Eirini Tornesaki

Eirini Tornesaki: Risks and Rewards Inside and Outside of Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities (#66)

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Our Guest Today: Eirini Tornesaki

Eirini Tornesaki was born and raised in Greece, educated and lived in the UK for 4 years. Eirini Tornesaki has been working with Cirque Du Soleil in the show KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities since January 2014, touring Canada and the United States.  Eirini is the original singer of KURIOS and performed the vocals on the soundtrack album recorded in Montreal and released in November 2014.

When KURIOS came to Boston in May 2016, I was eager to see it live. The music hit me right away. I saw a petit, beautiful woman singing in the background. Her costume so elegant, her voice so pure, and her presence so powerful. I reached out to Eirini and invited her to my podcast.

Special thanks to Amélie Robitaille, publicist of KURIOS, for helping source the wonderful soundtrack and incorporate them into this podcast.

Questions We Discussed With Eirini Tornesaki

  • How was Eirini recruited by Cirque du Soleil? What was the process like?
  • What are the changes and decisions she had to make in order to work for KURIOS?
  • What special training did she go through to become the singer she is today?
  • What do she fear during the show? How does she manage mistakes and when things go wrong?
  • What’s the a Day in the Life of Eirini?
  • Why does she believe that “you should not focus on your mistakes in the show”?
  • How did she grow up in Greece? How does she manage to sing in many languages?
  • How did Eirini survive bullying in school? How can parents and our society support children who have been bullied?
  • Eirini’s experience watching KURIOS for the first time as part of the audience.
  • “Your life leaves you when you enter the circus.”

Links and Resources:

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Fei Wu 0:00
Welcome to the Feisworld podcast, engaging conversations that crossed the boundaries between business, art and the digital world.

Born and raised in Greece, educated and lived in the UK for four years Irani torna Saki has been working with Cirque du Soleil in the show curios cabinet of curiosities since January 2014, touring Canada and the United States, Irina is the original singer of curious and performed the vocals on the soundtrack album recorded in Montreal and released in November 2014.

I am Fei Wu and this is face world podcast. One curious first came to Boston in May 2016. I was eager to see alive. The music hit me right away. I saw a petite beautiful woman singing in the background. Her costume is so elegant. Her voice is so pure and her presence so powerful. I reached out to Irani and invited her to my podcast.

Eirini Tornesaki 2:09
One day I was sick, and was the last day of one of the cities, I got a throat infection. Hey, please, can you let me just watch the show, and then leave, I sat and watched the show for the first time. After one and a half years, I watched the show. And I was crying the whole show because you know what you said about the effort and how everybody is so committed and so talented, because also I know all of them. And I know what everybody goes through. Because touring is tough and performing six days a week is even tougher, physically, emotionally. But then it’s so rewarding to so it’s like it’s a balance. But it doesn’t take away the effort when I saw everybody looking so amazing on stage and their smile in the lights in their face in their makeup. So beautiful. I was crying the whole show because I thought it is just incredible what these people are doing.

Fei Wu 3:22
Eirini,thank you for teaching me how to say your first and last name and welcome to the face world podcast. You’ve traveled a lot, but yet you’re only you’re only 2425 years old. I’m looking at your resume, you’ve done a lot, you actually recorded the original soundtrack album for curios by Cirque du Soleil, which we have purchased the copy and it’s just absolutely beautiful. It’s the type of music you can listen to while you’re driving while you’re while you’re working and studying. And, you know, tell us about how this all happened. And I guess we start with the stage one is How did Cirque du Soleil recognize your talent and kind of recruit you? What was that process like?

