Urban circus in Dubai

Aerial artist Orlando Vargas shares his love of aerial artistry


Jenny Hewett meets gymnast, performer and aerial artist Orlando Vargas ahead of his performance in theatrical show Urban Circus at the Madinat Theatre, and finds out where to learn the art in Dubai.

Having been in the business for 12 years, it’s safe to say that Chilean aerial artist Orlando Vargas has officially run away with the circus. The 30-year-old is the star attraction in contemporary South Africa theatrical show Urban Circus, which is running at the Madinat Theatre on Thursday May 23. Here, he explains the ins and outs of the art, plus we reveal where to learn aerial silk dancing in Dubai.

Did you always want to join the circus?
Every kid visits the circus, but the one I saw wasn’t a traditional one – it was very contemporary. I loved the combination of dance and performing with animals. When you love something, you don’t know why, you just feel it. I saw this company called Cirque du Monde, which was started in Canada through Cirque du Soleil. They introduced these concerts with dance and theatrical aspects. I went to their school and asked how I could join them and they said you have to first cut your teeth by selling the tickets on the door. They said you can clean the stage and then we’ll see how you go from there. I did that and they paid for my training for three years.

How long have you been performing as an aerial artist?
I went to the Cirque du Monde school in Chile when I was 18, but I started performing when I was 16.

Can you explain what aerial performing involves?
I do two techniques, one with straps and one with a pole. I also need to think about when I stop because it’s very physical, so I do specialise in rigging as well. They taught me all the safety aspects checking all the rigging for the artists, so when I retire I have something else to do.

What type of training do you do each day/how do you keep in shape?
We wake up by 7am each day, work on the computer for an hour or two, then we go to training. We try to take ballet and yoga classes three times a week to complement our skills. We don’t need to have big bodies. The bigger you get the heavier you are.

Which muscles do you use most as an aerial artist?
I use my core and arms and we do a lot of body weights, so I use my body all the time. The entire routine we do for training is body weight, so lunges and that sort of thing.

What’s the key to being a good performer?
I don’t know [laughs]. It’s not about how good you are in technique, I believe that good artists feel and make people feel something. In my profession there is always somebody better than you, but the only thing people may never forget is what you feel up there.

Why would you suggest people take up this art?
People really enjoy it. It’s different, it’s healthy, it’s fun and you use your own body to learn something new and challenging.

How many people are involved in the show?
The one we’re taking to Dubai features only nine people. We try to make sure that it’s very good in quality, very fun, interactive, but also so that it’s not too difficult to move around logistically because these types of show are quite expensive. We try to make it simple to reach more people.
Urban Circus: Dhs185. 8pm. Thursday May 23. Madinat Theatre www.timeouttickets.com

Where to learn aerial skills in the city

Think you’ve got what it takes to perform in the circus? Roomy gallery Art Sawa in Al Quoz offers aerial skills classes with international instructor Valeria Baigacheva every Saturday until Saturday July 6.
Dhs100 per class. 6pm-7.30pm. Art Sawa, Al Quoz (04 340 8660). Register at workshop@artsawa.com.

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