By JILL VON SPRECKEN
Oct. 19 to Dec. 31, 2017 “We all have, I’m sure, weird luggage,” laughs Anne Weissbecker. The aerialist is talking about what it’s like to travel with Cirque du Soleil—around six cities a year, with two months spent in each location. “Your whole life is in your suitcase,” she says. “I am French, so I always have my coffee machine, and some pans to cook. You have to find things that make you happy.”
Weissbecker has been living out of that suitcase for about three years, which is how long she’s been touring North America with Cirque’s Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities . Before that, she unpacked her bags in Las Vegas for five years, performing in another Cirque du Soleil show: The Beatles LOVE. Her specialty? “Everything flying,” she says.
In Kurios, the aerialist performs her acrobatics on a normal bicycle—that flies through the air. At one point, her bike is even turned topsy-turvy, and she rides it upside-down. She explains that the bicycle is more than just a simple prop. “People can really relate to the bike,” she says. “Sometimes when you go see a circus show, you will see a trapeze or a hoop, and it’s harder to imagine what it feels to be on it.”
Unlike many circus stories, Weissbecker didn’t want to run away with the circus—she simply wanted to take a gymnastics class. But in her neighbourhood in France, the circus school was closer, so she joined up. She loved it, and before long found herself doing shows with a group of other kids. “I realized I really enjoyed performing as well,” she says. Her decision to become professional led her to the National Circus School in Montreal, Canada. From there, Cirque du Soleil was only a leap away.
For Weissbecker, the average day—if any day can be called “average” in the circus—involves a lot of preparation. Even applying make-up before a show takes 45 minutes, and a warm-up takes an hour. “Sometimes people are wondering what we do in our days, because they see just the show, and it looks like it goes fast.” She explains that a performer’s day is spent training, learning new acts, practising staging, and making sure their bodies are flexible and strong.
However, even aerialists need days off. And although Weissbecker hasn’t visited Vancouver before, she’s looking forward to exploring her temporary home. “I’m excited because everybody says it’s so beautiful. I heard that all around the city it’s really gorgeous.” Sounds like the perfect place to unpack a suitcase and stay awhile.