Eirini Tornesaki 4:05
So as you may know, so just delay the they search for talent all the time. And all over the world. They don’t go everywhere. But there are some parts of the world where they hold auditions quite frequently or you know, the the audition, the live audition that I took part in was in London, and they went there four years ago. And now this year they went again, you know, sometimes they would go to Europe, some parts of Europe. us so how it happened with me. A friend of mine actually told me about the auditions. He just forwarded an email to me with the additional call. And and yeah, I did not really know much about certainly at that point. So I was curious. I was curious, too. So as to what this company does, I was looking online, you know, looking at the videos and thought, wow, that seems just really, like huge. And I was I was wondering how come I never really know much about it? At that point, I wasn’t sure. You know, I wanted to be a sort of display singer. But I thought that the audition process would have been very interesting. And growing experience to our show is going to learn a lot from it. So I, I took, I took the chance I, I recorded the material with a video, and I sent it and then they responded that would like to invite me to their live audition in London. And that was in 2012. Wow. That’s I was still a student, then I was on my third year studies. And it’s a funny audition me i i looked at it recently, and, you know, very young and, you know, smiling easy. Yeah. Because, you know, traveling all over the world would be an amazing experience. And, of course, I didn’t expect anything of it. And I just, I did it. And I did the live audition. And I was given this piece of paper that says, You are part of our list of artists now. So you know, I was happy, but you know, I set it aside. Okay. Now I’ll go on, finish my thesis graduate. Yeah. Well, chosen, keep, keep working, whatever I was doing, and yeah, it wasn’t, I wasn’t really expecting to hear, you know, you may have heard that. It may take a really long time. Until you hear from certainly for a job offer, you know, there are jobs available. And there’s are always shows of opening. And, you know, people retiring, and transferring, etc. But there are also a lot a lot of people applying and you don’t know.

Fei Wu 7:27
So how competitive was your experience? Because they might not expose the statistics, the number but I can only imagine there must have been 1000s of women, you know, similar in age and possibly in training. I know you went through some rigorous training, which we should get into. But how competitive was it? Did they ever revealed that to you?

Eirini Tornesaki 7:49
The only thing that they revealed was that when they had to choose people that fit that specific role of curious, let’s say, they said, you know, we need a person that sounds kind of like this with this kind of range and this kind of sound experience, whatever their criteria was, they came up to a list of 85. And I know that the casting director told me that I was among 85. So, of course, at that moment, when I received that call, which was a year after my audition, then I didn’t know how many I was up against. They just told me that they’re, they’ve put me as a candidate for the role. And of course, they asked me would you be interested in said Of course, yes. So at that point, they had to start eliminating, and it was the direct director’s choice. Point, Michelle priests, who is the director, a creative curious, well, congratulations,

Fei Wu 9:02
first of all, you were probably there was less than 1% of the chance of getting it. And what I really like about that process, as you’re describing, it’s based on yeah, there’s a little bit of luck as in everything else, but a lot of it is, you know, its training and perseverance to a certain degree. And you just never know, you know, unlike a corporate job where your nephews and nieces your AKA, you know, your clients, kids are all rushing in and you’re really competing out there without much connection or any connection at all. And so fast forward to a year after you auditioned what, I assume you were still in the, in the UK at that moment. What are some of the changes you have to make in your life? What were you doing at the time? Versus Oh, you know, I’m sure it’s a yes to this offer. What type of changes did you have to make,

Eirini Tornesaki 9:56
you know, the biggest change that I that I had to make was to leave Europe as a whole. I mean, Greece, the UK, I had never been to Canada had never been to the US. And it is a far away, you know, once you cross the Atlantic, it’s just another world that you never imagined what it would be like. And, you know, we tend to live in our little bubble. I mean, sometimes, yeah. Okay, I had gone to England, and I had seen something different. But I wasn’t, I was thinking about going somewhere so far. So that was the biggest change that I that I made. And I left a lot of little projects that I was doing there. Thinking, you know, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel with her display.

Fei Wu 10:51
Absolutely. Were your parents or brothers Sister, what, what? What were some of their reactions were friends.

Eirini Tornesaki 10:57
Um, my parents were excited. And they encouraged me to take the decision. Because, of course, when you’re, when it all becomes real, you know, you’re finally after a few videos, and at least the elimination process. You know, I was called to be told that I was chosen. I, I panicked a little bit. Of course, you have to make a big decision at that moment. You know, you have to leave, you know, relationships and friends and family, you know, it’s a big, big step. So I Yeah, panicked a little bit. And so I was trying to make that decision now, and sign that contract. Give it all to yours, you know, now, because the first contract is two years long. Wow. Yeah. So my parents helped me a lot with that decision. They were very encouraging. And they thought that it was going to be just a great experience. And they were right course.

