A circus is all about artists, athletes, and entertainers par excellence. Team Y finds out what it takes to be a Cirque du Soleil performer, as the world-famous production company prepares for its first visit to Oman.
The life of a circus performer is one that has long been known to be something of an enigma.
And it’s our job as audience members to attend, enjoy the performances, and leave the artists be.
It’s a tried-and-tested model that has been in place for centuries.
But when you highlight an entertainment company such as Cirque du Soleil, there’s no denying that it does whisk up a dash of intrigue in the minds of its spectators.
After all, Cirque du Soleil is the largest entertainment company in the world and is home to more than 5,000 employees. That’s more staff than most multi-national companies have here in the Sultanate.
What’s more astonishing is that the troop features performers from around the globe – all of whom have come together and put aside their cultural differences to develop an artistic feast for our eyes and ears.
It’s only fitting, then, that we ask just who these performers are and what goes on behind the curtain – away from the spotlight.
Answering our questions – and that of several Y readers – this week is Samantha Pitard, an artist of the act, ‘hairceau’.
To give readers an idea, this daredevil act is one that features a woman suspended by a metal loop that’s embedded in her topknot.
Here is an excerpt from our interview:
Y: Being a performer at Cirque du Soleil must be a challenge but how does it feel being accepted into a company of more than 5,000 artists?
Samantha Pitard: This company is a great supporter of dreams. I feel blessed because I can work with the BAZZAR cast and crew and they are the best in the business. I never stop learning in this company! I love how they challenge me to keep pushing my boundaries.
Y: What does it take to join Cirque du Soleil?
SP: At Cirque du Soleil, more than 60 per cent of the artists come from a sports background such as gymnastics, trampoline, tumbling, acro-sport, diving, martial arts and synchronized swimming. Cirque also hires professional athletes to work behind the scenes. The cast of BAZZAR is showcasing a full range of different disciplines, including Mallakhamb, for the first time at Cirque du Soleil.
Y: What diet do you follow to keep healthy and in shape for events, and more importantly, what are your training and practice regimes like?
SP: As artists, we perform around 10 shows a week, including weekends, which make our routines extremely hectic. To maintain a balance for a healthy lifestyle, we get fitness training and are all taught breathing exercises. One month before a première, we start training and rehearsing for our shows. The entire Cirque du Soleil team works together to be ready to offer the audience an awe-inspiring experience.
Y: Safety is a priority in all your productions. But what runs through your mind just as you begin your routine?
SP: I have been training for countless hours over many years to develop the skills to perform the acts the audience will see on stage. I have complete trust in my capacities and experience, as in that of the highly professional team that surrounds me. We are dedicated and work hard to put together the best show possible every night in the safest environment possible. Cirque du Soleil is known in the industry as one of the safest companies to work for. We are all highly trained and experienced professionals. I personally have performed my act hundreds of times already. Of course, circus arts come with a certain level of residual risk. As artists, it’s something we learn to live with very early on and its part of what we thrive on. Being aware of the risk is part of keeping safe.