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60 SECONDS: Pauliina Rasanen

BY ANDREW WILLIAMS - Friday, January 5, 2007


Trapeze artist Pauliina Rasanen is a member of Cirque du Soleil. She learned her circus skills in her native Finland and also at Canada's National Circus School

in Montreal. Pauliina brings her aerial feats to London's Royal Albert Hall, where Cirque's international hit production Alegría runs until February 4.

See www.cirquedusoleil.com


What routines do you do in the show?
I do the swinging trapeze act – it’s a high-level aerial act. I do gymnastic tricks 12m above the ground on the swinging trapeze while the bar is moving and finish

the routine by hanging off the bar with my toe.

How long have you trained for?
I’ve been hanging off the bar with a toe for two years and I spent six years in the circus before that. I trained in dance and performing arts when I was younger and

then went to circus school.

Who did you go to circus school with? A load of clowns?
No, I went with other young people with gymnastic, dance or theatre backgrounds.

Why did you want to join the circus?
It was a good combination of all the skills I’d learned before, such as acrobatics, gymnastics and performance. I wanted to do something a little crazy, too. I went to my

first circus when I was 14 and loved it – that was the spark. I took it up as a hobby and now do it professionally.

How many shows have you done with Cirque du Soleil?
About 2,300. I’ve done Alegría for five years. Next year, the show moves to Brazil and I’ll move on and do something else. The trapeze is always challenging but I want to

do other things like a hand-to-hand act with my boyfriend, who is also my acrobatics partner. Hand-to-hand involves me balancing on his hand or head using one arm.

I’d like to learn another skill, such as singing, which I could use in a circus routine yet would be less hard on my body.

Do you ever wish you’d become a secretary instead?
Ha ha ha, how could I ever wish that? I get so much from my life. I have travelled all over the world. It’s been a really rich five years.

What’s the weirdest country you’ve been to?
n What’s the weirdest country you’ve been to? I found Japan strange. The people are also very particular – they have a really indirect way of communication.

They are very helpful, though, even when they don’t understand you. We were there for 14 months. The first three months were crazy but then you adjust to the

rhythm of life and the people. We started to look a little Japanese – like when you go to a Japanese hair salon, they cut it in a Japanese style.

Can you ride a unicycle?
Yes, poorly, but I can. It was part of our exam in the first year. We also had to juggle with keys.

Can you swallow swords?
No, they never taught me that but then again I never wanted to learn, ha ha.

What’s the worst accident you’ve had?
It was in Japan – I fell and hit my ribs on the bar. I have a safety line which catches me before I hit the ground but during this routine I landed on the trapeze and got

a minor fracture in my ribs. They were painful for a long time. After that, I took a step back and decided not to do everything I could do in my routine, ten shows a week.

How did it happen?
I had a wisdom tooth operation and was given painkillers. I didn’t really understand what the Japanese dentist was saying and she didn’t understand that I was a trapeze

artist. She said: ‘It’s OK for you to go back to work,’ so I did. I felt really dizzy and that’s when I had the accident. When I went back to her, she said:

‘No! Why did you do that? You’re crazy!’ It wasn’t too smart.

What’s the best thing about coming from Finland?
I’m very proud of my Scandinavian roots. It’s very safe compared to somewhere like London, where your bike is stolen the second you leave it on the street.

We have very little crime. Generally, the people are quite happy




'It's like flying - an incredible feeling'

Independent, The (London),  Feb 8, 2007  by Alex McRae

I Want Your Job: Trapeze Artist

'It's like flying - an incredible feeling'

Pauliina Rasanen, 28, is a trapeze artist with Cirque du Soleil.


What's a day at work like?

I perform at night, so I like to sleep in, then practise on stage for 45 minutes. I perform my trapeze act once or twice a day, nine or 10 times every week. Before each show, I put on my make-up and sparkly costume, and warm up for half an hour, doing handstands and abdominal push-ups. I have to do a lot of strength and flexibility exercises. After the show, I practise again for at least another half an hour. That's when my muscles are warmest, so I can push my body even harder.

Why do you love your job?

It's like a dream of flying. When you do a great performance on the trapeze and everything goes well, it's such an incredible feeling - and you try to project that feeling to the audience. So it's a physical challenge, but it's also an art. You're expressing yourself through the way you move.

What's tough about it?

Working at such a high level every day. Sometimes you wake up with a tummy ache, but you still have to perform. I have calloused hands from holding on to the trapeze bar, but they don't bother me as much as my sore muscles. I like to have a massage once a week.

What skills do you need to be a trapeze artist?

You've got to be talented, but also have the mental strength to cope with the intense physical training. Physically, you need to keep a light body weight, so if you're performing with a partner, they can catch you easily. You can't be at all nervous - when there are 5,000 people watching you, you need to keep your cool. And you've got to be adaptable, because we change cities about once every six weeks.

What would you say to someone who wanted to become a trapeze artist?

I'd say first of all that it's not magic - it's work. You have to work extremely hard, but if you have the physical capacity and talent, you should follow your dreams. I'm originally from Finland, where I did gymnastics and ballet as a child, before joining a youth circus at 14. Then I moved to Canada to study at the National Circus School of Montreal for three years. Cirque du Soleil saw my final performance at circus school, but they also recruit acrobats from gymnastic competitions.

What's the salary and career path like?

We get paid per show, and the amount depends on how you've negotiated your contract. In terms of career progression, I've only met two trapeze artists in their late thirties or early forties, so you need to think ahead. If you've done a range of theatrical, dance and acrobatic training, it'll be easier to redirect your career. You could choreograph your own show, or teach. I plan to set up my own act in Finland with my boyfriend, a Russian acrobat.

www.cirquedusoleil.com

For information on training in circus skills, go to the National Association of Youth Circuses at www.skylight-circus-arts.org.uk; the Academy of Circus Arts at www.zipposcircus.co.uk/aca/aca.htm; or The Circus Space at www.thecircusspace.co.uk.

© Tuuli Pauliina Räsänen 2015