Julien Panel [France] : Acrobatic Talent Scout
Became a Cirque du Soleil talent scout casting after 9 years performing on stage.
"Casting always has been something I was interested in for many reasons. I remember having requested a meeting with Fabrice Becker (ex Casting director, now director of creation for new projects at CDS) back in 2006 to know more about the actual casting job and told him I was interested to become a scout one day. 8 years later, here I was, interviewing for a job at casting and very surprisingly got it!!..."
Julien comes from Orléans, France. He has been doing high-level artistic gymnastics for more than 15 years and was a member of the France's junior team. He has won numerous national titles at the elite level and took part in the first Youth Olympic Games in Moscow in 1998. He also has a degree in Science and Techniques of Physical and Sport Activities from the University of Orléans. After a short stint at the ESM-A Business School in Paris, he decided to embark on an adventure, taking part in the creation of Corteo by Cirque du Soleil as an artist in the Tournik act. After touring North America for four years, he took part in the creation of the new resident show Viva ELVIS, in Las Vegas. He was acrobatic captain for the high bar act. In 2012, he became an acrobat on LOVE. One and a half years later, with nine years of stage experience under his belt, Julien joined the Las Vegas Casting team in May 2014 until May 2017. He is now based in France and traveling the world to discover new talents in acrobatic circus disciplines and acrobatic sports.
Q1. How did you become an artist?
A1. I was a gymnast and toward the end of my career when I visited a friend who took part of the General Formation at Cirque Du Soleil headquarters in Montreal in the summer of 2004 I knew that I wanted to become part of this company one day. Then in November 2004 I took part of a Cirque Du Soleil audition in Paris and they called me a couple of months later to join the creation of Corteo in Montreal. I was going for a 6 months temporary contract and ended up staying as an artist in the company for more than 9 years.
Q2. What was touring life like? What are the big differences between touring shows and resident shows?
A2. Touring was probably one of the best time of my life as a young adult. I got to visit a lot of major cities in North America that I would have not probably had the chance to visit if I had not been part of the Corteo tour. I loved the atmosphere of the big top, the artistic tent where we all train in the same space, set up and strike our own lodges. wardrobe, Physio, coaching, artists are all sharing the same space, eat all together in the kitchen on site and I really felt the family atmosphere. I made lifelong friends that I am still close to today. I also had the chance to have my wife with me on tour who was working in the Corteo box office in the Canadian cities (we didn’t have the green card yet so she couldn’t work in the US at that time) so we got to experience this together and will have memories for a lifetime.
The experience on resident shows was just for me a continuity and a much-needed transition after touring. The main difference I would say from touring life and resident show life is that in Vegas my wife and I could start to build a normal life around work. On tour the schedule is tighter (6 days a week and show call at 2pm on a 2 shows day) whereas on resident shows you have 2 days off and when there is no training you may start your day at 5.30pm or 6pm. Also at work, the theaters are so big that you don’t feel as connected to the other departments (technical, wardrobe…) as I was used to on tour, each department has their own space, offices so there is less interaction, yet the atmosphere within the casts I was part of always has been as amazing on the 3 shows I took part in (Corteo, Viva Elvis and Love).
Q3. Why did you decide to join the casting team?
A3. "Love" was my 3rd show as an artist at CDS and my mind and body were ready for the next steps. My wife and I also just had our first child and I wanted a change in my work life. When I was still at "Love" I went back to online school to prepare my post artist life and in March 2014 I was told that the Vegas casting team was looking for an Acrobatic advisor. Casting always has been something I was interested in for many reasons. I remember having requested a meeting with Fabrice Becker (ex Casting director, now director of creation for new projects at CDS) back in 2006 to know more about the actual casting job and told him I was interested to become a scout one day. 8 years later, here I was, interviewing for a job at casting and very surprisingly got it!! I knew the transition was going to be rough, going from 10 shows a week to 40 hours seating in front of a computer but I was so excited and was looking forward to learning and contributing to the success of the company in another way.
Q4. Could you describe your job? What is the difference between each devision in Vegas, Montreal and Europe?
A4. I am now based in France and I am an acrobatic talent scout. I am going around Europe and the world to scout new talents in International sports events, International circus festivals, top level Circus school’s graduation shows but also host auditions for acrobatic disciplines. I document my discoveries in our casting database and if opportunities arise these artists eventually are presented to our existing shows or new creations.
