As Cirque du Soleil returns to London with the incredible TOTEM, which explores the ties that bind mankind to other species, as well as his dreams and infinite potential, Healthy Living London’s Lucinda was delighted to join the cast for the premiere at the Royal Albert Hall. The show follows the journey of evolution, from our original amphibian state, to the ultimate desire to fly. With inspired performances from an international cast, who display breathtaking acts of strength, agility, grace and humour, Lucinda caught up with the Dance captain and ‘queen of the rings’ Virginie Canovas, to find out just what it takes to be a performing artist in one of the world’s greatest circus companies.
How long have you worked as a circus artist and what inspired you to join Cirque du Soleil?
I have been working with Cirque du Soleil for more than 10 years now. Prior to that I was a gymnast for the French youth National team and I would hear about cirque du soleil when the scout came to competitions, but I didn’t really know what it was until I saw the DVD of Alegria. I wanted to be part of the power track act; the music, the costumes and the acrobats were just amazing! I told myself that one day I will be part of a show. I sent a video to casting in 2008 and flew to Montreal in June to join the general formation for Saltimbanco, which was my first show.
What does a typical working day look like for you? What time do you wake / eat / train?
I usually wake up at 9:30-10:00. I like to have a good 3 hours for myself before I head to work. So in the morning it’s coffee, oat meal and computer stuff , I either study or research how to create my own health business.
I head to work and from there I watch some parts of the show because I am the Dance Captain so I can give notes to the artists for the next show. Next I eat at the cafeteria and will then either have a choreography session with an artist or I have my own straps training backstage or I have to be on stage for the rings trio training.
Next I start my make-up (it takes about 1 hour) to be ready 1 hour 30 before the show starts. I have to wait until the line up of the show is out so I can see if I have to move people around for the finale dance of the show as it’s part of my dance captain’s job to make sure that this tableau looks good. Then I start my warm up for 45 min then I get ready for my act. I put my costume on. And it’s show time!
How many hours of training do you do each week?
Each week is different. We usually have one training for rings and I have one training on stage for my solo back up straps act. Backstage I have two straps training or so. It’s hard to tell exactly how many hours I train every week but I would say 4 hours on top of the 9/10 shows we do every week.
What does your training routine entail?
If I train on straps, then my training will be more about artistic research and linking each skill together to make sequences of vocabulary more fluids. The rings training is about maintaining the technique strong and precise by repeating the skills a few times and focusing on details to control better each skills. My personal conditioning training is all about body-weight exercises where I focus on working the muscles that I don’t specially use in my acts.
I also find exercises that reproduce the movements that I do and I focus on controlling an going slow and being balanced to teach my body the right path and using the smaller muscles for stabilisation. I love to use the Swiss ball and find fun and challenging exercises.
What does your weekly menu look like – do you follow a special diet?
I don’t have a special diet. I just eat healthy and as mush as possible real food!!! A lot of vegetables and fruits, minimum of sugars and whole grains for my carbs whenever I can. It’s not always easy to eat what I would like to eat because we have a cafeteria at work that cook all kind of food for us everyday but I always look for the healthiest options and I don’t
look at the yummy deserts …
What’s your favourite food?
My favourite food is lasagne especially my Mum’s. We are an Italian family so I can tell you that she makes the best one!
What is the greatest challenge you have encountered in your work?
To create my solo straps act for Cirque du Soleil. It’s a big challenge for me and a dream coming true at the same time. It requires so much artistic research, hard work, patience, creativity, adaptation, work load management on top of the show schedule. I have learned so much about myself as an artist but also as a human in this beautiful process of creating a piece that I perform on the Totem’s stage.
How do you keep your body in top condition to cope with performing every day?
I make sure I get enough sleep ( 8 to 9 hours ) every night and a most of all a positive mind. My mind is what control my body. How I think is how I feel! The days I feel more tired, I focus twice harder and I tell myself positive affirmations that I can do it, that I know how to do it , that I can give a push for 5 min and it’s all gonna go well.
What do you love most about your job?
Being on stage and see people being in awe with big smiles on their faces and seeing them happy. The best reward ever!
What if anything don’t you like about your job?
Putting make up on my face for 1 hour everyday!
How do you relax on your days off and what do you like to do?
On my day off I don’t set an alarm, I just wake up when I wake up. I usually like to pick a place to go visit and I just enjoy walking around discovering the city and find a good cafe for a food break. Then I Facetime my husband and go back home early to enjoy the evening at home. I usually end up chilling in front of a movie and go to bed early. I know I love to sleep..haha!
What advice do you have for anyone interested in working in Cirque du Soleil?
To be ready to work hard everyday, to be smart with your body and to know how to take care of it to in order to be able to perform more than 300 shows per year. And on the days they will feel tired, to just remember that they don’t do it for themselves but for the audience.
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