Like any one of us in an audience would be, Australian Daniel Crispin in his teenage years found himself captivated by Cirque du Soleil. It was just a display of powerful skill and sublime physical control, he said, from the team's adept ability to narrate stories and deliver performances as acrobats with artful physical movement.
World-class dance and acrobatic choreography combined with unrivaled set production plus innovative prop and puppetry design never fail to amaze. Witnessing Cirque Du Soleil's matchless prestige in the circus arts drew Daniel in. He then built his life on a commitment to make it as a professional acrobat. Daniel is now here in Manila completing the last few shows of Toruk - The First Flight, an Avatar-inspired production currently staged at SM Mall of Asia Arena until the last performance this coming second of July.
How long have you been with Cirque Du Soleil and how did you aim to ultimately become a principal acrobat with them?
"I've been with Cirque about two and a half years. I’ll always say it’s the pinnacle of the industry. I remember when I was 18 years old, I was backpacking in America, and I put together a few dollars that I needed to go to a show. And I saw the show then I said that’s what I want to do with my life. There’s some other factors that played in, my resources. Eventually, I came in (to join Cirque) 10 years later."
We're pretty sure some young people aspire to join "Cirque" the same way you did. They probably wonder what educational background it takes to get there. How exactly did you steer yourself in education towards Cirque Du Soleil?
"Well, I had martial arts upbringing. I then took the Bachelor of Circus arts at the National institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne.
With all these great influences of the arts around me, I discovered the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA). NICA is a three year bachelor degree in Melbourne that trains you as a multidisciplinary circus specialist. These three years were mind-blowing. Everyday we spent 8 - 10 hours working on dance, tumbling, handstands, drama, movement theory and our chosen specialties. I was accepted into NICA by the skin of my teeth, I had barely any experience in the performing arts. So I took it as a once in a lifetime opportunity and worked as physically possible. As a result I graduated on scholarship with my photo on the school poster. It was one of the proudest moments of my life when my family came and saw me perform at the graduate ceremony and win the outstanding student scholarship award.
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Upon completing that, I had my main specialty in straps, Chinese pole, cliff diving and teeter board. I then went on to work professionally with King Kong, I have my own company as well, and worked with a variety of different acrobatic companies. Then I continued studying and attained Masters Board coaching degree. I'm also a school teacher."
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What is your character and his specific role in the Toruk storyline?
"I can't go to much into the plotline. I play the younger brother, Entu, who was adopted into the family, as his parents were killed by a ginormous monster. He’s the loveable reject, there's a lot of acrobatic clowning. I really enjoy being able to play a slapstick character. For me, that’s a very good fit because I’ve always enjoyed clowning. And then it is nice, that he’s not just just a clown character or anything, it swings around, and I’ll perform a special solo to wrap the journey, which is very nice."
What is the most challenging part of your job? We know it’s fun because you get to travel and be part of different productions, but are there difficulties as well?
"Being away from family and friends is difficult. Especially being from Australia, it’s so far away. Sometimes I go full year without being home. I've missed kids being born and weddings and birthdays. That’s the very difficult part."
Michael Ocampo, your head acrobatic coach, mentioned that you're all trained to do your own make-up and costume preparations while on tour. How long does it take you to get ready for the role?
"It depends on the production and the constraints. Because sometimes it’s really a busy day and it’s broken up. So, you have to do your make-up in five different sections. But if you have time and you can sit down, it should take anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour and a half to do a full makeup."
"However, this morning (as you can see), 'cause it’s been six weeks since I have done my make-up, I woke up at 2 AM to make sure I had time to do it. It took a full two hours to make sure everything was right. In my free time, Im a painter, so I enjoy being able to get through it very quickly."
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How do you physically prep yourself or maintain yourself as an acrobat?
"I’m pretty fit, I have a very active lifestyle. Every morning, we’ve been on vacation as of the moment, so every morning, I run and I go hiking. I really love the specialties that I do, I also passively train, and I still enjoy that."
Before a show, how do you amp up the workouts?
"Well that’s where it gets really hot because the show is incredibly demanding. So when you’re three weeks since the tour, it’s okay. There's an exercise physiologist, he works with peak performance athletes, and he really just watches me. I get taken through the best programs with the best results, with minimal casualty, hence the body."
What do you have to say to young people who want to enter the same career as you? Did you ever have times where you doubted yourself like when you were thinking that you want to be with Cirque de Soleil?
"Of course, that doubt never goes away. It’s just an unrelenting commitment that takes believing in yourself. We live in the day and age where the accessibility to information and resources is at anyone’s fingertips, even if you surround yourself with people who say you can’t do it, you have the opportunity."
Cirque du Soleil presents TORUK The First Flight. Remaining shows until July 2, 2017 will be held at the Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City. Call (+63)470-2222 for ticket inquiries.
SCHEDULE OF SHOWS: June 30: 4pm, 8pm, July 1: 4pm, 8pm, July 2: 1pm, 5pm
TICKET PRICES: PL 1 - P7,368, PL 2 - P5,990, PL 3 - P4,770, PL 4 - P3,498, PL 5 - P2,073
ALSO READ: Cultured!: Fil-Am Puppeteer Rob Laqui Makes His Move On Cirque Du Soleil's 'Toruk'
Additional photos by author and Jana Jimenez and from: Instagram.com/crispyslife