-clean the floors in between. Instead of thorough weekly cleaning, she could clean the floors well monthly and then spot-clean in between, picking up the things that collect on the bathroom floor without the whole procedure.
So, what does this have to do with food?
It parallels some of Elizabeth’s struggles with eating. She goes back and forth between eating “perfectly” and “cleanly”—following all of the rules of the blogs that she follows—or she rebels and starts eating, in her words, “… like crap.” She knows that neither feels good, although the “cleaner” eating has the illusion of feeling great at first; it’s just never been sustainable.
The spot-cleaning of her house gave her more freedom and rest to pursue other passions, and spot-clean eating shifted her challenging relationship with food. Instead of eating a large plate of just vegetables or a whole box of plain buttered pasta (one virtuous, in her mind, and one not), she started combining the vegetables and noodles and made a middle-of-the-extremes dish that was satisfying and felt good.
So, the next time you are out and you don’t know if the yummy meal you are being served is as “clean” as the one you eat at home … Please don’t panic, don’t starve, don’t ruminate over the ingredients! Make an informed choice whether to eat it or not, based on your knowledge of what feels good in your body. When you find yourself frustrated with eating “good” and “bad” interchangeably, try to give up the struggle. I propose Spot-Clean (versus Clean) Eating, which allows flexibility, pleasure, ease, and space for the rest of the joys of living.
If you enjoyed this edited excerpt from Nourish: How to Heal Your Relationship with Food, Body, and Self, by Heidi Schauster, you can obtain the entire book at https://www.anourishingword.com/the-book/.
Heidi Schauster, MS, RDN, CEDRD-S is a nutrition therapist, writer, and the founder of Nourishing Words Nutrition Therapy in the Greater Boston area. Heidi facilitates the No Diet Book Clubs, supervises other nutrition therapists who treat disordered eating, and encourages embodied eating and living for all.
We have all been there and know that spike and then crash and burn feeling we get after eating a high carb meal. But how can we avoid it while still enjoying some of the foods we love like pasta, bread and even cocktails.
I know it sounds to good to be true, but the makers of Good Idea Drinks, have found a solution. I had the chance to get a sample of these drinks and chat with founder Björn Öste. Keep reading to get the scoop on this sparkling water that can lower blood sugar.
Good Idea Drink
In a nutshell, researchers found a connection between the intake of dairy and a relatively high insulin response. They found that the intake of whey before and with a meal rich in fast carbohydrates could substantially lower the blood sugar spike following a meal.
The effect was also observed with protein that contained the presence of five specific essential amino acids. Repeated meal studies confirmed that the effect on insulin and glucose response from whey could be mimicked by serving a drink containing a proportion of the five essential amino acids before and with the meal.
Good Idea Drinks
As an additional development of the concept, a small quantity of chromium was added. Chromium is well known by scientists to have an important role in blood glucose regulation. Taken together, it was hypothesized that a combination of amino acids and chromium would have a synergistic effect that would further improve the effect on blood sugar rise.
After creating this dink the researchers studies results consistently showed a typical reduction of 25-30% in blood sugar rise following a meal rich in carbohydrates, compared to placebo.
Good Idea Drinks Nutrition
To get the full details of all of the science behind the drink and results of the study can be found on the Good Idea website as well as answers to some FAQ’s.
I had a few FAQ’s of my own and after my chat with Björn here is our Q&A session.
1. How did you come up with the idea for Good Idea Drinks? After learning of the research results from Lund University our company formed a collaboration to create the dink.
2. Can it help people with diabetes? Although it is not specifically targeted for that, it would be something to ask your doctor about to see if it might be a “good idea” to include it into your diet.
3. I have heard chromium can be used as a weight loss supplement. Can Good Idea drinks be used for weight loss? It is not marketed as a weight loss tool. However, studies have shown that chromium has shown to reduce the glycemic index which makes you eat less therefore could cause weight loss.
4. Why does it taste sweet when there is no sugar in it? It is flavored using natural flavor.
5. What exactly is “Natural Flavor”? How do you make it? Where do you get it? Great question.
6. Would it be helpful to drink while eating a dessert? Yes.
8. Would it be good to use as a mixer in cocktails, as alcohol is considered a sugar and most drinks are made with sugary mixers or juices? Yes.
This sparkling water is a little sweet and definitely has the flavor. I loved the idea of making a cocktail with it and had a bunch of limes on hand so thought I would take a stab at creating a “Good Idea” Mojito.
