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From performing as an aerial trapezist in Italy’s 2015 Milan Expo, to living life in Las Vegas, Leah Christiana gives us insight into life as a Cirque de Soleil international performer.
The thing that I love the most about travel, apart from visiting incredible places, is definitely meeting people that come from a completely different world to my own. On our travels and in our everyday lives we cross paths with strangers for just a few seconds, minutes, or for even life changing experiences. Whether you believe that we meet the people we do by chance or that we cross paths for a reason, it is up to you. But when I was in Italy this year, I couldn’t help but feel anything but thankful for the chance to cross paths with one of Cirque de Soleil’s international trapeze performers, Leah Christiana.
It was late in July one summers morning in the Cinque Terre. I decided to take a solo train ride on this particular thirty-five degree morning and leave behind the dreamy coastline and head inland for Pisa. After the forty-five minute non-air-conditioned train journey I took a local bus and made my way to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I spent a couple of hours wandering in the sunshine and strategically trying to get the perfect or typical tower pushing photograph. I was completely astonished by these inadequate and poorly designed architectural structures of the Leaning Tower as well as it being far smaller than I anticipated. After a couple of hours exploring the grounds, and having a memory card full of images, I called it quits and wandered back to the bus stop. Feeling a little confused and spotting a fellow traveller appearing the way I felt, I asked her too if she was waiting for the bus. We together managed to decipher the bus timetable and realised that we had an hour’s wait ahead of us, no easy feat in the hot Italian sunshine. So we started the usual travellers small talk “Where have you been, how long are you travelling,” until Leah’s reply to my simplistic question “What do you do for work?” turned into something along the lines of “I’m a trapezist for Cirque du Soleil.” In complete amazement I ditched the common small talk, channelled my inner child and fired off hundreds of questions to find out what living life as an international professional circus performer is really like..
I am originally from the Bay Area in California, Richmond to be exact. But I am now living in Las Vegas. I’ve been here for about five and a half years.
I actually started very late. Most circus performers begin training when they are young children. For me it was my 21st birthday. My brother took me to see a circus show, I was amazed that this was even a job. These people were incredible! It was there I decided I wanted to do it. I talked with one of the aerialist after the show and she told me that I needed to start right away to be in circus. She said “If you don’t do it now you will never do it!” So, I found out there was a circus school in San Francisco, about an hour away from where I lived and I started classes the very next day. Once I started training I never looked back. It has become my life and passion!
I am an aerialist and have been performing in different shows in Las Vegas, but it was my dream to perform with Cirque du Soleil. I sent my information to Cirque, and after a while I finally got a call to come and audition for an on-call position, for the bungee act, Mystere, at Treasure Island. Thank God everything went well and they liked me! I got the position and have been on-call there for the last four years.
I was offered a position to perform the bungee trapeze in the show Allavita, at the Expo Milano. Of course I said yes! So I moved to Milan for the duration of the shows from April to the end of August.
In the beginning of the show we would walk around and greet guests while passing out envelops with seeds in them. During this section we were all dressed as farmers. We made our way to the stage during the handstand number. From there we do a group number with dancing and acrobatics, using real farming tools.
After was my main act, the bungee trapeze, along with three other girls. It’s here that we would swing on a trapeze and fly off it to flip through the air and re-catch the bar. We could catch the bar with our hands or even our ankles. At the end of the act, we would all move towards each other and catch hands. The four of us girls represented water in the show.
There is no feeling like it… When we are pulled on our trapeze (there are guys that pull the trapeze to make it move) it feels like you’re on a really big swing. You feel the air in your face and once you leave the bar it really is like you are flying through the air. This is really fun but can also be a little scary when you’re first starting out. It is also a very mental act. We have to be focused and there are so many factors that go into a bungee trapeze – the way our bungee cords stretch, or the humidity in the air, if the swings are high or low enough for a certain trick, your weight, where the bar is in the air, your take off from the bar, when the bar comes down, timing… these can all effect the way you move through the air. We all need to stay together and be focused on what we are doing because some of the factors are out of our control. It is an amazing feeling and so much fun, and we try to make it look as effortless as possible.
Well, I love performing and being in the air. These two things feed my soul but one of the best parts about this show was the cast and crew – they are such amazing people. We had people from Canada, Japan, Australia, USA, and Italy. I made some life long friends!!
I absolutely loved every minute I was in Italy, I had never been to Europe before and this trip was a highlight of my life! I was blessed to be a part of the amazing show Allavita, doing what I love as a performer and living in Italy!! We got one to two days off a week so I travelled on those days to see more of Italy and even to Paris and Spain. It was such an incredible experience to live in Italy. I saw so much and made so many memories!!
It is a little different for everyone, there is the training you do to put the act together and then there is the training you do once the show is open, to maintain fitness. For the bungee act we went to Montreal, Cirque du Soleil headquarters to start our training. We were there for two weeks with very intense training. We were training about eight hours a day. From there we went to Italy and started putting the show together. We had about the same amount of time but we were focusing on the show as a whole, not just our act. Once the show opened we commenced act training one or two times a week for about thirty minutes, then we would do the show. However, most performers train for more than just their act once the show opens. For me, before the show almost every day I was training doing handstands, going to the gym, doing weights and cardio. It is part of our job to maintain our strength and endurance for the shows.
Well, I like to go to the gym but most of the time while I was in Italy I would explore and eat gelato!! When I am home in Vegas I like to relax with my boyfriend and my two pugs Pepper and Vader.
Don’t let anyone or anything keep you from your dreams. I have an autoimmune disease and sometimes it makes what I do even harder than it should be or than I would like it to be. But I never let it stop me. ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). If there is a dream you have or a goal you want to achieve, do it now. Otherwise you may never do it.
Leah Christiana, talks to you.theworld.wandering about travel, trapeze and Cirque du Soleil.
To find out more about Leah Christina find her here on Facebook.