The Heroine’s Journey of Marjon van Grunsven

What is the best thing that I love about my work? This is a question I have received in every interview I gave in the past 10 years during my work as Artistic Director at Cirque du Soleil and during my work prior to Cirque du Soleil and again, today after having recently left the Cirque for a while. And it is interesting, because I had to learn and am still learning, how to answer it as best and as powerful as I can for people to truly understand; ‘It is the joy of creating magic thru interacting with the Artists, the Teams and then inevitably with the Audiences; The joy of giving, receiving, and learning from each other. The gift to touch the hearts of thousands of spectators and those of our own…and, to travel the world doing it and encountering so many different people and cultures. The love, it brings and spreads around in today’s insane world.’

What is my idea of perfect happiness? There is no ideal answer however I will try; ‘Perfect happiness I believe, is when you are able to stay in the here and now, in the moment, and be fully content. Not to worry about the past or the future, but just be in the present. To feel, witness, the joy and love for what we do, the exchange, the respect, and the magic to share it. To trust, that all will be well and will happen as it should, that we are exactly where we are meant to be’; A very difficult idea to master yet incredibly happy, when it occurs. A great meditation. On a lighter way to answer; Perfect happiness for me is also being surrounded by those I love most and enjoying the moments together.

What is my greatest fear? To be alone…even if I know, that we are all alone in the end. Mind you; I LOVE being alone…and spend much time alone but there is always the knowledge that there are people close, whom I love and who love me. When I say; ‘ To be alone’ I mean to have nobody on this earth to talk to, to ‘ be’ with. When I was a little girl, tiny little, I used to have dreams in which I could see myself in a huge and enormous and endless space that was white. There was no distinction of what was up, down, left or right…there was no sense of depth or distance…there was a huge nothingness, and I thought this is what it meant to be dead…put in a forever-ness of nothingness. Frightened it made me…and I remember wondering why, we would be put on this earth, if inevitably, we would end up in nothing? With nobody to love, nobody to play with, etc? Then, when I grew older and became a teenager, one of my mentors told me that this dream was in fact, a gift. That there was nothing to be afraid of, that we are all reborn, and the dream represented my transition from my past to my present life. I decided to try to trust the dream yet there is always that aspect of fear, especially when I am tired, to be left, entirely alone, in this crazy world. Another great fear; To lose the ability to imagine, to create, to not be acknowledged or seen, to not be given the space to work, To not be able to work with people and find magic. For it is thru magic, imagination and love, that we create peace.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? My constant struggle with the word; ‘ Patience’…I guess I am not always patient and it creates a lack of trust in darker times whereas in lighter times…it become the opposite. So I guess a good answer to this question would be; ‘ To allow darker times, to take over my faith’ – Luckily, it never lasts too long…as it is a dreadful place to be in.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? Meryl Streep, Daniele Finzi Pasca, My partners in crime, whose names I prefer to keep private, Alexander Mcqueen and Iris van Herpen, Slava, my mentors and my guides and many, many others in this world of entertainment and circus. Truly. It is ever changing as well, because we evolve so fast.

What is my greatest extravagance? To dive into what may seem an impossible project of creation at first, together with our teams and artists, and to surpass absolutely all boundaries of creation and succeed with a powerful, magical result, blowing all non-believers away, having been terribly rebellious; To have an amazing bounding time while at it and with that, having re-created once again new life and love, for what it is that we do.

On what occasion would I lie? If I had to protect a good cause: My aunt was active in the 2nd world war resistance and had to lie to our capturers in order to save countless of lives of innocent civilians and soldiers. I was taught that these kinds of lies are called ‘white lies’…and white lies are ok. I am not a good liar and prefer to stay ‘ clean’ however, if I was ever put in a similar situation than my aunt was, I hope I would find the courage to do what she did.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? Sometimes, in the world of entertainment, out of fear of losing face, position or job, manifestations of disrespect, lies, manipulation, bullying, kissing ass to climb the ladder in corporations, occur. It makes me sick on all levels. Other than that, I love all aspects of my work and am grateful, that the above, is not something I tolerate and therefore will always try to never allow in my work or around me. We chose our own actions, and with that, we can create our own perfect working environment. Sometimes, we lack courage to step away, but then life, will take care of the issues at hand. At least, in my life and in my career, that has always been the case. Not always easy. Therefore, it is an interesting mirror that we are being held in front of us…one in which we can actually see, that all of our flaws and all of our weaknesses and fears, can be wiped off the table and that ‘ Trust’ can be implemented; Again, a great meditative exercise. Not an easy one.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work? Hard to answer, as I have been so blessed with my work experiences, so very blessed. There are and have been many great happy occurrences in my career. A few that pop up in my mind are; My very first production with ‘Memento Dance Company’ in NYC in 1996. A production dedicated to all survivors of the Holocaust and that granted me two awards and a space grant for my next production. The opening of my Performance Arts Studio ‘Memento Bodyworks’ in The Netherlands in 2004. My appointment of Artistic Director for Cirque du Soleil’s first Arena Production DELIRIUM in 2007 and then for the creation of Big Top show OVO in 2009. The participation as Artistic Director for Cirque’s classic and iconic show QUIDAM in 2015-2016 and its closing after 20 beautiful and very successful years of performing. The co-writing of the new script and re-creation year of OVO into Arena in 2016 and its success following.

