Members of Cirque du Soleil train while preparing to resume presentations, in the Riviera Maya in Cancun, state of Quintana Roo, Mexico on July 17, 2020. (AFP/Elizabeth Ruiz)
Using face masks, sanitizing gel and social distancing, Cirque du Soleil artists in Mexico practice before a performance -- a rare sign of hope for the famous Canadian circus company.
The circus shut down 44 shows across the world due to the COVID-19 outbreak, furloughing 95 percent of its workforce and filing for bankruptcy protection.
But -- after three months off stage due to the coronavirus lockdown -- performers in the "Joya" show returned earlier this month to the theater in Riviera Maya on Mexico's northeastern Yucatan Peninsula.
Contortionists, jugglers and skaters rehearsed for what will be their fifth show since the end of lockdown. Attendance is limited to 30 percent capacity, or just 200 of the 650 seats.
"We're delighted to be back on stage during this pandemic, to be here with the audience," said Jamie Sullivan, the show's director of operations.
"Joya" was inaugurated in 2014, in partnership with a Mexican hotel chain.
It was only the second of Cirque du Soleil show to reopen following the global lockdown -- the first was "The Land of Fantasy" in Hangzhou, China.
The Montreal-based company last week accepted a purchase offer from its creditors, which will serve as the basis for its auction in August.
"Joya" involves 30 artists and 280 technicians in a theater that was especially built for the show, inspired by the migration of the monarch butterfly.
It is the first Cirque de Soleil show resident in Latin America.
During the lockdown, which lasted from the end of March until June, almost all of Joya's artists, who come from 15 different countries, remained in Mexico, said Sullivan.
The Quintana Roo state, where Riviera Maya is located, is still subject to Mexico's maximum virus alert.
The country has been hard hit by the virus, with almost 350,000 cases and more than 39,000 deaths.
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