Although, this mojito recipe does not have any actual sugar in it, this flavored sparkling water will help the spike caused by the sugars in the alcohol or added sugars should you decide to sweeten it up yourself. Details on how to do that are listed in the directions of the recipe.
The Good Idea Mojito
I wish to thank Good Idea Drinks for the sample. For more information on the drinks or how to purchase them visit the Good Idea website.
Cover photo from Good Idea.
The Pharmacist will see you now at Dockum and is sure to cure what ails you with a special hand crafted elixir. Dockum is Wichita’s only underground speakeasy in the area that I know of and has whetted my appetite for the craft cocktails I have grown to love in Kansa City.
Prior to moving to Wichita I would frequent my nieces speakeasy The W in Lee’s Summit, Missouri which is part of the KC metro area. I of course am biased, due to the nature of the owners but have found that the Dockum here in Wichita is wonderful at creating amazing craft cocktails as well and am so glad to have a new place to hang out.
I absolutely love craft cocktails as they are made with fresh ingredients and premium liquors allowing the real flavors to shine. No sugary mixes allowed! I urge you to gather some friends and spend an evening at Dockum. Not only will you have amazing drinks and a great time, you will be supporting a local Wichita business! If you happen to be in KC make a reservation at The W and tell them Aunt Sharmy sent you!
The history of Dockum dates back to 1958 where Dockum Drug Store was located on the main level of what is now the Ambassador Hotel. Dockum is now located in the basement of the Ambassador Hotel and the only sign that it exists the RX symbol on the staircase.
Photo Credit: @DockumWichita Instagram
As you make your way down the stairs it is clear that this in no ordinary bar. Though no password is required to get in, you will have to knock on the solid wood door that will stand between you and hand crafted elixirs. Once in, the pharmacist can offer you the perfect remedy to cure what ails you.
I have found the the El Kabaong is the best remedy for my current condition. This concoction features Don Q Coconut Rum, Aloe, Pineapple Cream and Habanero Syrup. The sweet combination of the pineapple and coconut gives me the feeling of being by the ocean enjoying a tropical breeze while watching the palm trees sway.
El Kabong Cocktail
Although, the Peruvian Princess featuring Barsol Pisco, Fig Syrup, Lemon, Rosemary, Foam and Cardamom Bitters is not quite as sweet as the El Kabong it pairs well with the Dockums house-made onion dip and potato crisps when the script is suggested you take with food.
The orange essence and real smoke flavor from the Old Smokin’ Cody is an intoxicating adventure for both taste and smell featuring Cody Road Rye, Cracked Pepper, Cherry Balsamic Shrub, Angostura Bitters and Orange Bitters.
There are quite a few other prescriptions to choose from so you are sure to find a cure for whatever is causing you trouble. If it must be taken with food, in addition to the onion dip and crisps, there are some other small plate options featuring charcuterie, roasted nuts, olives and lebna with pita.
Prior to being the Amabassador Hotel or Dockum Drug Store the building was home to the Union National Bank and in the basement where this speakeasy is located, you will find the original brick walls and the banks vault giving the Dockum a sleek and rustic feel. Candle lit tables and the dark wood bar add to ambiance of stepping back in time. The Vault as it is called, adds a little sexiness to the space and can and be reserved for small parties wishing for a more intimate private setting.
Photo Credit: @DockumWichita Instagram
Reservations are not required unless you are reserving The Vault but there are a few rules you must follow. Seats at the bar are on a first come, first serve bases and as the patient you must have patience, as your elixir is quite labor intensive to make and may take some time. There are some other rules to follow when consuming you elixir at Dockum including no ball caps, do not disturb others, discreet cell phone use and of course, taking two and calling them in the morning.
The Clean Living® Experience with Tosca Reno could just change your life. It did mine, so that is why I am writing this today.
I first encountered Tosca Reno in 2007, when a magazine I subscribed to had her graced on the cover at age 40 in tip top shape. Once tipping the scale at 204 pounds she decided enough was enough and dropped the weight by using her eat clean® diet plan and eventually even competed in a figure competition.
The fact that she was older and had been overweight and now looked amazing, peaked my interest, so off to the store I went to get her Eat Clean® Diet book. It was easy to follow and it worked! I lost the weight I wanted to lose and I have been a fan ever since! I have most of her books, follow her on social media and subscribe to her newsletter, which is how I found out about this retreat.
