When They Grow Up: A Gymnastics Coach Goes Behind the Scenes of Cirque du Soleil's Dralion

For a mid-summer heat wave break, I was off to Frisco to spend my Wednesday afternoon getting a behind the scenes look at Cirque De Soleil's production of Dralion. The rehearsals and training sessions were sure to be a treat and I was really looking forward to seeing a deconstructed version of the famously spectacular show.

Each week, I train little 3-year-old gymnast how to do somersaults, bunny hops and rainbows (a toddler's term for back bends). Trying to explain to a toddler how to do a cartwheel, or where to place your hands as you aim to kick your feet in the air and over to the other side of your hands can be quite tricky...

So, while watching the coaches at the Dralion rehearsals it was absolutely clear the performers are in no need of "training." They are just practicing and perfecting each and every movement as precision is not only necessary for the overall effect of the show but also for the safety of the entire cast. One wrong move and acrobats would go tumbling to the ground. Total disaster.

I was particularly taken with the aerial silks rehearsals. It seemed to challenge the laws of gravity and looked absolutely gorgeous.

Turns out that the lead in the aerial pas de deux portion of the show and had seen Cirque Du Soleil when she a young girl and decided at that moment she would pursue a career as an acrobat. She was accepted to The National Circus School of Montreal and now she is living her dream, and getting to travel the world while she does it.

The skipping ropes team took the stage next, and it looked at first like a bunch of kids after school just messing about with the jump rope. But moments later, they were bouncing around in a 3 tiered 15 person pyramid simultaneously jumping rope.

Totally focused, they made the entire session look like a breeze. Although, it made my back hurt a little.

Then hoops were up and the back flips started. They were fast, shooting their bodies through the hoops like darts.

I stood watching in fascination until it was time to leave and we were then ushered back outside into the 115 degree heat. I was in awe of the talent and the level of devotion from the coaches, artists, directors and everyone involved in Dralion.

I fondly remember the days when I stood confidently on the balance beam. I wasn't even the slightest bit concerned about what might happen if I were to fall off while attempting a back walkover or back handspring. In fact, I might have been a thrill seeker. And I suspect most of the artist and performers in Dralion are also thrill seekers.

These days, I am not sure if I would even attempt a forward roll on the balance beam, so to watch all this risking life and death for the sake of art and entertainment is pretty amazing. I would love to be able to get up there and fling myself though a hoop or twirl in the air holding on to a piece of fabric.

Regardless, my mini gymnastic students are always impressed when I demonstrate my own death defying skills, performing a series of cartwheels and hand stands. Of course, that could be because I have an audience of toddlers. But maybe my simple performance will inspire one of them to aspire to a career as a professional acrobat or Cirque Du Soleil star.

Follow the Mixmaster on Twitter: @the_mixmaster.

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