Fuerza Bruta offer Rolling Stones tour producer shelter

Behind the surrealistic spectacle of the popular Argentinian show now wowing Tel Aviv lie logistics and planning.

Steven Shaw 390 (photo credit: Sivan Perge)
Steven Shaw 390
(photo credit: Sivan Perge)
There isn’t a much greater thrill for an event producer than to be on tour with The Rolling Stones – the grand production, tons of equipment and staging, and weeks of insurmountable logistical headaches, until finally the crowd fills up, the lights go out and the greatest show on earth begins.
Where do you go from there? For 29-year-old Stephen Shaw, who lived that reality traveling with the Stones on their last couple of tours, the answer is Fuerza Bruta.
“It’s absolutely fantastic, and what I love about it is that it’s something we’ve never seen before, it provides a unique experience, to say the least,” Shaw said during a visit last month to announce the dates for the Argentinean theater/circus/musical extravaganza, which on Thursday opened a month-long run at the Maxi-Dome of the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds.
“There’s something incredible that occurs when live entertainment can push the boundaries and create something that’s heartfelt, makes you feel emotions and gives you goose bumps and shivers,” he said.
Fuerza Bruta might be the only live performance these days that packs the punch of a high-energy rock show, a Cirque du Soleil circus spectacle and a gravity-defying visual feast. Although TV viewers might be sick of seeing the promo ads running nonstop on Channels 2 and 10, in the case of Fuerza Bruta, the hype may be justified.
Developed by the Argentinean creators of successful interactive dance production De La Guarda, Fuerza Bruta (meaning “Brute Force”) has traveled around the world since premiering in 2006 at the London Roundhouse in 2006. The show has found a permanent home in New York with over 1,500 performances in the past four years and everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio and Ashton Kutcher to Beyonce and Jay-Z showing up to see what the buzz is about.
And what they find is an audience, standing in arena rock-style surroundings, while above them suspended in some kind of futuristic hi-tech staging, over a dozen performers spend 65 minutes integrating music, dance, acrobatics and eye-rubbing visuals and optical illusions to create a different reality. Shows like Stomp and Blue Man Group and our own Mayumana have provided elements of what you’ll find, but according to Shaw, Fuerza Bruta provides the complete package – complete with audience participation.
“When you call something interactive, some people walk away a bit scared, so I don’t use that term loosely,” said Shaw, who has worked for Fuerza Bruta’s parent company S2BN for six years and has served as executive producer of the show’s touring production for the past eight months.
“It’s more the energy that’s built by the performers cause the audience on the floor to move together as one – that’s the capacity of the interaction. And in some scenes, the cast come out in the audience and experience what they’re seeing. The audience is standing the whole time, it’s general admission – you feel more part of it when you’re not segregated in one seat.”
Part of the energy created by the performers is derived from the seemingly impossible acts they’re undertaking overhead – including use of a vertical wall of technicolor cloth, a huge whirling sail and, in the most surreal moment, exotically clad dancers performing a “water dance” in a sea above the audience’s head, courtesy of special 1/4-mm. thick transparent material.
While some reviews of the performance have referred to performers clad in suggestive outfits, Shaw disagreed with that assessment and provided reassurances that Fuerza Bruta is an “all-ages” show.
“I don’t like that negative connotation of ‘scantily clad.’ The performers are dressed appropriately for the show, and I think that anyone from the age of seven will enjoy it,” he said.
Shaw, who left Israel to set up the show’s recent performances in Berlin, returned last week to direct the logistics of setting up the staging and equipment for the Tel Aviv shows, which are being sponsored by Orange.
“We have troupes touring in Asia and Europe simultaneously as well as our New York show, and we have enough manpower, performers and equipment to run four tours at the same time,” he said.
That level of coordination requires expertise that Shaw acquired from his years touring with The Stones in what was, for a recent college graduate, a dream job.
“It was an incredible experience – both from a personal life experience of being able to see the world and receiving a paycheck for it – and from a career and professional standpoint. I was able to learn about different markets, meet promoters, see how different cultures react to live entertainment. It’s been invaluable to my career,” he said.
Shaw was part of the operational crew, arriving at the venue a few days early, overseeing the building of the stage, merchandise stands, and insuring that everything is working properly when the band arrives.
“You don’t see the band much, sometimes backstage before the show, but it’s run very professionally – it’s not the lifestyle you see in movies like Almost Famous,” said Shaw, who worked on his first concert at age 16 as a local stagehand in his native Toronto, pushing boxes around for pop boy band ‘N Sync.
Ten years ago, Shaw interned for Canadian promoter Michael Cohl who now runs the S2BN entertainment company.
He sold posters at shows, and was eventually hired and worked his way up the company ladder.
That path has led him to Israel, helping Fuerza Bruta take that last step off the rung into the stratosphere.