When you watch a spectacle like O at Bellagio, you’re not going to catch every detail. There’s simply too much going on. No one knows that better than the show’s artistic director, Ria Martens.
“I’ve been here now for eight months, and I watch the whole show a few times a week,” she says. “There are still so many times when I just think, wow. It’s amazing that almost 20 years ago they thought of these transitions and the lighting and the water, and it’s all just so beautiful. What I like to do with the artists when I can is rotate them out so they can see, because it’s so different for them to be in there and then [step out] and be able to see it all. They’re so proud. And that’s what you need.”
It’s Martens’ job to keep O’s artists and crew just as driven and passionate as she is; that’s the only way to create all those wows. “To me it’s all about the growth of the artist, the team being together and moving in one direction,” she says. “I need to push and be engaged and give that fire to everybody, because you’ll see it onstage.”
Born in Belgium, Martens has been with Cirque du Soleil for 20 years and in Las Vegas since 2004. She began her career in the arts under legendary jazz dance educator Lynn Simonson and spent many years trekking the world as a teacher herself. She first began working for Cirque on its touring production Alegría, which kept her traveling for seven more years.
By the time she landed in Las Vegas, she was ready to “put away the suitcase” and dig into a permanent resident production. She has moved around, from Mystère to Zumanity to helping create Criss Angel: Believe, then back to Zumanity for a refresh and finally, this year, to O. The varying content and collaboration keeps things new, and working with so many different people from different parts of the world is probably her favorite element of the job.
“It’s a challenge to stay fresh and not go on automatic, but part of my job is to make sure that doesn’t happen. You have to change little things so everyone pays attention and keeps learning. There are so many amazing [artists], and without them I would get bored. It’s really fun.”