A few weeks ago I got an email from her newsletter that she was hosting a wellness retreat at the beautiful Villa Estrella in Costa Rica through a company called Retreats Unlimited. Enough said for me as I know she knows her stuff and booked the retreat. I could not wait to meet her.
This retreat came at the perfect timing in my life as I have put back on a few of those extra pounds I lost so many years ago. In addition to the weight, my personal life was on the rocks as a move away from family and friends as well as becoming an empty nester all at the same time has thrown me into a tizzy. I know her plan works and thought this is just the ticket I needed to get recharged and back on track.
Once at the resort and meeting Tosca, it was clear I needed this even more than I thought. Not only did she address health and wellness issues, she gets to the core of the emotion. By sharing her own struggles, she became one of the group and made a safe zone where if desired, others could share their struggles. I’m pretty sure I was a blubbering idiot but it felt good to release the emotion.
Come to find out, we all have struggles and hurt, even Tosca. Your hurt looks different from my hurt, but it is still pain. It was comforting to see I am not the only one out there that feels like they are drowning in this thing called life.
Tosca worked ahead of time with the chef and every meal was clean eating® approved and delicious. Just after a couple of days of eating like this, the body starts detoxing as there has been no sugar intake, just clean healthy delicious foods. Some detoxing symptoms the group experienced were headaches and acne which is the bodies way of expelling the toxins we carry around.
With all of the amazing food, I really did not feel like I was losing any weight but decided to go ahead and weigh when I got home. I was down 3 pounds! Not bad for a four day retreat, I’ll take it!
Along with informational sessions on healthy eating, supplements, metabolism, and even a little sex, you will spend time with Tosca in the kitchen.
She will teach you her secret recipe for wetter water, plus easy tips and tricks to clean eating® so you will be able to cook and eat like this at home!
I am now back home and am back on track. My kitchen is stocked and I am not missing the sugar or anything else I have taken out.
Eating six meals a day, I had forgotten how much food you can really eat on this diet. Honestly, it is not a diet but more of a lifestyle way of eating as it is easy to follow and you get to eat real food.
For those interested in the fitness side you will not be left out. Tosca personally leads workouts in the pool, on the beach and fitness facility throughout the day. Nothing is mandatory at the retreat and at any time you may opt out of a session or workout with no judgement.
If all of the above is not enough, you also get a personal coaching session with Tosca if you wish.
There are a limited number of guests allowed on this retreat so the setting is intimate, personalized and Tosca is literally walking beside you!
Our group was very flexible and bonded well. I have made new friends that I will treasure for a lifetime. As a super fan of Tosca I thought it might be intimidating to meet her. It turned out to be the exact opposite. Tosca is humble, gracious, knowledgable, inspirational, strong and truly beautiful inside and out.
She was a blast and joined the group in all areas even accompaning us into the town to do some souvenir shopping and got a fish pedicure at the fish spa. So fun!
She took the time to bond with each one of us and embraced our individual needs.
She was gracious enough to sign all of the books that I brought and laughed when I was labeled the stalker of the group. I am honored to be called her friend now and not just a fan.
If you are in need of getting recharged physically, emotionally, mentally nutritionally or just looking for a fun getaway, I encourage you to seek out this retreat, it is truly a life changer.
The Retreats Unlimited staff go above and beyond to make sure you have the most amazing experience. They have more wellness events scheduled through out the year with various health and wellness ambassadors. Tosca’s are in March, April, May and October. Get more information at the Retreats Unlimited website. For more information on Tosca Reno or to order her books visit toscareno.com.
This behind the scenes look at Cirque du Soleil’s 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.
TORUK – The First Flight is a traveling Cirque du Soleil show that takes over 25 semi trucks full of props and equipment to pull off this visually stunning show.
When a natural catastrophe threatens to destroy the sacred Tree of Souls, Ralu and Entu, two Omaticaya boys on the brink of adulthood, fearlessly decide to take matters into their own hands.
Upon learning that Toruk can help them save the Tree of Souls, they set out, together with their newfound friend Tsyal, on a quest high up in the Floating Mountains to find the mighty red and orange predator that rules the Pandoran sky. Prophecy is fulfilled when a pure soul rises among the clans to ride Toruk for the first time and save the Na’vi from a terrible fate.
