The Circus Life

10:32 PM

My sisters sent me a copy of this article which was featured in the Autumn 2013 edition of the Thrive newsletter sent out by HBF:

Cirque du Soleil trampoline artist Lee Brearley talks about life as a leaping, dancing cricket.

Dressing up as a cricket and performing jumps, flips, spins and tumbles on a trampoline is just a normal day's work for Lee Brearley. The 29-year-old former UK Olympian is part of a diverse cast of artists performing in Cirque du Soleil's touring show OVO - a bright and energetic spectacle set in the beautiful and bustling world of insects.

"It's a great show - very colourful, very vibrant," Lee says. "It has beautiful music, beautiful costumes, a lot of great acrobatics, and a storyline that you don't have to think about - you just have to enjoy it, and that's all that matters."

Growing up in Manchester, Lee started trampolining at the age of eight, and quickly discovered it was something he both loved and had a talent for. "It's something I picked up quite naturally at a young age," he says. "It's not something I thought about too much - I just did it. It was a lot of fun and I got good at it pretty quick." He was soon spotted and started competing in regional, national and eventually international competitions, culminating at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, where he became the first male to represent the UK in trampolining. 

After the Olympics, the idea of moving from competition to performance piqued Lee's interest. "I'd seen Cirque du Soleil a few times and I saw an advertisement for an audition in Paris," he says. He was accepted into the training camp in Montreal, where potential performers are trained for openings that might arise. After several years of training, the right spot opened up, and Lee joined the cast of Saltimbanco, performing on a swinging platform called The Russian Swing, from which artists jump and perform twists, spins and flips in the air.

Life in the performing arts feels comfortable for Lee, and has opened him up to exploring a more creative side. "In Cirque du Soleil I'm using the same skills as in trampoline competitions, but rather than just being very personal in what you're doing, you get to offer something for other people," Lee says. "I was also part of the creation of the show, which was very rewarding. We got to share our ideas, so there were a lot of us who helped create the acts and the choreography along with the director. So there's part of me in the show, and I'm really happy about that."

For Lee, the social side of his sport is also a large part of what makes it so rewarding. "You meet a lot of friends that become a really important part of your life," he says. "We have so many different cultures here, so you get to learn a whole lot of different things. The friendships you create are lifelong and it almost creates the person you are.

"It's a great job. I'm happy and I'm getting to travel the world a bit, and I love the show, so I'm going to stick around for as long as I can."

There are lots of acts that train every day, but my training routine is one or two sessions a week. Because of the intensity of the work done in the show, doing more training during the week is actually not beneficial, because it would tire you out so you wouldn't be able to perform your role as well. But the work in the show itself almost acts as training too.
I do a bit of yoga here and there. I do a lot of stretching and things like that. Some of the costumes I wear have things like large cricket legs attached, which actually inhibit movement, so I find that I get a bit stiff very easily. The moment I can get those legs off I'm stretching as much as I can. My legs, back and body in general can get very sore so the best thing to do is roll it out on a foam roller. 

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