Watching a Cirque du Soleil show is so trippy you'll be convinced someone slipped a tab of acid on your tongue. Last week, the circus traveled to L.A.'s Kinetic Theory searching for new talent.
Apparently, it's not enough to be a human Gumby whose limbs seem made out of Laffy Taffy. Lisa Jones, one of the scouts presiding over the auditions, says a performer must have great technical ability first and foremost. But she's able to discern that from video submissions. It's all the acts who made it past that cut who were invited to the live auditions, where Jones had to decide whether they have the ability to connect with, and express their emotions to, an audience.
“They also just have to have …” she pauses, searching for the right word. “That sparkle, that something that just jumps out at you.”
We watched, tried not to gasp audibly at the tricks and talked to a few of the performers who, to us, met all the requirements.
Simone Lazer, 23
Specialty: Aerialist. This is only her second audition ever.
Began Training: 22, but did classical ballet intensely since age 7
Training regimen: I try to eat pretty healthy. Get enough protein, fruits and vegetables and drink enough water. Try to sleep enough. When I'm training as much as I like to, it's six days a week for three hours at the least. But it could be the whole day.
Hardest part of her act: The re-spin makes me the most nervous. It's where I spin down to the ground, then spin back up again. It's not a strength or flexibility thing; it's just grounding yourself and then going right back into spinning. The neck hang actually came pretty easily to me. It's not scary once you figure out the strength and coordination. It makes my neck tight, but it's also the chest and shoulders. It definitely gets a good response, which is why it's my ending trick.
Mental characteristic imperative for being a circus performer: Persistence and consistency.
Did she get called back? Yes
Sam Ortiz, 23
Specialties: Aerialist, contortionist
Began Training: 21
Training regimen: I eat healthily — no soda, no coffee. Practice two to four hours per day or every other day. If I can't make it to Train Circus, I'll swim or run or hike. I was really flexible as it was, so this fell into my lap.
Hardest part of being a circus performer: Learning to take things one step at a time. I'm not the most patient person in the world, and it takes time to hone in and perfect this. Also, dealing with all the cuts and bruises you get every day. Even today, I had a callous come off in the middle of the act. I don't even feel it; it doesn't hurt. A lot of your nerves get used to it or deadened. You just deal with it. It doesn't faze you.
Has he ever fallen? I have a couple times, mostly training. One time I was working with fabric and I didn't wrap myself properly. I bruised a bunch of my ribs and ended up with some major rug burns.
Mental characteristic imperative for being a circus performer: You have to be pretty fearless. You have to go into it knowing you're going to get hurt. I've torn muscles, tendons. Rope burns, scars, calluses.
Did he get called back? No
Cameron McHenry and Maria Luna, “Older than most”
Training regimen: We eat a lot of fish and kale and vegetables. We just went to a 7-Eleven and got hard-boiled eggs because it was all we could find that we could tolerate before we auditioned! We train four times a week and perform three out of four weekends a month, two to three times a weekend. Less than you would think because we're at a place of maintaining rather than building muscle or flexibility. The older you get, the more careful you need to be with your body.
Hardest part of their act: It changes. But probably the hardest trick is communicating without words without even seeing each other sometimes — feeling if one of us is slightly off and compensating for that. Also, knowing each other's triggers and not allowing each other to panic. One of us doesn't like when the bar swings back and forth, the other doesn't like when it swings side to side. We're constantly working on our relationship on and off the trapeze.
Mental characteristic imperative for being a circus performer: Have fun with it. It can be rough. Training can be so hard, but the payoff is when you're in it and the lights are on you. If you're not having fun, why quit your day job?
Did they get called back? Yes