They fly through the air with the greatest of ease … Cirque Du Soleil acrobats take circus arts to the highest level with daring feats and exquisite choreography.
As their Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities show sets up in town, we asked Cirque performers about the physical demands of their job. Their natural-born talent, intense training and constant practice gets them under the tent, but they depend on a support crew of pros dedicated to helping them maintain their strength and flexibility throughout the show season.
Performance medical therapist Chad Fraser works with performers to keep them show-ready at all times. As a therapist in sports medicine at the university level for many years, Fraser studied the movement of circus artists, ultimately landing him a position with the elite Cirque squad. Fraser remarks that a major difference between motions of athletes on sports fields and those under the big top is an element of control. A player’s motions in a game are reactions to opponents’ actions. But circus performers must repeat precise motions, often in tandem with others. The choreography of a routine is rehearsed until it’s automatic, “I must know [the routine] better than they do to catch an injury before it starts. We want to heal a little thing before it becomes a big thing,” he says. He anticipates each move a performer makes and notes even the slightest shift so it can be treated before the artist notices its physical impact.
Due to his constant attention to detail, he (thankfully) rarely sees serious injuries on the tour. Instead, he sees chronic injury from repetitive motions. He partners with coaches to develop modifications to regular choreography that allows injuries to heal. Each day brings a cycle of training and treatment blocks, practice and evaluation.
One of the performers he watches is Nathan Dennis, who works with the newest Cirque du Soleil feature, the acronet. Dennis describes this trampoline/net as a giant slingshot and his routines require focus and incredible strength. He feels secure knowing that team members like Fraser will notice any possible problems before he even gets off stage.
What can we all learn from the lifestyle of Cirque performers? Fraser comments that without regular movement, the body gets stiff and starts to hurt. He urges us to take a cue from his job and pay attention to the body, catching small physical changes early, before they become big problems.
Catch the whole troupe from March 3 to May 8 at Atlantic Station!