TORUK – The First Flight blends the world of AVATAR and the signature style of Cirque du Soleil with the pioneering artistic vision of multimedia stage directors Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon.
From video production to costumes and make-up, TORUK – The First Flight is a multimedia phenomenon.
Here are some fun facts from the media kit I received about what it takes to put on the show.
Pandora in All Its Splendor – Lemieux and Pilon, who also wrote the show, sought to convey the awe-inspiring beauty and vital impetus of the world of Pandora – Its rich textures, lush flora, and youthful buoyancy.
The multimedia projections that evoke the awe-inspiring landscapes – from the Floating Mountains and the Omaticaya Hometree, to the Anurai’s animal sanctuary and the lush jungles where the Tawkami live – create a visually stunning environment for the performers. So do the large-scale effects that come from the storyline, such as the earthquake and volcano eruption, the rivers of lava rising from within, and the Shaman’s visions projected on a huge floating, ethereal veil.
Some video effects are synched with the performers’ movements, such as the bioluminescent trails they leave in their wake as they meander through the forest. Some effects are mere evocations meant to create mood, like the creatures circling the sky appearing only in shadow form on the ground.
Video projections sometimes overflow beyond the set and right into the audience, giving spectators the feeling they’re not merely gazing at Pandora, but they’re actually ON Pandora. At one point, waves start in the audience before washing up on shore on stage; in another scene, a starry sky is projected all over the arena, virtually turning it into an upside-down planetarium.
Lemieux and Pilon are masters at creating virtual spaces on stage. In TORUK – The First Flight, they transform the set into a giant screen where Pandoran landscapes materialize. “Set changes, which sometimes occur in the wink of an eye, are not mechanical, but optical,” says Michel. “It’s the language of film applied to the performing arts,” adds Victor. “And we alternate between large-scale, spectacular effects and more intimate moments that evoke emotion.”
In a projections-rich production, lighting is crucial to adding volume to the performers, set elements and props. It focuses the audience’s attention on story. In TORUK – The First Flight, a state-of-the-art tracking system is used in unprecedented ways to help with this task. Hidden in their costumes, the artists wear a tracking device linked to follow spots and video projectors that react to their movements in real time.
• Total projection surface, excluding projections that reach out into the audience, is approximately 20,000 square feet, more than five times the size of a standard IMAX screen: 12,750 for the stage, 3,600 for the two lateral screens, and another 3,600 for the two columns of Hometree.
• There are 40 video projectors in all: half are 30,000-lumen each, the other half, 20,000-lumen.
• 22 video projectors are used for projections on the ground; 6 projectors send video images on Hometree; 2 projectors are dedicated to the two lateral screens and 8 projectors are used for immersive projections into the audience.
SET DESIGN AND PROPS
Pandora is a fictional moon orbiting the gas giant Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri system, the closest star system to our sun. It is home to the Na’vi, a highly spiritual people with a deep connection to nature. The moon’s environments range from tropical rainforest and equatorial desert to boreal forest, mountains, ocean shorelines, wetlands, and archipelago. Nature galore! As there are no constructions on Pandora, Set Designer Carl Fillion made it a point to avoid straight lines and to use only curvy, organic lines in his designs.
Five main elements make up the set – Hometree, the Island, the Green Belt, the Dream Catcher, and the two Lateral Screens.
The Omaticaya Hometree – On Pandora, Hometrees are two to three times the height of the redwoods that once covered the Pacific Northwest on Earth.
The bottom part of the columns of the Omaticaya Hometree loom 25 feet above the stage floor. Amid the bustle of daily life inside Hometree, one can see a Giant Loom – a kind of weaving machine that plays an important role in the daily lives of the Omaticaya.
The Island – There is an “island” at the center of the stage on which performers move about. The Island also houses a Fire Pit, a Circular Drum as well as the Tree of Souls, an inflatable structure stashed in a tiny trench under the stage floor. The tree structure is inflated as it is hoisted from the trench using cables attached to the structure above the stage. The branches of the tree are covered in thousands of LED lights.
The Green Belt – The terrain on Pandora is neither smooth nor flat. To create a fragmented topography that evokes the uneven landforms on Pandora, the Set. Designer created an elevated, padded bank – or Green Belt – all around the stage on which performers can climb and move around. The Green Belt ensures that images projected on the ground look more three-dimensional. It also doubles as a cover for the rink board. As Pandora is a world lush with vegetation, three dimensional retractable plants pop out of the Green Belt during scenes to evoke the forest environment.
