Cirque du Soleil artist and gymnast Alanna Baker: ‘Becoming a European champion was amazing’
Alanna Baker has competed for Great Britain in the European and World Championships as a gymnast. She talks to Roda Musa about running away to join the circus and her latest role in Cirque du Soleil’s Ovo…
What is it like to travel with the circus?
I never feel like I’m working. This has been my dream since I was eight. When I first saw Cirque du Soleil perform at the Royal Albert Hall, I knew that it was what I wanted to do. Six months after I finished competing in gymnastics, I decided to join the circus. Since then, coming up to five years, I’ve been travelling to places like Australia, Taiwan and Japan. I am living my dream, doing my dream job and on top of that I get to visit and travel all over the world.
Are you looking forward to coming back to London?
I am so excited. It’s like I’ve done a big circle – 15 years later I am going back to where my dream first started. I am performing the role of Black Spider in Ovo, which means ‘egg’ in Portuguese, and everyone on stage is acting as an insect. A new egg comes into the insect community and we are all unsure of it and debate whether or not we should work with it. It is all about accepting others and appreciating everyone for who they are – whether you are a cricket or an ant, we all belong to the same colony.
What was it like to compete for Great Britain in gymnastics?
I started to train with a coach called Neil Griffiths, because I knew he was the best, and I got to the point where I wanted to compete and represent my country. It was such a brilliant feeling to do that and be the best in your country at what you do. The moment I became a European champion in 2011 was amazing; I’ve watched the video several times since. It is such an achievement, for all of the hard work and determination to pay off.
What has been your biggest struggle?
When I was in college and everyone was making plans to go to university and all I wanted to do was run away with a circus – that was the struggle for me. Everyone was telling me I needed a degree to be successful and it took a lot for me to stay firm and follow my dreams instead. I kept training, five times a week, pushing myself as much as possible and hoping it would all work out. I was lucky that my parents were supportive of me. It was hard keeping myself motivated enough to pursue my dreams. If you persevere and work hard it will happen for you.
Are you ever worried for your safety when you perform?
No. Safety is Cirque du Soleil’s number one priority. If you don’t feel safe, the performance doesn’t go ahead. That is the number one rule. We put our lives at risk all the time, and, yes, things do happen but they are unforeseeable and you couldn’t have stopped them from happening. If I don’t feel safe, the performance is adjusted and changed until I do. We have to perform every night and the last thing you want is to feel unsafe, because then you’re not focused either.
Cirque du Soleil’s Ovo is at London’s Royal Albert Hall until March 4
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