Fei Wu 12:18
Yeah, and then you know, what I learned from Andy and Kevin Atherton, as they were their error lists. And they’re, you know, they’re strapped artists. And they there were gymnasts before and they told me they have to go through just tremendous amount of training to become to go from athletes to artists at Cirque du Soleil. And they describe the training as really brutal, but in a very good way. What type of training did you have to go through kind of transition from the singer, you were to the singer that you are today?

Eirini Tornesaki 12:51
That’s a nice question. It is diff, it is different from a between musicians, circus artists, athletes, you know, because it depends on what kind of background you’ve had. But for me, the the transformation, I would say, was just the way, you know, the coat, the training that I had in the creation period with a coach every day, to strengthen my voice, to be able to maintain it for nine to 10 shows per week. That was the big goal, you know,

Fei Wu 13:26
what did you have to do to maintain it for that long? And how long did it take,

Eirini Tornesaki 13:31
I was training for three months. And I was just working on technique, and stamina, you know. So a lot, a lot has to do with, with your breathing, you know, your diaphragm, you need to learn in singing, you need to learn how to really support your voice without shouting, lets you know you want to sing a powerful note, that is not going to hurt your vocal cords. Because if you have to sing it repetitively, nine for nine or 10 shows, it could potentially hurt your voice. You could be losing your voice on the fourth Show of the Week. And that was one of my fears in the beginning. Just because I do have a sensitive voice. And before I I used to lose it sometimes if I had a demanding schedule that was thinking how is it possible? To due to someone shows? So yes, it was training. I was training for two hours with my coach. And then of course, we had rehearsals on top of that. And yes,

Fei Wu 14:41
I think it’s interesting because you’ve been going out for a couple of years. And I find it so fascinating as you’re recalling this information from two years ago, which you know, in a grand scheme of things isn’t a very long time, but just to see yourself, sort of transform this period of time. Am I, you know, maybe are there moments that you kind of go through your day and just kind of take a pause, say, Wow, I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’ve come a long way. Does that happen to you? Or you’re too busy? I can’t even process?

Eirini Tornesaki 15:16
It. Well, I think when you work for for such a busy show time, the protection of the I don’t know, the perspective of perspective of time is. I don’t know, it’s fluctuates. You know, you may think, Wait, was that a year ago? Was that two years ago, you get a little bit lost in time? And yes, sometimes I would pause and think, Okay, now, I mean, Boston, okay. You know, I have to like, really feel, stop and feel where I’m at, in what I’m doing and what happened before and what, it’s such a fast pace. Work,

Fei Wu 16:04
you know, yeah. So, yeah, go ahead. Go ahead.

Eirini Tornesaki 16:08
No, just that, that it’s, I mean, sometimes, I just can’t believe that. I have also been to all these places, you know, and I have memories in a lot of different cities in the US and that, that I had never been before, you know, it’s just memories accumulating. Yeah, it’s,

Fei Wu 16:30
you’re only 24. And yet you’ve experienced the world, not only as a traveler, you know, it’s which is very different, but you’re working at these different places in the world. And not only that, you’ve earned tremendous amount of respect, right from these residents, from people from these cities. I think it just an incredible experience. I do. I’m always curious to ask this, which is, what is a day in the life of Cirque du Soleil artist? And the reason for me to ask that is a lot of people who assume you show up, you perform the show, I know, it starts at around seven 730, if I remember correctly, and what people don’t know is you tend to show up a lot earlier. For athletes for performance you have to warm up for in your case, you may have to warm up your your voice, your vocal cords. What is it? Like? When do you wake up? You know, what do you eat? And actually, let’s talk about your how do you kind of like condition yourself and then before going to work?