The Dream Catcher – The Dream Catcher is a structure suspended 45 feet above the Island. It houses several props and set elements, including a huge plant 35 feet in diameter that serves as an acrobatic device. The structure recalls the Aboriginal dream catcher.
The Lateral Screens – The two large projection screens flanking the Omaticaya Hometree on each side extend the projection surface further out into the audience.
The stage is 85 by 162 feet.
• The show’s performance area is based on the Fibonacci spiral. This shape is determined by the ancient number sequence in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. It is said that botanists on Pandora have recognized this mathematical pattern in many botanical specimens with a fiddlehead shape. If one were to place the design of the Fibonacci spiral on the stage, the Tree of Souls would be in the exact spot at the heart of the spiral.
• Hometree is 80 feet wide by 40 feet high. The structure is equipped with wheels and stands on nine pivots. It can be moved by hand.
• The fabric that covers the entire performance area used as a projection surface during the Prologue comes in two parts, each measuring 200 by 90 feet wide.
COSTUMES AND MAKEUP
When she took on the challenge of interpreting for the stage the animated characters in AVATAR through costumes, Costume Designer Kym Barrett set out to respect the dress codes established by James Cameron’s team without copying exactly what was done in the movie. “While we worked within the parameters of Pandora, we had room to create our own version of the mythical first flight,” says Kym.
Since the movie is set 3,000 years in the future in relation to TORUK – The First Flight, the Costumer Designer needed to determine how the Na’vi’s clothing culture had changed over that period of time and, working backwards, create her designs accordingly.
The Omaticaya’s domestic culture revolved around weaving and bead-making and using the things they found in their natural surroundings – from seeds and vines and leaves, to bones and precious stones.
One look at the Storyteller’s mantle is enough to know that he is well traveled and has received various tokens from other clans over time. Likewise, the Shaman’s costume suggests that travelers to and from the Omaticaya’s home have brought
her ornaments and treasures that she has incorporated into her ceremonial robe.
The “Fabric” of Pandora – The costumes should look like they were made by Na’vi hands, hence the organic, handmade look to the wardrobe. Textures and prints were designed to overcome the fact that there are no fabrics on Pandora. The artisans in the costume department sought out materials that potentially looked like they were naturally available to the Na’vi in their environment. They “invented” Pandoran fibers that do not exist on Earth.
Some varieties of “extraterrestrial flora” used in the costumes are in reality cut-outs of loofah sponge or molds from cabbage leaves. A loincloth that looks like it was made from leaves is in fact made of crinoline, an open-weave horsehair and linen fabric usually stiffened and used for interlinings, skirts or underskirts.
Given the size of the performance space, great care has gone into ensuring the costumes look authentic. They are detailed and subtle enough to look handmade up close, but they look organic while remaining lustrous from afar.
Creating the Na’vi Skin – Before designing the first elements of the clan couture however, the team needed to address the epic challenge of reproducing the look of the Na’vi’s skin convincingly in terms of color and skin tone.
With its long, prehensile lemur-like tail, the body of the Na’vi is leaner and taller than a human’s. Acrobats do not generally fit this mold. By and large, performers in the circus arts world are more of a medium stature and more muscular than thin. The team had to start by establishing the muscle structure and the base print colors then create the Na’vi body stripes. They elongated the thorax as much as possible in order to replicate the Na’vi’s body form by raising the chest design a few inches on the costume in relation to the artist’s own chest.
Kym chose four different blue base skin tones to account for natural DNA variations among the Na’vi people. These skin colors had to work on all performers, regardless of their complexion.
Twenty-five different variations were created for the Na’vi base. The base skin fabric, an optical white synthetic fiber, was silkscreened to create the muscle and distinctive stripes. The bioluminescent effect is created using a product that reacts to the light filters used in the show.
The Costume of the Puppeteers, the “Spirits of Eywa” – The exotic fauna of Pandora is personified on stage through state-of-the-art puppetry. The challenge for the costume team was to determine how the puppeteers would manipulate the puppets without being identified as Na’vi, while remaining connected to the world of Pandora. To address this challenge, an all-black Na’vi costume was created.
