I am not circus material

Reporter Gurveen Kaur trying hoop manipulation with Irina Akimova.
Reporter Gurveen Kaur trying hoop manipulation with Irina Akimova.ST PHOTO: BASIL EDWARD TEO

I am wobbling on a wire, gripping the hands of the two professionals by my side, hanging on to them for dear life.

The wire is barely a metre off the ground, but for me, it might as well have been on the edge of a cliff.

Even spending a couple of minutes on the wire has convinced me that these men are superhuman.

One of them says, kindly, that he understands my fear. After all, he has broken three ribs in a fall.

But he is performing from a different height, of course, and difficulty level.

The man's name is Vicente Quiros, 55, and he is a tightrope walker in Cirque du Soleil's production, Kooza.

 

With his teammates, he scuttles, skips and hops across wires suspended 4.5m and 9.7m above ground during the show.

Other extraordinary feats include two performers riding a bicycle on the wire - while holding a pole between them.

On that pole is a chair, where another performer sits. Nobody wears any harnesses.

I am spending time with them in a training area in Cirque du Soleil's mobile village in Perth, where Kooza was showing. The production will come to Singapore on July 12.

After the tightrope artists, I meet sweet-faced and petite Odgerel Byambadorj, 21, a contortionist from Mongolia whose muscles have been stretched since she was eight when she started learning contortioning after school.

Maybe that explains how she can fold backwards as if she had no backbone.

She begins by asking me to do a "simple split".

A split is not so simple for the average person, as my failed attempt illustrates.

Hoping that she might throw me a simpler pose, I ask her if she does yoga.

Yes, "for fun", she says, proceeding to execute a wheel pose. Bending backwards like she is boneless, she ends by raising her legs into a handstand.

I smile and thank her for her time.

The final stunt I try is hoops manipulation with Russian performer Irina Akimova, 34. In the show, she juggles with up to seven hula hoops.

We start with one hoop around my waist. It stays there for barely a second.

She looks disappointed. She then asks me to try twirling a hoop with one hand.

By this time, I have accepted my psychomotor ineptitude and have zero expectations.

But then an unbelievable thing happens. The hoop stays twirling on my hand, like a magic lasso.

Excitedly, Akimova tells me to throw the hoop into the air and catch it.

Feeling invincible, I fling the hoop up - and it flies sideways to hit one of the perfomers chilling on a couch.

When we ascertain that no one is hurt, I ask her to grade my performance.

Her answer is diplomatic and worthy of the best teachers.

"Practise more," she says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2017, with the headline 'I am not circus material'. Print Edition | Subscribe