TIME

For Acrobats, the Show Must Go On

Cirque du Soleil performance at Radio City Music Hall in New York in 2011.
Cirque du Soleil performance at Radio City Music Hall in New York in 2011. Cindy Ord—WireImage/Getty Images

There is always a certain aspect of risk — it’s what makes it so appealing to the audience, that “what-if” feeling.

I’ve been an acrobat since 2010 when I joined Cirque de Soleil. I performed in China for one year for Franco Dragone’s House of Dancing Water, and I’ve been in Buenos Aires for about two months now, preparing for Signum, a show by two former Cirque du Soleil artistic directors and acrobats based in Argentina.

It’s a fun world we’re in. We all love performing and we love what we’re doing. For performers like us, in Cirque and other circus companies around the world, safety is the number one thing we take into consideration. You have to learn the show and learn the acts you’re performing, which takes months, and safety is implemented every single day. There are always mats, belts, rigs — and it’s done for our benefit to make us feel comfortable. If you’re not ready, you don’t perform.

Equipment malfunction is almost never a concern for the acrobat before we go out to perform because we know that the equipment is tested and checked before and during every show, multiple times. Our job is not to worry about “if” we will be safe, but to focus on our performance and skill on stage. As artists, we trust and know that our riggers and technicians always check the safety.

Accidents like Sunday’s are rare in the circus world. But even though they don’t happen a lot, there is always a certain aspect of risk — it’s what makes it so appealing to the audience, that “oh-my-gosh” feeling and “what-if” feeling.

But as with every sport, anything can happen. I give my heart, health, and healing to all of the performers involved in Sunday’s show at Ringling Brothers. What happened was a terrible thing, I’m very sad for the people that had to go through this — from the performers to the audience. I’m sure its going to take the girls involved in the chandelier incident a while to get back into it and to trust that what they’re doing is safe every time.

For the company, I’m sure they’re all gathering to talk about what happened, discussing the new safety precautions they would be taking to prevent it from happening again. Because it is show business, and the show must go on. And outside of the Ringling Brothers, other organizations are talking, too. All of Cirque du Soleil, all of any other company, is going to learn from this show. They’re going to see this incident and they’re going to implement new safety precautions for their show. They’re going to start valuing more the importance of safety. That part of it is actually a good thing.

Despite this accident, as performers we’re not scared to do what we do. In my last show I did a chandelier number that started 28 meters above the water. I’ve done many acts where I’m in a harness flying 18 meters above the stage, and bungee acts where I reach equally high heights. We do have fear and can feel scared when we are performing certain acrobatic moves or skills on stage, but we rest assured knowing that the technicians and riggers have gone through as much or even more training than the acrobats have. During every act, it’s always safety first. As performers we feel confident, we feel comfortable. If we didn’t we wouldn’t continue. And we do it all to make the audience smile, laugh, and applaud. That’s the biggest thrill of our lives.

Corey Hartung is an acrobat who has performed with Cirque du Soleil since 2010. She is currently living in Buenos Aires preparing for a new production called Signum.

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