Make-up and morphology – Although they are morphologically similar to humans, the Na’vi have a wider nose and larger eyes. To suspend the audience’s disbelief and create the illusion that the 35 performers on stage are in fact Na’vi, the make-up artists in the costume department needed to “remodel” the artists’ faces. In addition, countless hours were spent finding and creating unifying bioluminescent patterns that pass seamlessly between the printed fabric of the costume and the make-up, which is a unique foundation color that was created specifically for the show.
• As the base costume represents the bare skin of the Na’vi, the footwear has to imitate bare feet. The artists wear shoes contoured to the shape of the human foot, including visible individual sections for the toes.
• The flowers of the Tawkami costumes require 437 yards of fabric and 120 fishing rods.
• Some costumes are made with parts of hammocks.
• Bones were used as an inspiration to sculpt the Anurai decorations and to adorn the corset of the Storyteller.
• A drill or a hand mixer is used to prepare the wool materials that make up the braids in the hair of the Omaticaya characters.
• As turquoise silkscreen inks are extremely sensitive to sunlight, all costumes with this feature need to be covered with a black garment bag during storage.
• The black-clad, shadow-like puppeteers who personify the spirit of Eywa are a direct reference to the shadows in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” Shadow play is a precursor of cinema.
• There are 115 costumes in the show, an average of 3.3 costumes per artist. The costume department produced more than 1,000 items in all, including shoes, headpieces and necklaces.
When he dreamed up AVATAR, James Cameron created a coherent, highly structured world with its own set of codes and natural laws, including a living, breathing ecosystem with an exotic fauna.
When the creators of TORUK – The First Flight decided to evoke the creatures of Pandora on stage through the art of puppetry,
they could easily have turned to animatronics – animal figures animated by means of electromechanical devices. Instead, they chose to create bona fide puppets where the strings, rod or controls are intentionally left visible and the puppeteers are in full view.
Regardless of the technique, the goal remains to urge the spectator to suspend disbelief for a moment – to create the illusion that these are not mere objects made of metal and cloth, but living beings from a faraway moon. “On Pandora, the animals are strange, menacing and beautiful all at once. These six-legged muscular creatures exude a sense of grace and nobleness, which I wanted to convey. I wanted my designs to be a tribute to nature, as is the show,” says Puppet Designer Patrick Martel.
In TORUK – The First Flight, 16 puppets represent the creatures of Pandora: six Viperwolves, three Direhorses, three Austrapedes, one Turtapede, two swarms of Woodsprites, and one Toruk. The two swarms of Woodsprites are actually mobiles manipulated by puppeteers.
While the Viperwolves and Direhorses are directly inspired by the movie AVATAR, the Austrapedes and the Turtapede were created from scratch. When the creative team took on the challenge of imagining a show based on a pre-existing world – Pandora –, they dove head first into James Cameron’s world and used it as a springboard to explore uncharted territory. This meant creating new creatures as well. “Not only did we want to please AVATAR fans, we wanted to surprise them too,” says Patrick.
But the responsibility of adding new species to Pandora’s fauna was not taken lightly. The features of these new six-limbed creatures had to be consistent with the morphological standards of Pandora. And they are. It was a matter of respecting James Cameron’s work.
Puppet “Biology” – Since weight is an important factor when building large-scale puppets, most structures are made of aluminum or, whenever possible, carbon fiber, a material as flexible as it is lightweight. The inside of the puppets is Plastazote, which is ultra-light polyethylene foam. Stretch fabrics such as Lycra are used for the creatures’ skin, while the wings of Toruk are cut from polyester silk. The textures and patterns on the outside were printed using a technique called sublimation, which fixes the images in the fibers of the material.
Beware the Viperwolf! – With its low-slung head and snakelike jaw, the Viperwolf is a swift, fiercely intelligent animal that hunts in packs. The puppeteer uses his hands to control the upper body and articulated head of the Viperwolf, working each of the four front legs with his hand. The puppeteer moves the animal’s hind legs by giving the puppet a specific swinging motion. The Viperwolf puppet has green luminous eyes, is illuminated from the inside, and glows red and blue.
The swift and nimble Direhorse – The Direhorse is a wild, frisky animal. Two puppeteers work in unison inside the structure. The first controls the front part, including neck and head; his legs become the creature’s two front legs. The second puppeteer controls the middle legs with his hands; his legs become the animal’s hind legs. The puppeteers stand on platform shoes to better convey the creature’s impressive size.
