I’ve been inspired. I saw Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza at the Royal Albert Hall and I’ve started to wonder if it’s too late in life to run away with this zany troop of acrobats.
I really admire strong people, I find them fascinating and look upon them with slight green-eyed envy. I’m not talking about gym bunnies or those with the ability to open a new jar of jam. I’m talking about dedicated types who completely transform their physicality enough to make a career from their bodies.
The reason? It’s a recent thing. I was roped into a crazy mud challenge two years ago and realised I’d never finish the 12 miles without some help, so I got a personal trainer and began fully appreciating where body strength really comes from. I started out being able to do five push-ups in a row, and after a couple months’ training, I got to 30. But I never pushed my muscles that hard or for long enough to achieve anything spectacular; it’s hard work! So when I come across someone who is so strong they can control their body to spin, flip, jump, bend or even keep perfectly still on one hand, I gaze in wonder – I bet they never gave up after 30 push ups.
And there are none more fascinating to me than gymnasts. They have no fear and possess a super human strength that has been cultivated by years of persistent, back-breaking, sweaty training. They have boundless commitment to exquisitely show off their physical power and agility for just a moment in time, and the pleasure of applause.
So when I was treated to Cirque du Soleil tickets, I watched in astonishment at the sheer strength the performers were displaying in front of a gasping, cheering, peeking-through-almost-closed-fingers audience.
The daredevil stunts and display of talent was awe-inspiring stuff. Never have I seen contortionists dance, move and shape themselves so beautifully. My heart was pumping wildly in my mouth for the duration of a tightrope-walk performance and I was glad for an interval so I could breathe easily and relax in my seat. Just when you think you can’t take any more adrenaline, that they can’t possibly elevate to another level, on comes a man with a six-foot stilt who is propelled by a giant see-saw to show us an airborne somersault display before he lands stilt-first onto a bed. This was followed by a man – so rippling in muscle that I could see his skin undulate from the upper circle – who showed us his hand-stand (yes, just one hand) skills atop a growing stack of balancing chairs. And don’t get me started on the hula hooper… I can’t even tap my head and rub my belly at the same time, so my jaw was pretty well hanging near the floor during her performance.
I’ve been wanting to see Cirque du Soleil for years, and it did not disappoint. Yes, perhaps the story they incorporated was a little weak (there was a chap with a nightcap on and he appeared to wake up finding himself in a bizarre dream world), and maybe the clown sketches were a little cheesy (by the way, if you want the full circus experience, make sure you book tickets in the stalls… and be prepared for audience participation!). But the live band and singers were a lovely touch, and the daring imagination of the spectacle was incredible from start to finish. I loved it.
While running away with the circus is an unlikely path in my future, there’s no harm in finding inspiration in daredevils. Pushing myself a little harder, further. Ditching ‘I can’t possibly’ for ‘why the hell not’. Maybe we can all take a leaf from the circus book.
Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza is on at the Royal Albert Hall until 19 February 2015.