As Alanna Baker sauntered on the slack wire above the huge arena, adorned in an elaborate red and black leotard as the spider in Cirque du Soleil Ovo, only one thought crossed her mind: Did my parents see me screw up?
“We make mistakes not look like mistakes,” Baker says. “They’re not mistakes, they’re just differences.”
Baker and fellow acrobat Kyle Cragle recently stopped by the Harvard Museum of Natural History’s “Arthropods: Creatures that Rule” exhibit, studying the insects which they portray in Ovo. As they prepare to perform in Boston at Agganis Arena, these high-flying performers, capable of impossible, bug-like stunts, share their human side.
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“I like chocolate. I like movies. I like to be lazy too,” says Cragle, who plays the hand-balancing dragonfly. “I work my butt off at work but we [Cirque performers] are regular. We’re normal.”
Both Baker and Cragle got their start in gymnastics. Baker represented her native England in global competitions, earning the title of European champion in 2011. She says, as a gymnast, she would have to train religiously for one competition, but as a Cirque performer, she must be prepared for multiple shows per week.
“Sometimes, things don’t go as planned but you’ve got to remember you have another show in two hours time,” Baker says. “If you’re going to beat yourself up about it, you [still] need to pick yourself up again to do another show.”
While Cragle trained as a gymnast too, he always dreamed of performing in Cirque du Soleil since he was kid. Cragle joined Cirque shortly after graduating the National Circus School’s high school program in 2016.
“Everyday, I smile because I remind myself that this is what you worked for,” says Cragle. “No matter how you feel now, no matter how you’re going to feel after this, this is that moment that you worked 10 or 11 years for.”
He says he prefers the artistry of acrobatics to the competitive, athletic nature of professional gymnastics.
“You look into that person in the front audience, [and] they might have a tear in their eye,” Cragle says. “People come up to me and tell me that they started crying during my number.”
Cragle and Baker both note that they draw inspiration from the audience, sometimes altering their performances based on the crowd’s reaction.
“A lot of people don’t want to make a noise,” Baker says. “They think it will distract you. Sometimes it’s nice, that silence is golden, but also it’s nice to get that response – especially at the end of the show with that standing ovation.”
There is one way these acrobats may differ from the rest of us: They definitely aren’t too concerned about falling as they perform gravity-defying feats on stage.
“Let’s get real,” Cragle says, “we’re all performers, so we’re all adrenaline junkies.”
If you go:
Sept. 6-10, Agganis Arena, 925 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, $40+, cirquedusoleil.com