The Austrapede, a cross between an ostrich, a pink flamingo and a dinosaur – With its long, thin neck and tail and its long, narrow bill, the Austrapede is a relatively small creature by Pandoran standards. The Austrapedes are impulsive, fidgety creatures whose emotions spread quickly from one individual to the other by a form of mimicry. A single puppeteer housed inside controls the neck and head with one hand, using his other hand to work the wings, which start flapping whenever the Austrapede is frightened. Perched on 7-inch-high platform shoes that give the animal its distinct hop, the puppeteer can see through the animal’s gills, which are a common feature of Pandoran fauna.
The Turtapede, a turtle and a shark folded into one – With its large dorsal fin and tail, the Turtapede is agile in shallow water. The puppeteer moves the sea-dwelling creature by pushing on the structure. He uses his arms to move the creature’s legs. The shell of the Turtapede has iridescent patterns that shimmer.
The Woodsprites, sacred seeds of the Tree of Souls – Two mobiles inspired by the work of sculptor Alexander Calder evoke the Woodsprites in all their aerial lightness and elegance. To reproduce their bioluminescent glow, each of the 20 seeds is equipped with a DEL light.
The Toruk, or Great Leonopteryx – The fierce and noble Toruk is an oversized marionette with a 40-foot wingspan. This type of traditional string puppet is usually much smaller and works upside down: the strings are normally manipulated from above instead of from below. The show’s Toruk works by reverse gravity and is suspended from a cable attached to an automation system that controls the creature’s movements in space. Six puppeteers on the ground control the other movements of the creature. It takes one puppeteer to control the head, two to direct the shoulders, two to work the wings, and one to control the tail – all in a synchronized aerial choreography.
Fourteen additional puppets appear in TORUK – The First Flight to evoke various animals on Pandora. These more rudimentary and impressionistic puppets, handcrafted by the Na’vi, are used in various rituals and ceremonies. Without the puppeteers, the fauna in the show would be inert and lifeless. They are the ones who breathe life into the creatures, hence the moniker “Spirits of Eywa.”
• The two Woodsprite mobiles deployed at the end of 19-foot poles each contain 20 illuminated “seeds.”
• The puppeteers are equipped with microphones and make their own animal sounds for perfect synchronization with their movements.
ACROBATIC PERFORMANCE AND CHOREOGRAPHY
“Acrobatic” Narrative – One of the biggest challenges during the creation of TORUK – The First Flight was to figure out how to portray the Na’vi in their “natural” environment in a credible way. Hence the idea of developing a different acrobatic language for this show.
The creative team wanted to convey the strength, physicality and agility of the Na’vi a setting that takes into account Pandora’s weaker gravity compared to Earth’s. Acrobatics are embedded in the storyline and the artists’ every move – from leaps and tumbles, to flips and somersaults. The stage floor was specially equipped with rebound surfaces to allow the artists to generate thrust and build momentum.
During the creative process, artists had to “unlearn” movements and gestures they had spent years assimilating in their training. They had to shun the laws of human biomechanics and learn how to move like the Na’vi. This new gestural language produced what Acrobatic Performance Designer Germain Guillemot calls “a music of the body.” Over time, the artists-cum-Na’vi began to look and behave like they
had just walked out of the big screen.
Group Dynamics – Each of the five clan in the show has features and skills that sets it apart from the others. To reflect this, the creative team assigned a distinct performance or movement signature to each clan.
Omaticaya – Giant Loom & Vines The giant loom that holds a special place in the everyday lives of the Omaticaya doubles as an apparatus. Artists climb up the structure and leap from one bar to the other, performing moves that borrow from various aerial acrobatic disciplines.
Anurai – Thanator Sculpture
An apparatus that recalls the skeleton of a Thanator – Palulukan in the Na’vi language – was created for the noble Anurai. The artists climb on the structure and perform a balancing ritual in honor of the Thanator.
Kekunan – Kites The art of indoor kite flying is used to evoke a colony of Mountain Banshees
during the scenes featuring the Kekunan, a clan that lives near the creatures’
breeding ground high up in the mountains. In certain scenes with Ralu, Entu
and Tsyal, the kites become characters in their own right.
Tipani – Poles and Staffs Valiant warriors, the Tipani are deft at manipulating poles and staffs during symbolic or ritual battles.
