Somersault to Success: Cirque Life
Welcome to the second in a series of blogs where I’ll be highlighting some of the greatest opportunities British gymnasts should be looking out for! Gymnasts are not only some of the most flexible, tough, and fit athletic performers, but also tend to be the kind of hard working, passionate and dedicated individuals that are perfect for many other highly sought after roles.
For a gymnast, running away to join the circus is not a childish fantasy but a realistic and exciting career path. Where better to follow your passion for performing into adulthood? Shows worldwide love recruiting gymnasts, with their unique skills and experience in front of live audiences, and audiences love the acrobatic acts too! (You might even say they’re the best acts of all, not that I’m biased or anything). It’s a win-win situation for gymnasts, performing arts groups and the public alike.
I was recently lucky enough to be invited to Cirque du Soleil’s U.S premiere of their show “KURIOS” and even as a gymnastics expert, I marvelled at the gymnastics acts. There’s something special about seeing gymnasts excel outside of the competition arena, on a new stage. I felt somewhat proud as the spotlight reminded me just how spectacular the moves that gymnasts perform are. I wasn’t looking for deductions or start values. The strength, technique and total awareness required to flip and tumble were brought more sharply into focus in the tent. I imagine that it must be so freeing for once-competitive gymnasts to have fun with the skills they know they can do, without having to worry about judges or scores! Although the thrill of competitive sport is exhilarating and impassioning it can also lead to disappointment. In the circus there’s no you versus them, it’s a total team effort and celebration of talent each night. Jack Helme, who was kind enough to invite me to the “KURIOS” premiere, agreed with me that circus performers can have “all the fun of a competition but without the pressure”, because, “the motivation is not to win, but to entertain”. Jack added that performing in front of a crowd every day rather than only once every so often (when there’s a competition) reduces any sense of anxiety too. “It’s a lot of fun” he grinned.
Sophia Singleton turned to circus life after struggling with injuries through her competitive gymnastics career. She explained to me that when she decided to stop competing, although she was happy with that decision, a feeling of unfinished business prevented her from quitting altogether. The disruption her injuries caused, left her feeling she had not reached her full potential. Circus performing gives her the opportunity to resolve this feeling. She will start performing in Cirque du Soleil’s “Beatles LOVE” show in Las Vegas in a few months time. “Cirque is the perfect path for me to go down now, it will be a big exciting closing chapter of my life long hard work” she remarked.
Tokyo, Australia and Hong Kong are just some of the places Bradley Hampson has been able to visit while performing for acrobatic and circus shows. Currently starring in the “Pirates Adventure” show in Mallorca, Bradley is revelling in his international career. He explains, “Joining the circus is like being adopted by a new family, where everybody loves everything that you do! It’s like being born again after you think that life is over, at the end of your competitive gym career”. It has also been a great learning experience for Brad, who can now perform on the Tramp Wall, Russian Swing, Chinese Poles and on the Spanish Web ropes in addition to his initial skills. “It’s amazing, it feels like you’re flying,” he described.
If you are interested in following the circus route, it’s not too complicated to find out more; the first step in joining Cirque du Soleil is simply to submit an application online on the Cirque du Soleil website.
Like NCAA college gymnastics, it is a very viable option for British gymnasts looking to step into a new role. For those who have embarked on the circus journey, there is a clear consensus: it’s worth it.