The Cirque Du Soleil performance Quidam comes to Bridgestone Arena this weekend, bringing with it a host of high-flying experts. We caught up with performer and professional jump roper Adrienn Banhegyi to learn more about her experience and what goes into the show.
NL: What brought you to Cirque du Soleil?
Adrienn Banhegyi: (AB) After 20 or 15 years of competitive jumping rope at one point I was ready to make a transition in my career and that’s when I received an e-mail from the Hungarian Jump Rope Federation that Cirque Du Soleil was looking for a professional jump rope artist. I sent them a video to Montreal, to their headquarters. They invited me for an audition. That was about 8 years ago. [My sister and I] auditioned together. She actually was elected to be part of the show a couple of months after we did the audition while I had to wait for almost 4 years to receive a contract which was for a different show than Quidam.
NL: Jumping rope takes a lot of concentration. Especially when competing, I imagine. Is it difficult to hold that concentration while also focusing on performing?
AB: Actually that’s something we start our training program with in Montreal once we are selected to be part of a show. They train us to be good actors and artists as well. Because I come from a competitive background most of the time I was focusing on the difficulty and the endurance so it’s a big change to learn how to project the joy I feel inside. When you’re performing and you see how other people react, it helps a lot.
NL: Cirque du Soleil is known for its eccentric artistic flare and creativity. What’s the most surprising or strange thing you’ve happened upon back stage or in rehearsal?
AB: The funniest thing that happened was on stage the first time I did the show. We have different roles so, more or less everybody’s main act is almost always perfect, or close to perfect but the side roles add other disciplines. I had to be a momma character and we are rolling in on skateboards laying on our belly and kind of imitating freestyle moves, rolling all the way to the front of the stage. Then we stop for a second and we have to turn. I couldn’t turn my skateboard because my dress got stuck and I was trying to move and I kicked all the lines. For the audience it was probably not that visible because it was not the main thing but everybody back stage was laughing and when I came off, they said, “Ah, momma didn’t make it too well.” There are some funny things happening on stage. It brings a little bit of color to the performance. For the audience it’s something that probably only a person who saw the show, I don’t know, a hundred times would recognize but otherwise it’s something for us to laugh at.
NL: What was the toughest trick for you to master?
AB: I think one of the most difficult ones is called a release. When you let one handle go, spin the rope around twice and then you grab the handle again and that’s something that you have to be really good with the timing and focus on catching the handle.
NL: Are there any other forms of exercise you use to keep in shape for jumping rope like yoga or pilates?
AB: I do a lot of different things. I studied physical education and I’m also a pilates instructor and I was teaching [as a physical education teacher for children] before I joined Cirque. It was nice to experience that as well. And I am also a fitness instructor and personal trainer. The nice thing is that when traveling around we have a gym back stage always that is set up in the arena so we have the chance to use very different equipment. And also within the group we have artists who are qualified to give lessons to each other. So we have martial arts classes, pilates; we have dancing, we have personal training. What I try actually is all the aerial things like climbing rope and it’s really a great workout and you have fun spinning around.
NL: As a little girl, did you ever think jumping rope for a living was possible?
AB: I always wanted to do something that I really liked and my dad is a physical education teacher so he always wanted us to be in sports. I played professional handball but I always stayed with jump rope. I really liked it. The original idea was that if it doesn’t work out, it’s still going to be a really good sport to keep my fitness level. But after a while I said, “No. No. Actually it’s the main thing for me.” I don’t want to do anything else anymore, I just want to do this.
Quidam will perform seven shows June 26-30 at Bridgestone Arena. For a full schedule and tickets, go to cirquedusoleil.com/quidam.
— Emily Grace Markanich, editorial intern