Tawkami – Pandoran Flora As for the Tawkami, proficient botanists known for their vast knowledge of plants and their healing properties, the oversize flora of Pandora serves as a showcase for the clan’s special abilities. Searching for potent seeds, Tsyal climbs up the pistils of an enormous flower suspended from above and performs moves that have all the earmarks of an aerial silk act. During the Tawkami scene, members of the clan celebrate the harvest by performing a balletic “floral” choreography: they manipulate banners made of ultralight fabric that evoke colorful leaves, plants and flowers, creating huge volumes that flow and undulate gracefully in space.
Choreographing Life on Pandora – During the creative process, co-choreographers Tuan Le and Tan Loc spent a lot of time with the cast exploring the show’s physical and acrobatic vocabulary in order to help drive the emotional momentum of the narrative. Using the film AVATAR as a creative springboard, they drew inspiration from the energy of the Na’vi to spark the creativity of the cast. Their goal was always to create individual or ensemble movements that look and feel “authentic” in order to persuade the audience to suspend disbelief.
Actress and former competitive gymnast Julene Renee was brought in to teach the artists how to move like the Na’vi. Known for her role in James Cameron’s AVATAR, she also worked with the actors of the film as a movement coach. Not only did Renee teach the artists the basic catlike movements of the Na’vi, she also explored with them the philosophy, language and sounds that are part of daily life on Pandora.
In the show, vigorous multicolored kites glide gracefully up above then swoop down, banking hard right and left in the blink of an eye, rising up again in power climbs before falling into spins and pulling out mere inches from the ground. On stage, these ingenious contraptions are the physical manifestations of the Banshees that roam the Pandoran sky. In essence, the kites in the show are the avatars of these winged predators. They are not mere tethered constructions; they are creatures of Pandora involved in the story. As such, they need to connect with the audience on an emotional level, particularly during the scenes with the trio.
• There are 18 kites in the show: 6 quads (kites equipped with four-line), 11 kites on poles, and 1 giant traction kite.
• During the scene in the Hallelujah Mountains, the 64,5-square-foot giant traction kite flies out over the audience. Spectators sitting up close can feel the gust of wind the kite makes as it whooshes by overhead.
• Traction kiting is an extreme form of kite flying. A traction kite is typically large enough to pull a vehicle on land, snow, ice or water. Since there is no wind indoors, it is the flyer who must generate the energy required to fly the kite. Interestingly, a traction kite that is flown indoors has the ability to glide forward just like a paper plane.
• During the Kekunan Clan scene, a group of 12 kite flyers perform simultaneously on stage.
Composers and Musical Directors Bob & Bill had to meet the challenge of creating otherworldly music that captures the vibe of Pandora, in addition to composing cinematic-sounding transitions between scenes that blend perfectly with the “Na’vi” sound. The composers lugged their equipment out in the woods to record the beats for the show’s soundtrack in order to achieve as natural and organic a sound as possible. Instead of using drumsticks to compose the different rhythmic patterns, the composers used objects or phenomena in nature – footsteps on dry leaves, a stick hitting the trunk of a tree, a branch slapping the ground, etc. Many of the beats recorded in the woods were used as is, and not as mere samples doctored in the studio.
In addition to coming up with an overall show sound, Bob & Bill created a specific signature for each of the five clans, each with its own theme, timbre, instruments and voices. Even the fierce predator Toruk has its own unmistakable two-note theme. The composers turned to Paul Frommer – the linguistics expert who invented the Na’vi language for James Cameron’s AVATAR – to translate into Na’vi the lyrics to all of the songs written for the show. Bob & Bill also drew inspiration from the musical instruments and theory explained in-depth in the Pandorapedia, James Cameron’s official field guide to the world of AVATAR.
• For the forest-dwelling Omaticaya, wood instruments, flutes and the everyday
sounds of the village were used to create beats.
• World renowned countertenor Daniel Taylor lent his voice to create the signature sound of the noble Anurai. Hollow sticks were used to create beats associated with these hunters who live in an animal sanctuary littered with animal bones.
• A female singer and a male percussionist perform live on stage along with the
pre-recorded soundtrack that makes up the show’s soaring cinematic score.
TORUK – The First Flight comprises 13 creators under the artistic guidance of
Guy Laliberté (Guide) and Jean-François Bouchard (Creative Guide) for Cirque du
Soleil, and James Cameron, Jon Landau, Kathy Franklin and Richie Baneham for Lightstorm Entertainment.