Sebastian grew up in the province of Quebec and started playing the violin when he was 6. He was invited to audition for Cirque du Soleil when he was about 19 and has been touring with them for about ten years. When he started, he was single, but a few years later he invited a long time friend to visit him in Japan and she’s never left the tour. They were married and have two kids, a seven year old (born in New Zealand) and a four year old (born in Portugal).
There are about 120 performers and workers on this tour, with their families, this number goes up to 180. That includes about 25 school-aged kids. Cirque has hired instructors and physicians and other support staff. In fact, Sebastian’s wife was hired as a “guardian” for the kids. The kids in general have a school day from about 9:30 to about 3:30, less for younger kids, and older kids sometimes swap out days performing and going to school. The parents can choose to have the kids taught “bilingual” – some study in Russian and some in French, as well as English. Since Sebastian is Quebecoise, he has opted to have his kids learn French.
Sebastian considers Quebec (province) his home, but when he goes back home, he has to visit his family, his grandparents, all his friends – it’s like another performance. So he doesn’t go back all the time. At home, he has an apartment, a boat and a cabin. For him, going on vacation is probably not going home – he likes to travel, and Cirque shows don’t always go to the cities he wants to visit. For instance, after their performance in Mexico City, he took a week and went to the Pacific coast.
When asked about his kids and parenting them, he encourages routine. “Even if you’re in another country,” Sebastian says, “routine helps the kids feel like they’re taken care of.” I know that when we get off routine, the younger kid seems to worry about what’s going to happen next – so I’m sure he’s right on about the “feel like they’re taken care of” part. With older kids, they encourage “real friends” and “real friendships,” strong bonds between families. And when there’s a birthday, he says, “Everybody is the uncle or the aunt.”
Sebastian hopes that his own kids get something out of this, and learn to find their own passion. He’s teaching his daughter to play the violin. While most Cirque kids seem very social, he thinks his daughter is extra-social and enjoys talking to people and making new friends. And the first pet she pet was a kangaroo.
One of the things he likes about Cirque du Soleil is their valuation of his family. He, personally, puts his family at the top, and under that is his music, and under that is Cirque du Soleil. They basically do the same thing. As we talked about his general day, we found there was a lot of family time; wake up, and work on schoolwork until breakfast, go to breakfast with the kids before school, take them to school, and after school, family time until rehearsals, then the performance and bedtime. With his four year old, school’s out at lunch. Lots of family time and terrific care by Cirque for the kids.
Have you taken your kids? Have you gone for yourself? The show runs to May 20, and you really should check it out!