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Content Strategy | Writing | Editing

Cirque du Soleil performers fail sometimes

Jeffrey Williams

A unicyclist fell. 

The tightrope walker slipped and dropped the six feet to the stage. 

Some of the acrobats landed twisting double flips slightly off the seesaw. 

The sense of risk rose throughout the show. I got nervous. These people were not playing it safe. A woman dangled from a metal hoop high above the stage, arching her back and holding on only with the back of her neck. The aerialists swung way up above the audience and I found myself murmuring, “Hold on, hold on.” 

Yet the most suspenseful performance was the stillest -- a woman balancing palm branches

She started by placing one small branch across another one, which was slightly longer. Then she balanced those two across a third. A latticework began to form as she kept adding new, longer branches. By the time she was finished, she’d constructed something that looked like the rib cage of a dinosaur or the aeroplane from a Wright brother’s nightmare. The audience was mesmerized.

I read that her name is Lara Jacobs Rigolo. “I fear every night it's going to fall,” she says, “it fall 3 times so far. I really have to be careful, also because of humidity the balance points change every show.”

It didn’t fall, not this time. 

The unicyclist who did fall got up and kept going. So did the tightrope walker. The acrobats kept flinging themselves upward. 

How breathtaking to think they’re up there taking chances every performance. The risk of failure is real. How exhilarating to live so heightened.