To come back to your question in regard to the difference between Montreal, Vegas and Europe, we all have different responsibilities but at the end of the day our mission is the same: identify and recommend the bests artists available for our projects in diffusion and our new and upcoming projects. Montreal is at headquarters so they have the biggest team including casting services (Casting website, marketing, social media..), sourcing team for acrobats, musicians, dancers, actors, clowns and singers as well as advisors for our touring shows and new creations. In Vegas, the team is mainly advising for the resident shows and in Europe we are 2 acrobatic talent scouts mainly going out on the field to recruit new talent and there is one artistic advisor for touring shows based in Belgium.
Q5. Where do you travel for audition?
A5. So far and since I am based in France I went to Spain for an audition for Circus artists and in Brazil for 4 auditions- acrobatic sports athletes, freestyle football specialists, slackline specialists and circus artists.
Q6. How does your experience as an artist affect your work in casting?
A6. I understand what being on a show requires as I experienced it myself as an artist and as an artist/coach. On top of being talented the artists need to be a “fit” to the projects we recommend them for. This is more the soft skills part of an artist that we get to explore during an audition. Having experienced both resident shows and touring shows I understand also the different realities between the 2 types of shows and this helps me determine whether an artist is better suited for one or the other or both.
Q7. What do you look for when you scout artists? What advice would you give someone making a demo or audition video?
A7. We look for a “fit” to our existing roles or upcoming roles. This includes of course the technical/acrobatic abilities but also and probably the most important artistic openness. We also look for unicity, something unseen and unknown that could be added to a new project should we see fit for it.
For the demo, we now have very detailed information on our website for the artists to make their demo according to their disciplines: https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/jobs/casting/demorequest/disciplines.aspx but overall I would say, show your best skills, only the ones you master and would be able to perform 10 times a week on stage, refrain from editing too much, we want to see your transitions when it comes to an act, show us your personality, how you move, act, sing, dance. You may not know what or who we are looking for tomorrow and it maybe you so just give it a shot!!!
Q8. What does your job bring into your life?
A8. I feel very lucky to work at casting. I remain very close to what I experienced for nearly 9 years on a Cirque Du Soleil stage as I stay informed on how our shows evolve over the years and I am also close to the field, the young talents who are still in gymnastics for example, this is where I come from and it is very special for me to get to offer opportunities to gymnasts ready to transition from their competitive career like I was given one day.
Thank you Julien!!!
Website : Cirque du Soliel Talent
Official Facebook Page : Cirque du Soleil Casting
PHILIPPE AGOGUÉ [EUROPE]
Senior Casting Advisor, International Development
DMITRY BELYAYKOV [MONTREAL]
Acrobatic Talent Scout – Athletes and Circus performers
AMY BROGAN [MONTREAL]
Casting Associate & Business Consultant
XAVIER BROSSARD-MÉNARD [MONTREAL]
Artistic Talent Scout - Singers and Instrumentalists
CHARLES BURROWS [LAS VEGAS]
Acrobatic Casting Advisor and Talent Scout – Resident Shows
STACY CLARK [MONTREAL]
Head of Acrobatic Casting and Talent Scout
SARAH DAVISON [LAS VEGAS]
Head of Casting and Artistic Advisor- Resident Shows
ANDRÉ FALEIROS [MONTREAL]
Head of Artistic Casting and Talent Scout
LEON KUPFERSCHMID [MONTREAL]
Artistic Talent Scount
JULIEN PANEL [EUROPE]
Acrobatic Talent Scout
SAMUEL ROY [MONTREAL]
Acrobatic Talent Scout – Circus performers and athletes
BRIGITTE SCHERRER [MONTREAL]
Acrobatic Talent Scout – Circus performers and Athletes
YVES SHERIFF [MONTREAL]
Artistic Talent Scout – Clowns and Physical Actors
RICK TJIA [MONTREAL]
Artistic Talent Scout – Dancers
YVONNE TOUSEK-RENNE [MONTREAL]
Acrobatic Talent Scout - Athletes and Circus performers
CLAUDE VENDETTE [MONTREAL]
Artistic Talent Scout – Instrumentalists and Singers