If I could, what would I change about myself? If I could, I would tell myself to stop being concerned about what is next. Even though I wrote earlier, that I strive to be in the present moment, it is always a challenge. Life as an Artist, as an Artistic Director, is always full of surprises. You cannot dictate your steps. You can guide and direct your course, just like how you do with your teams and artists, but you have to have a load of trust, knowing the next projects will present themselves with ease and grace, when the time is right. Scary at times…

What is my greatest achievement in work? There isn’t one in specific…There are three so far; 1. The founding of my dance company ‘Memento Dance Company’ in 1996 2. The appointment of Artistic Director for Cirque du Soleil in 2007 3. The 7 years of work as Artistic Director for OVO and the recent re-creation of OVO from Big Top into Arena from 2009 until and thru 2016.

Where would I most like to live? Anywhere where there is creativity, artistic freedom, opportunity, warmth, respect, exchange, love. I cannot see myself in one place because I am a nomad. If I sit still too long, I die. At least that is what it feels like.

What is my most treasured possession? My suitcase, my writing block, my heart and my loved ones.

What is my most marked characteristic? Besides being creative and artistic, I am known to be empathic, loyal and loving but direct. I fight for justice and equality.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city? Since I don’t consider any city in the world ‘ My city’ I will answer this question by saying that my most inspirational location in the world is the theatre. I already knew that since I was four years old and escaped from a back stage tour in a theatre, to go back to the stage and laid down on my back to look at the ceiling with all its ropes and sets. I knew right then and there, that the theatre would be my home.

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city? The theatre, hahaha! Or any place where my friends, colleagues and partners in crime can meet for a good glass of wine, good food and plenty of great laughs!!!

What books influenced my life and how? The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle One hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling The Color Purple – Alice walker Anne Frank – Anne Frank All of the above books, and plenty more, have helped me move in life, have helped me broaden my horizon, have helped me find purpose and mission, have helped my build my empathic abilities, and have helped me see and realize, that anything is possible, as long as we continue to allow ourselves to dream, and with those dreams to create and with those creative ideas to innovate and with that, to make this world a little bit of a better place.

Who are my favorite writers? All of the above.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? I do not believe we only die once. I believe we have dies many times already and we keep doing so, until we have fulfilled our mission and have learnt all there is to learn for our own individual and for our time on the earth. This isn’t my first time around, I am convinced and I am pretty sure, I have listened to quite some music already while dying. Ha! Ok, in all seriousness, if I were to die today, there are two pieces of music I would listen to; 1. Mosquitula, from Berna Cepas ( OVO) 2. Lascia Ch’io Pianga – from the movie Farinelli – Il castrato ( Handel’s opera Rinaldo)

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? Celie Harris ( Color purple) Zofia ( in Sophie’s choice) And more

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? My aunt, who fought in the 2nd world war. My mentors, my guides and my partners in crime. My mother.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime? The Color Purple What role plays art in my life and work? A very big part. Art is also so vast as an understanding. You can find art anywhere you look really. It inspires me. I am amazed by what artists come up with, by the way there brain works, by the courage they have to say what it is that needs to be said. By their capacity to make us see, hear, feel and taste…by the talent to awaken us. I believe art can save this insane world. We all need it.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? I believe my greatest fan is my mother, my greatest sponsors have passed away so I am looking fro a new one! And my greatest partner in crime is a secret!

Whom would I like to work with in 2017? Iris van Herpen, Daniele Finzi Pasca, Alexander Ekman, Andreas Lauck, Olivier Goulet, Eric Champoux, Paul Lepage, Armand Amar, Benoit Jutras, Jonathan Deans and many of my favorite artists and colleagues that I have encountered on my path in my recent years of work.

Which people in my profession would I love to meet in 2017? Iris van Herpen, Daniele Finzo Pasca, Alexander Ekman, Karen Bernal, and many more.

What project, in 2017, am I looking forward to work on? I am currently thinking about how to raise 10 million dollars or more, for my next 2 projects, which is creating a new and mind-blowing show/ spectacle as well as a building residency for artists where they create and exchange and prepare the world for new and upcoming art.

Where can you see me or my work in 2017? In the hopes to continue to travel this globe, you will see me around. For the moment I am in Europe, searching for my next base. There are blooming and very preliminary ideas for Berlin, Paris, Japan and Brazil. All in the making still and all pending funding, producers and investors.

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? It means that if we allow ourselves to disconnect with our passion, we will retire and possibly die. It means we are never to old to dream, to create, to innovate, to inspire. Passion is what drives us.

Which creative heroines should Peter invite to tell their story? Iris van Herpen – Fashion designer

How can you contact me? You can contact me via my linkedin page. Via email; Or you can join me on my facebook page.



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