CORUÑA, Spain — Everyone’s in awe, applauding in unison while the flying ballerina is pirouetting in a flawless choreography, floating in weightlessness. Her movements of an ethereal fluidity are meticulously synchronised with the music while the lights change from blue to a light pink, following her acrobatic evolution in the air and bringing a dramatic dimension to her spectacle. When the performance seems to have reached its climax, the flying actress surprises everyone by untwirling herself down long white pieces of fabric, dropping dramatically close to the floor. As she finally steps down on the ground, facing humbly her audience, the huge light-emitting background turns off and a bright spot hits the stage, complimenting her expression during a thunder of applause.
It seemed perfect because it’s exactly my vocation to make it look so, like everything comes from a fairy-tale. This high emotion moment took two days to stage, surrounded by a team of professionals working around the clock with countless hours in my own creation studio. Let me walk you through my forty-eight-hour race against time before the Physical Poetry gala show.
First steps on new grounds
Before travelling every detail such as stage space, timings, audience, wardrobe (before, during and after show), press, speeches, etc. must be planned meticulously. Immediately after the plane lands in Coruña, Spain, my driver brings me to the performance venue – I want to see where I’ll be performing and be aware of any possible technical difficulties my team and I may have missed. My client directs me towards my dressing room but I want to first see the stage – each performing venue has a different energy to share!
I check the level of the stage since my act Upside Down, during which I balance on my hands atop high slim canes, could suffer from dishevels. I then look up to the ceiling to inspect the hanging specificities needed for the two aerial acts: Neige on aerial silks and Divina: flying passion and contortions. I immediately notice that one of the two hanging points I need in the ceiling isn’t correctly located: I will need a new piece of metal to be cut, welded, fixed and inspected by a qualified engineer.
Equipment and Installation
The next day, my manager and I start to install the aerial equipment which allows me to magically fly up and down. I inspect every single piece of my lightweight and compact rigging equipment which consist of pulleys, shackles, swivels and quick links. They are visually less disturbing and each item has a working load sufficient for the dynamic factor I generate while in movement, including the security factor required. The smallest item I use to secure my life is a nano swivel with a working load of three kilonewtons and a breaking load of twenty-three kilonewtons. Despite all the professional security checks done at the venue, I always double check everything I attach in the air. If something happens to one of the beams or hooks, I’m always secured to a second one!
Do not trust anyone, not even yourself
I install the aerial acrobatic equipment myself and depending on the venue policies, there might be a local technician to help. When this process is finished, if no professional rigger is present, I ask my manager and assistant who has a fair knowledge of aerial rigging to visually verify the installation. Even if I am confident with my setup, when human lives are at risk, our ego must take a step back and more verification is always better.
It’s late already but we must start programming the lights for each act. Good lighting must enhance what is happening on stage, contribute to the portrayed drama and put the spectator in a certain state of mind. From a performer’s view point, lights can be potentially blinding and therefore dangerous if not set properly, so I consider lighting part of the security preparation. It’s already 3.00am and only now, I feel comfortable with our work and decide to leave the last few bits for the next day.
Rehearsals and Show day
As much as I’d want to have more days of preparation, there are time constraints set by the client. I sometimes rehearse for hours before the show, which isn’t ideal since I should be resting and exercising lightly.
I reach the performing venue early to warm up and be ready to perform my movements almost in their full version. Since the show is the same day, I choose to rehearse my acts at around eighty percent of the maximum version, leaving out some specific movements requiring more preparation or being more traumatic on the body.
I then sit with the lights designer as well as my director to go through every cue and make changes, if needed. After the rehearsals for each one of my acts, there will be another run through, this time focussing on every moment of the gala, presentation of the artists, timings, music and lighting cues.
Feeding body and mind
The show will start in three hours and a half, so I start my make-up and hair preparation while a healthy meal is delivered to my dressing room. I do eat before a show but I leave three hours between a meal and a performance. Smaller quantities are better, the stomach doesn’t really like to contort when it’s full, if you know what I mean!
When I’m all made up for the show, I dive into my last 90-minute focus bubble. Knowing that most of the time, unexpected things might happen, it’s important for my concentration to be hard to disrupt. I therefore have a precise and timed schedule of preparation before going on stage, but I always keep some extra time for potential changes or problems to deal with before the show.
Zen and ready to enjoy
I heard very often that I seem very zen and calm before a performance and it’s something I work on. What happens next is pure bliss, the reason why I wake up everyday with a surge of adrenaline to push my limits through the hard days of training.