Fernando Miro has years of experience as a gymnast, dancer, and circus performer.

The native of Puerto Rico is currently starring in Cirque du Soleil’s touring production of Varekai  at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa.

But, hours before the doors open to the public, Miro is on stage testing his equipment and practising his routine. Making those mind-boggling aerial acrobatics look easy is a lot of hard work.

“I usually don’t like to put in any tricks that I haven’t done at least 300 times before,” says Miro.

Practise, preparation, and a small army of behind-the-scenes support are the keys to pulling off Cirque du Soleil’s signature blend of artistry and acrobatics. Varekai has a cast of 50. Another 50 people travel with the show as everything from technicians to caterers. And the show hires another 80 local workers in every city Varekai plays.

“I would say the act that you see on stage is maybe 5% of what’s gone into it,” adds Kerren McKeeman, a trapeze artist with the show.

The show travels like a small village. Between the massive staging and everything backstage, including hundreds of lavish costumes, Varekai fills 18 tractor trailers. “The costumes alone take up one and a half trucks,” says Cirque du Soleil publicist Vanessa Napoli.

And it’s all hidden away in the wings, beyond the eyes of the audience. When show time rolls around, all that preparation and support gives way to the thrill of the performance.

Varekai is based on the myth of Icarus – the man who flew too close to the sun and melted his wings made of feathers and wax. In this story Icarus, played by Miro, lands in a strange land populated by all manner of creatures.  “There’s a lot of colour in the show. There’s a lot of cool acts, things you have never seen before,” he says.

Varekai runs July 2nd to the 5th at the Canadian Tire Centre.