Eirini Tornesaki 17:28
Okay, so Well, first of all, people that work in, in entertainment are usually night owls, even even if you you’re not naturally, you know, the schedule makes you have, you know, makes you be at the peak of your energy at night. So, you know, we’re out of work at 11. And we’re still you know, full of energy. And so after that, we get home and it takes a while to wind wind down sometimes I work on my personal songwriting after the show, just because though awake and inspired, and my voice is warmed up, and I feel you know, sometimes I but I don’t go crazy. I always make sure I sleep in the night. Like I never stay up, you know,

Fei Wu 18:24
three in the morning, like what time do you know maybe like

Eirini Tornesaki 18:27
130 or two?

Fei Wu 18:28
Okay, got it? That’s not Yeah, yes, it’s

Eirini Tornesaki 18:31
not too bad. But I do sleep a good eight and a half hours. And if I sleep less I get I start feeling it in my voice, you know, a little tired. So yes, I wake up around 930 I, you know, I’d have breakfast at home. And then I usually go out outside for like a walk or a coffee or something. Just to feel you know, awake. And then usually. So I every day I decide what is my priority and what what I want to do with my little bit of free time that I have. And then usually I work on my songwriting. Or I go visit something, for example, a museum or something like sightseeing in the city. And if it’s a one show day, I get to work around five. So this is three hours before the show. Ah, this is exactly enough time for me to get there. Eat first and then do makeup, which takes me about 45 minutes. I then do a 30 minute vocal warmup. 30 minutes of soundcheck. 30 minutes of preparation, which is I braid my hair and I put it under a wig cap and and then costume and why tires and all of that stuff. takes me about 30 minutes, and then I’m ready for the show.

Fei Wu 20:07
So fascinating once you get on stage and at this age that you’re very familiar with your show with, with your songs. How has it changed over the course of let’s just say, a year or two? And how do you now react to sort of the audience reaction? Or, you know, what, how different is it? Do you still get, you know, stage fright? Or do you still get nervous before during?

Eirini Tornesaki 20:34
Yes. It’s crazy. I don’t know. I don’t know, for a performer no matter how familiar you may be with your material and everything. You get this, you know, but something before you go on stage, and you you meet that, I mean, you need that to really be present and perform. I don’t get nervous, nervous. But if my voice is giving me a hard time, let’s say it’s, let’s say it’s a Sunday morning, and it’s a matinee show. And, you know, I’ve already done no eight shows, let’s see if my voice is a little bit. Yes, give me a hard time not being exactly in control. You know, that’s when I get a little worried. And I’m thinking, Oh, my God, oh, my God, my voice is going to break so that I get nervous.

Fei Wu 21:32
What happens if something does go wrong? Because I know that things many things go wrong from tiny little small shows, local shows, through you know, up on stage, and if you do lose your voice, if you forget the lyrics, what happens?

Eirini Tornesaki 21:47
Okay, well, sometimes, it’s not very obvious. So it’s just, you can just hide it. Yeah, you keep smiling, and you keep singing. I mean, you sing much better after that. And I’m good to prove that I’m not. I didn’t make a mistake. You know, you, when you perform, when you make them, you should always ignore it. Because it’s in the past, you know, that’s always what you should think it’s always it’s gone. If I get frustrated about it on stage, I’m going to ruin the the next of the rest of my performance. And yes, it has happened that actually twice during an acapella part. During the straps number. There’s an acapella part. And acapella means any evoked vocal, it’s a vocal, with no instruments around it, just a pure vocal sound. So obviously, any mistake there is obvious, you know, my voice broke. So you heard just my voice cutting or just a little squeak or something like this. And of course, everybody looked like, what happened, you know, and yes, I got nervous, and you know, your heart starts beating and thinking, I have to forget about this and keep going.

