Interview: ‘I do silks with another girl, who’s also a contortionist’

3 Feb 2015 @ 9.53 pm
| News

Grand Opera House

Weds, Feb 4 @ 7.30pm; Thurs Feb 5 @ 5pm & 7.45pm


Grand Opera House website

Cirque Berserk is in town this week. We asked two of the performers to tell us about life in the circus, and what York can expect…

Stefanie Usher, 25, is originally from Bournemouth. She is an aerialist, performing amazing acrobatics high above the stage

Did you dream of joining the circus as a child?

It was never really a plan I had as a child. I always wanted to perform – be on the stage. It is something I’ve fallen into. I really love it, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

So how did you end up at Cirque Berserk?

I trained as a dancer. I worked for about a year and a half as a dancer. It was really tough finding work. There’s a million and one dancers out there.

I did aerial as a bit of a hobby and ended up getting more work doing that than dancing. So I decided to train properly and actually be good at it!

I went to the Academy Of Circus Arts where I trained as an aerialist. Since then I got offered a job at Cirque Berserk and I’ve been working here for two years since, and I love it.

Grace, strength and power – Stefanie on the silks

Tell us about your act.

I do aerial silks – I climb long pieces of fabric hanging from the ceiling and roll down them and do all kinds of other poses and drops.

And I do aerial hoops in the show – a big ring that goes right up to the ceiling, and we dangle off it. With grace, hopefully!

I do the silks with another girl, who’s also a contortionist in the show. She shoots a target with her feet.

In the second half I do various hoops in the sky with another girl while we have a Kenyan troupe jumping through hoops on stage.

She has another aerial act in the show on straps where she flies around and then hangs from her neck and spins round.

How high do you go?

It depends, from theatre to theatre, how high we actually go. Because some of the sight lines mean we have to come a bit lower.

Some are really high – I’ve worked in places that are 16 metres high. And sometimes they’re really low, only four metres high.

So we have to adjust our act depending on how high we can go because if we do the full drop in some places we’ll smash into the floor!

Do you have a safety net?

No, we don’t have any safety net or any lunge or anything like that. It’s purely skill. People do fall, I’ve never fallen. Yet. Touch wood – hopefully never.

It’s all trust in your own body and trust in yourself that you have the strength to do the stuff that you’re doing.

If you don’t feel safe you probably shouldn’t be doing it…

Apart from your act, what else can we expect?

We have the Globe Of Death, which is a massive spherical steel cage, with four motorbikes rolling round it at 60mph. The crowd goes absolutely mental for that.

We have a troupe all the way from Cuba that have a seesaw – one jumps onto one side and the other pings up into the air and does triple somersaults into chairs, into everything really.

We have a troupe from Kenya who do the limbo and do a flaming rod about ten inches off the floor. We’ve got knife throwing – a man who throws knives at his wife; we’ve got a woman who can juggle all kinds of objects with her feet.

Every second there’s something different to see on stage.

Kremena Dimitrova, who is from Bulgaria, is a former athlete turned hand balancer

Don’t try this at home… Kremena on stage

How did you come to be in Cirque Berserk?

I’ve been trained in acrobatic sports. I started when I was five years old. I graduated from sports academy from Bulgaria, where I am from originally.

I’ve been in a few championships, and have 12 medals. I have four gold, four silver and four bronze for different competitions.

After that I joined different circuses and I’ve been with the circus ever since.

What do you do on stage?

I’m a hand balancer – I have different tricks, like a split on both left and right arms, using strength and power.

For me the most difficult trick is my last trick. I do the tower of the bricks. I climb them and afterwards take them off one by one. That’s a real test of balance and power as well.

Isn’t it dangerous?

You have to be sure with whatever you do. Accidents could happen. I had only one, very little, a few years ago, but nothing pretty major.

That’s why we train, that’s why we practise so when you go on stage you feel secure and safe. But you never know. That’s why it’s a live show.

How long does it take to become a circus performer?

It’s very difficult to say. I’ve really been training all my life. You need five, six years to have the proper skills to go on stage.

You need to stretch yourself and do special exercise, because the ten minutes you are on stage is your job and you need to be trained a lot for that.

What do your family think of what you do?

I came from a normal family. They accepted it, and supported me. Whatever made me happy makes them happy. They’re very proud.

What’s it like being in a circus?

The life in the circus is very different, very dynamic, very colourful. We are usually touring every week all over the country. You literally are everywhere in the country every week.

What are your favourite Cirque Berserk acts?

It’s an amazing show. All the time there’s something happening on stage. All the acts are really amazing. Very dangerous acts as well.

Stefanie mentioned the contortionist, which you need a lot of flexibilities. And the motorbikes.

It’s difficult to say which is my favourite act because the whole show is fantastic. Everybody has to come over to see it.