Get 'iD'ed in Dubai with the Cirque Eloize show this week
The show, a stunning mix of dazzling acrobatics, circus arts and urban dance - all set to modern hip-hop music - has been on the road for two years, entertaining crowds all over Europe, Asia and the US. While the performers make it look simple, perfecting the complex moves requires a whole lot of hard work and expertise.
Take the story of Conor Neall, who will wow the crowds with some thrilling moves high up on the Chinese pole - a six-metre rubber-coated vertical pole used for stunning stunts such as ‘the human flag’.
His role requires huge amounts of agility and strength, not to mention bravery. But in terms of education, surely there’s no subject that can prepare you for circus life? Wrong. After three years of study, the 23-year-old graduated from the ‘Circus Space’ college in London with a degree specialising in the Chinese pole.
Conor explains: “I was always physical as a kid. I spent an awful lot of time jumping around and dreaming of being a superhero or someone in an action movie. I did karate, acrobatics, ice skating and more as a child. And then at the age of 13, I got into parkour [an acrobatic discipline that uses the city or local environment as an obstacle course] and started doing that seven days a week for three years. That gave mea skill base.
“At school I was studying theatre. That had a performance element, parkour gave me a different background and I also got into juggling around that time, and that led me towards the world of circus. It was only then that I discovered a friend of my mum’s who had done a degree in circus in Paris. So I sent a couple of emails asking about it, and after discovering a school in London, there was no doubt. Three years later I graduated. I think my mum was just pleased I had studied for a degree at all!”
Conor may have the educational background and qualifications, but it doesn’t stop there.
‘iD’ project manager Mariya Moneva explains how all the individuals - experts in hugely different fields such as acrobatics, trampoline and juggling, to name just a few - must work hard on their own disciplines as well as many set group choreographies. Conor, 23, adds: “It takes a lot for someone to reach this kind of level. I’ve been doing the Chinese pole for five years, and it’s not the kind of thing you can master from a few weeks of rehearsal.
“Rehearsal-wise, I learned the show in three weeks, working nine to five, six days a week. Every time you go to a new venue, you have to go over it again so everything is tight. On tour, I train five or six days a week. Also, injury comes with the job, so I have an hour’s work every day to strengthen my shoulders, an hour for my ankles, plus general core fitness. And when we’re not on tour I’ll train every day on the pole, plus acrobatics, trampoline and contemporary dance - you could do an eight-hour day easily!”
Even though the performers are experts in their own fields, there’s plenty of potential for things to go wrong. Luckily, the pros are well equipped. Conor says: “We train a lot and we train hard, but we are humans, not machines. Mistakes do happen. Schedules are pretty crazy and you might have a day to get over jet lag or whatever - mostly things go fine, but if there’s a slip-up you get on with it and you cover it up. People don’t know your act, so you have to make it look like you meant to do it!”
Have you been yet? Please share about your experience by commenting below!