What is it like working without a safety net? As Erica said, “‘Cirque du Soleil’ is the safest place in the world to do really dangerous stuff. For example, if you see someone who is on a wire, that wire is rated for ten times the amount of weight that would ever be on it. Everything is inspected everyday, and during the performance if you see nets, there are nets, if you see harnesses, there are harnesses. But for what I do, the aerialist, there are no nets. You develop a sense that there is a calculated risk and a tremendous trust in your partner. Every trick that we do, we start by starting it at six inches off the ground, then one foot, two feet, five feet, ten feet, and then you get to 20 feet. By that time, it doesn’t really matter to you if it’s 20 or 40 feet, because my partner and I have already done it a thousand times and we have developed the tricks and sequences. You also develop an emergency protocol. For example, if he starts to have a problem with his shoulder when he’s supporting me, we’ve already run it a dozen times, so the person who is running the motor knows that if I reach for his neck, that’s an indication that we he should bring us down to the floor. We rehearse all of these things, the audience never sees them because we just integrate those moves.”

Luckily for Erica, she has never been seriously injured due to these precautions. “Taking good care of your shoulders is a big thing. Straps are very shoulder-based; without proper conditioning program, injuries are inevitable.”

Erica’s advice for kids who aspire to be involved in theater? “It’s OK to make mistakes, you will blow auditions and you will forget your lines and you will eventually literally trip and fall on your face on stage. These things will happen, and it’s OK, you will survive. What’s important about being a performer, what makes a a great performer isn’t necessarily about not making mistakes, it’s about how you recover from how you make mistakes. If you leave the other people on stage with to fix it, it’s not a kind thing, but if you believe in yourself and in your training and your instincts as an actor or an acrobat, or whatever, when you make mistakes, just play it. The audience understands that you’re human and it’s endearing. What will show them if you are exceptional is if you show them what would your character do if they fell on their face.”

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