There’s nothing like growing up in Campbell River to prepare a girl for life on the world stage with the famous Cirque du Soleil.
That’s how the city’s premiere dance instructor and artistic director Heather Gordon Murphy sees her world as she packs her bags for Azerbaijan in Eastern Europe where she will work with the Cirque team mounting a 400-person “spectacle” at the Sept. 22 opening ceremonies of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Under 17 Women’s World Cup of Soccer tournament.
Murphy, 54, originally a dance instructor, is well known in the city for her work with the Shoreline Music Theatre Society, Sweet Tease Burlesque, River City Players, Raincoast Creative Performing Arts and the Tidemark Youth Theatre.
“I look at Campbell River as sort of the wild west,” Murphy says. “Because we’re here we have to adapt. We become so capable here. We tend to create things to happen or we go crazy.”
It is that ability to create, to adapt, “to build a stage and create a skit on it” that appealed to the Cirque, she says.
It was also her work with Australia’s David Atkins Enterprises, the company chosen to mount the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
“I learned to do everything from operating a fork lift to putting a 1,000 people on the floor with snowboards, to standing in for the Four Tenors for sound checks and I worked my butt off.”
It was at the 2010 Olympics that Murphy learned the skill of choreographing mass groups.
It involved the complex task of matching the carefully-scripted movements of 1,000 volunteers to ensure they corresponded with every changing bar of music.
In Baku, Azerbaijan, Murphy will be part of a four-person team helping to choreograph 400 local volunteers for a seven-minute segment in the ceremonies.
“It’s a great gig. I know why I got the job. You have to be low maintenance, not get flustered, just dive in and do it.”
The ceremonies and games will be televised in more than 150 countries.
Murphy says she is expected to be on the floor with the 400 performers and has already submitted her clothing sizes for her costume.
“Watch for me … I’ll be the zebra,” she says.