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Students push the creative envelope with ‘Cirque’ challenge

cirque work: Miami International University of Art & Design fashion students Chelsea Vega and Sebastian Cubides check out fabric. Students competed in a Cirque du Soleil contest testing their creativity.
cirque work: Miami International University of Art & Design fashion students Chelsea Vega and Sebastian Cubides check out fabric. Students competed in a Cirque du Soleil contest testing their creativity. For the Miami Herald

During her Las Vegas trip, Miami International University of Art & Design fashion design student Chelsea Vega enjoyed what Sin City had to offer, from casinos to stage shows.

But time didn’t allow her to watch a Cirque du Soleil show. That’s OK. Because on Wednesday, she will be part of an actual production.

Vega, along with nine other students from her school and The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, are competing in a costume contest with corporate design guidelines created by Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai’s wardrobe costume director and staff. Varekai — described as an “acrobatic tribute to the nomadic soul” — runs through Aug. 23 at BB&T Center in Sunrise.

“I was in illustration class, and this project was presented to me,” said Vega, 21. “I thought it was interesting because you had to design and create the character. I was excited. I wanted to do it because I love designing.”

Students will get a behind-the-scenes tour and will learn about what it takes to maintain Cirque du Soleil. They’ll also receive tickets to the show, and their illustrations will be on stage during the performances.

Vareka’s head of wardrobe, Collette Livingston, said the competition is a great chance for design students to challenge themselves.

“This is the first time we have done something like this,” she said. “We try to reach out to educational programs to enrich their learning and prepare them for the real world.”

Vega’s classmate Sebastian Cubides, 25, created a character named Bush Baby.

“He is a dancer,” Cubides said. “He is a clown character who is nervous. He has a feather on his head that quivers. When the danger has passed he comes out and dances and hides behind the plants.”

Students had to follow certain guidelines.

“They have to stick to the production of the show, but they need to keep in mind that the wardrobe needs to be washable, flexible and easy to breathe in,” Livingston said. “They need to think of the acrobatic elements, not just the design elements.”

Miami International University of Art & Design fashion department chairwoman Charlene Parsons said the most important part of the contest is that students are being pushed to a new level.

“It’s a different element for them,” she said. “It’s important for a designer to get out of their comfort zone to reach out and do something different.”

RODOLFO ROMAN

Varekai will be at BB&T Center, 1 Panther Pkwy., through Aug 23. Tickets: $40-$145. Call 800-745-3000 or visit CirqueDuSoleil.com.

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