Kurios by Cirque du Soleil: A performer's training regime, exercises, and diet habits

Kurios by Cirque du Soleil: A performer's training regime, exercises, and diet habits

Soaring high

Text: Janice Sim

If you've already had the chance to marvel at Cirque du Soleil's highly anticipated return on our shores with its new show — Kurios - Cabinet of Curiousities, you would remember the very first solo act by Anne Weissbecker. The show explores the extraterrestrial wonders of a hidden dimension as incidentally tapped on by a curious seeker, where steampunk shenanigans and outlandish characters come on board to put on a disarrayed, electrifying show.

Cirque Du Soleil

Weissbecker's stunt confides in a suspended bicycle — to which in this four-minute stunt — she cycles, swings, flies, spins, while the contraption is swaying at an exhilarating speed. It's a joyride to witness, especially when she executes it with finesse and ease (like all the other performers in Cirque du Soleil do). But behind the few brief minutes on stage, stems on months of uniformed training just to perfect the stunt.

This week, we intruded the artiste tent; where the unseen groundwork happens (including the costume station, a mat where the performers warm-up and even to catch a wink on the couch). Weissbecker also gave us a prelude to her training regime and what exactly goes through her mind when she's soaring come performance night.

How did you end up in a circus?
I started when I was 10 years old in a circus school. It was on a basic level, but I really enjoyed it and decided to do it more and more. I continued with it and joined the National Circus School in Montreal Canada when I got older. That was opposite the street from Cirque du Soleil, and that's how it began. My first show with the troupe was in Las Vegas called The Beatles Love. I joined Kurios in November 2013.

Cirque Du Soleil

Tell us more about the bicycle stunt.
The bicycle is special and new to Kurios, and to Cirque du Soleil actually. For each show, there is a creative team and someone just thought of having a bike fly. From that, we had to figure out tricks to do, how to rig it, and how many ropes to use. I worked with two coaches, without a choreographer. Because I had experience on hand, I could also propose many things that I wanted in this act.

How long exactly is the training process from the very start to opening night?
It's a little bit different for each act. For this show, all the acts are newly created. Group acts tend to take a little bit more time to practise. For myself, I trained for six months. But that doesn't stop once the show opens. I still continue to train (even with the show ongoing) to improve the act.

Cirque Du Soleil

How do you get over accidents and injuries, and the fear of going back up again?
You get injured more when you learn tricks; but if you know how to warm up and get ready for it, injuries wouldn't happen so often. Getting to the finished product on stage is a process — and it takes weeks and months to get there. We start flying low at the beginning, and then as you get better, you advance to a higher level. It's a process, but it's about being comfortable so it's less dangerous. At the end of the day, we train a lot to make sure we know what we're doing.

Besides training on the bike itself, tell us more about your daily workout routine. 
I'm trained as an aerialist and you need to be strong and flexible. It makes things more complicated because the more you workout, the more you need to stretch. It's almost like training routines that are at odds with one another. I mostly work on my shoulders, because I spend a lot of time hanging.

I do yoga every morning. The other two to three hours revolve around stretching, shoulder exercises with elastic bands, weights, and pull-ups. It's also very important to work on my abs. I use my whole body to fly, so I have to make sure that I'm strong enough. To total it up, we do about 400 shows a year, so my body needs to be able to get ready for that.

Cirque Du Soleil

Important question: When do you rest?
I take a day off in a week to rest — completely [laughs].

Do you stick to a certain diet?
Surprisingly, I eat everything. Maybe it's my French blood, but I like to try everything. Especially when you travel, it's nice to eat different things and not be too restricted in that. Of course, I know what's good for me and what's not good for me, so I will abstain from sodas and just stick to water. When I train, I need to feel fulfilled, so I will have rice or pasta with vegetables and fish.

Any pre-show rituals that you abide to? 
I don't eat too close to the show because I'm upside down alot during the stunt and that can turn out to be very unpleasant. I start my makeup three hours before the show, so it's a good moment to start to concentrate and center myself. Sometimes I listen to podcasts and music, but that depends on how I feel on that day.

If you could do a different act in the Kurios show, which one do you think you would be good at?
Ooh, I don't know. [Laughs] I would probably fly on the straps like the two guys. That would be fun.

Cirque Du Soleil

What goes through your mind when you're up there?
I love to fly. [Laughs] I know some people might think it's scary, but that isn't the case for me. I really enjoy the sensation. And I can really see everyone — because I fly in a circle, so it's really a fun moment for me to see the reactions of the audience.

KURIOS - Cabinet of Curiousities by Cirque du Soleil is now showing until 18 August. 
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