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March 31, 2016

Cirque du Soleil's trapeze artists attempt rare tricks at tonight's performance of La Nouba

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Tonight, members of the Cirque du Soleil trapeze troupe will attempt two difficult and rare tricks during the 6 p.m. EST performance of La Nouba at Disney Springs. The “Double Double & ½ Layout to the Legs” is a 2 ½ backward layout with a twist performed in seconds before the trapeze “flyer” is caught by his legs. The second trick will be a “Quadruple” somersault, which is rumored to be completed less than 20 times in the 150-year history of trapeze.

To allow as many people as possible to share in the excitement of the attempts, tonight’s trapeze performance will be streamed live on Facebook and Periscope through a partnership with Experience Kissimmee. Follow along at Facebook.com/ExperienceKissimmee and @Kissimmee on Twitter.

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Members of the media, including Deb Wills and I, were invited to the troupe’s practice on Tuesday to see what goes into the training for these feats and to talk with the athletes about their preparation and life as a member of a circus, albeit one of the most prestigious arenas for performers of a traditional circus act. Here are some of the questions the performers were asked during a group question-and-answer session:

What is it like to be part of this trapeze troupe at La Nouba?

Coach Miguel Vargas: We have a talented team, and we’re having fun right now. Everybody is working on something. These two young ladies [Victoria Ponce and Zane Frazier] are doing triple somersaults, which is rare. Sandro [Ojeda] did 3 1/2, which is also rare. My friend Jonathan [Gonzalez] is one of the few people here to have caught the quadruple somersault. … And Renatos Fernandes from Brazil is probably the only one who has done a “Double Double and ½ to the Legs,” which is two somersaults in a layout position with two twists and not just to the hands but to the legs.

Everyone is excited. I’ve been around trapeze for a long time, so whenever you can get a group of people with such talent together and motivate each other, it definitely makes our job a lot more fun and a lot more exciting.

For the show on Thursday, we’re going to start with a triple and then “Double Double & ½,” which is the rare trick, and also the quadruple somersault. And hopefully everything can come together, and it will be something very special for everybody to be a part of.

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Is it harder to catch somebody or to fly [perform the tricks]?

Justin Chodkowski: I started out as a flyer. I flew for a little over 10 years and caught the double, double-double and triple. I had a really good catcher, and I learned with that family. I took some time off, and then I became a catcher a little over six years ago now. They say that good catchers all start out as flyers because they can see the tricks a lot better. With that being said, I like catching a lot better than flying; it’s a less bit less stressful. They have to put their tricks the best that they can so we can catch them.

Tell us about the training process that you go through on a daily basis.

Miguel: Right now, for example, we have two catchers and all these flyers so we go through rotations. … Friday, Saturday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and then switch the rotation. That way everyone has the opportunity to stay fresh, stay active, stay motivated. And so, really depending on who’s flying – like for example, today, Sandro will be the first solo and then Renatos – we’ll focus on getting them ready for the show. And then everybody has something they’re working with.

I can imagine it’s really a bonding experience working together, so do you socialize a lot outside of the performances?

Miguel: Very much. It was actually Victoria’s 20th birthday on Sunday. There’s always something going on, but everyone has their routines, or their lives. Some people have families, so it depends on the season or what’s happening.

We understand that many of you are from trapeze families, but are all of you? Or how do you get into this line of work?

Miguel: Trapeze is a very traditional circus act like high wire … It’s considered a specialty act, whereas some of the other acts have a wider base of backgrounds, where gymnastics, tumbling, etc. [apply]. But all of us except Zane and Victor [Bouriak ] and Justin … [have a family history of flying trapeze.]

Zane: I actually started trapeze at a summer camp that had a circus program, and then I came up through trapeze schools. … But it’s a very traditional circus act, like Miguel said, so you really need some circus exposure to really get into it. So I got a couple gigs in more traditional circus, and I was lucky enough to work with some trapeze families. … When I started working with them, I started understanding what it is to train for shows every day, and not just training at schools. I needed both to get here, for sure.

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Is there cross-training that you do to get ready for the next level?

Miguel: Everybody has their own routines that they do in order to maintain. We’ve all been doing it for a long time so we feel when we need to maybe step up a little more if we’re trying to accomplish a skill that’s that much more difficult. We have to push a little harder.

Jonathan: It’s like me. I love McDonald’s a lot, but [I have to give it up when I’m training.]

How often do the tricks in your daily show change?

Miguel: The actual tricks don’t change so much as the people that do them. Our finishing trick is always the triple somersault … and then we have the double layout, which is the first solo trick … and the double to start the act. The catchers change, too.

What are the odds you’ll be able to complete these two maneuvers on Thursday? Is it going to be tough?

Miguel: I’d like to think I’m a very optimistic person, but I’m also very realistic. Having said that, I feel very confident. We’ve all had conversations, and I don’t think we’d be doing all of this if we didn’t feel that our chances were that great. Obviously, just [Lucian da Silva] opening with a triple is a lot of pressure on its own because he’s got to start something and you want to have that good start. As a whole, for it to come together, it’s going to be an amazing thing to be part of and to witness. I really think we’re going to do it.

Renatos: Usually you finish the act with your biggest trick, but he’s so confident, he’s going to open with it. He’s very, very confident.

Here's a look at the trapeze troupe's practice:



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