Out Cirque acrobat flies high in Amaluna

Photo by Martin Girard

By Seth Reines, April 2019 Issue.

In 2011, a young British athlete came out to his family, boarded a flight to Montreal, and began his new life as a Cirque du Soleil acrobat. Phoenix audiences can now catch him flying high under Cirque’s iconic yellow and blue tent in Amaluna, a celebration of love and the power of women.

Growing up in the small English town of Southport, David Rimmer became involved in men’s artistic gymnastics at the age of five. Competing nationally until 18, he left gymnastics to contend internationally on the trampoline and double mini trampoline. In 2011, he began his career in Cirque’s Corteo, joining Amaluna this past November.

David Rimmer

While Amaluna’s cast is 70% female, Cirque’s 33rd production also showcases a troupe of exceptional male acrobats including now teeterboard artist Rimmer.

Echo: Had you ever done teeterboard work before?

Rimmer: I had no idea what teeterboard was or what one looked like. I had never even heard the name. So, they started by showing me videos, and I was super excited to do it.

Echo:  How did your journey with Cirque begin?

Rimmer: I knew of Cirque through friends that I competed with. I entered an audition in Paris.

It was a three-day process where they recorded everything you could do acrobatic-wise, gymnastic-wise, and personal characteristics. I was hired from that profile.

Echo:  What did your Cirque training entail?

Rimmer: We all train for six months at Cirque’s General Formation program in Montreal. It’s almost like going to a circus school. You have training in your specific discipline plus you have voice and clown classes. And you spend a lot of time learning how to express yourself and find out who you are as an artist.

Echo: As Cirque shows are so demanding physically, what is the career lifespan of an acrobatic artist?

Rimmer: It depends upon the difficulty of what you are doing. With somebody who does teeterboard, it is probably between 35 and 40. If you are a clown or a musician, you can be with the company a lot longer. Sometimes an athlete will finish their career as an acrobat and then go into technical work or lighting or directing.  There are many different paths you can take.

Echo: How long do Cirque performers usually stay with a show?

Rimmer: Most stay from four to five years. Touring is difficult. So, people like to do a tour for a while and then take a resident show so they can get a house, a car and they can settle down and create a family. Sometimes it hard to have your family and children with you all the time on tour. And relationships can be quite difficult.

Echo: As an openly gay acrobat, did you find Cirque LGBTQ friendly?

Rimmer: The Cirque world is very open. It’s really nice. When you come into one of the shows or the Cirque environment, you are always very comfortable.  And you know that people are open and accepting. And, for the members of the company who are out, it’s like one big family.

Echo: What makes Amaluna unique?

Rimmer: It is very female-oriented. Most of the cast is female and they have an all-female band. That’s very different for Cirque. It is very beautiful, very colorful, and very feminine as well. The power of women is very strong in this show, which is nice to see.

Loosely inspired by Greek and Norse mythological tales, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Amaluna takes place on an island ruled by powerful Queen Prospera. During a storm, a group of young men has washed ashore, and Prospera’s daughter falls in love with one of them aptly named Romeo. The epic tale of the challenges faced by the couple on their journey to mutual trust, harmony and love form the show’s narrative.

Amaluna was created and directed by Diane Paulus, Artistic Director of Harvard’s American Repertory Theater. Her Broadway directorial debut Porgy and Bess was nominated for 10 Tonys, winning Best Revival of a Musical and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for Audra McDonald.

A year later, Paulus’ Broadway revival of Pippin won her the Tony for Best Direction of a Musical, making her the third woman in history to win the award (following Julie Taymor in 1998 and Susan Strohman in 2001).

In 2015, Paulus helmed the Sara Bareilles musical Waitress, the first Broadway musical to boast an all-female creative team. Still running on Broadway, the show’s National Tour played to enthusiastic audiences at ASU’s Gammage Auditorium this past fall.

Paulus, who champions strong female roles onstage and off, was a perfect match for Cirque’s Amaluna. “I didn’t want to build a ‘women’s agenda’ show. But I wanted to create a show with women at the center of it, something that had a hidden story that featured women as the heroines.”

Don’t miss high-flying David Rimmer and Amaluna playing through April 14 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.

For tickets, visit cirquedusoleil.com.