Fei Wu 23:10
I love that this was one key takeaway for me. Same thing as people in the business world, or they feel like during the presentation, they’ve said something stupid, or they feel like they’re not looking as if you know, there’s no makeup, there’s nothing to hide that you feel naked and exposed to yet, you have to leave it behind you. Because what people will remember sometimes is the beginning and the end. And actually, sometimes in the middle. It’s arguable what people did remember, because the way as an audience, you know, unlike your peers, your colleagues who memorize everything for us audience, we can’t possibly tell that, you know, the difference in the intricacies. So,

Eirini Tornesaki 23:51
yes, and also with the kind of job that you do, you know, interviewing people, or when when you are actually being interviewed, you can get nervous. And I think it’s just important to go past what happened not, not focus on on your mistakes, because sometimes you may have a point and it can be so hard to, to, you know, to express it. And you just need to, you know, forget it. Keep going.

Fei Wu 24:23
Yeah, I absolutely encourage, as you know, very well, I didn’t send you any questions, or as you did prepare anything. And some of my favorite moments while interviewing people is when they do pause, and they want to think they really want to get into really deep in the thinking before they, you know, kind of just vomit out what they need to say, in the positive way. And sometimes people say as they go through the interview, they’re saying, I want to change my answer. I do. I feel a little different now about the question earlier and that’s also very interesting to me. So I’m really enjoying this and I make it free Should I realized it’s so funny, I always write down a few questions, but I very quickly go off track and many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many,

many. I do want to talk about your upbringing a little bit, I find that to be fascinating you as a, I love interview women. And in this case most so funny, most of my guests are at least a little bit older than I am. But you know, you’re one of the very few instances where, you know, you’re much younger, and just through a half an hour conversation, and I actually learned a ton from you, which I don’t feel embarrassed about. So you speak on your resume I, you know, it’s one of those I look at, it’s like, whoa, what have I done with my life? But with that said, you speak you said, you can sing in Greek, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French? What? How did you master so many languages in singing? How did that happen?

Eirini Tornesaki 26:28
Well, I don’t think I have mastered I wouldn’t mess with them. I am more comfortable in some of them than others. But it’s just well, how I how I would do it. You know, if I want to sing a Portuguese song. I just listened to it 1000 times. I tried to read them the words how you know how I hear them from the from the recording. But then I asked help from a speaker, a native native speaker. So when I wanted to do there was once I had to do a Portuguese radio identity spot, you know, what would you call that little spot from for radio in Portugal. And I just asked the Portuguese person to help me with the accent. Then he he started helping me to read Portuguese text. So then I started knowing the combinations of letters how the sound. And so you know, every time I want to sing one song, and then it becomes easier and easier. That’s that’s how I did it. And then there, for example, French I learned French at school. Spanish I just taught myself Spanish because I loved the language. So yes, it kind of works like that.

Fei Wu 28:02
So you took it this is one of the huge benefit in my eyes growing up in Europe. And you know, my friends who are German or French, they especially the German friends, they all grew up, they all grew up basically learning and speaking five, six different languages. Granted that might not be speaking that you know them fluently. We’re constantly at home. So, you know, what was it like growing up for you? I want to kind of dive in deeper here. You mentioned that your parents are very supportive. But how did singing come about? How, you know, how did you grow up?

Eirini Tornesaki 28:40
Singing was very natural for me. Since I was since I was a baby always. As soon as I could talk then I started singing and it’s I think it plays a big part. No, sorry. The fact that my mother is a retired music teacher, and also that my dad loves singing too. They we always had music playing at home, always singing along. We have piano a piano we have guitars, accordions percussion. Our house is full of instruments. Wow. So you know me and my two sisters. We always played music. Since we were babies. We were always on the piano and singing with my mom and yeah, so I will always I was always singing. And then of course, my mom. You know, she asked me what do you want to learn to play an instrument? So I started learning piano when I was six. Now studying also music theory. I was part of the choir. And then when I was 13, I started cello, classical cello and then I During the string orchestra, I was always full time involved in music. I was learning English too. You know, in Greece, a lot of students, they go to an evening school to learn to learn English, and some of them also another language to. Yes. So yeah, it was just a very, very busy kid. Really, I would say obsessed with music to the point where I was bullied for

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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