BWW Interview: Alanna Baker Talks Cirque du Soleil's OVO
Alanna Baker competed in gymnastics from the age of five, winning a bronze medal at the World Gymnastics Championships in 2012.
Originally from the UK, she's been part of OVO, Cirque du Soleil's touring show, for the past three years, travelling to Australia, Taipei, Japan, and most recently America.
How did you become involved with gymnastics?
I was lucky that my parents got me into gymnastics from a very young age, even though neither of them had a background in it. At the age of five, I was already training at recreational classes in the village where I lived. Gradually, as I got older and my skills started to improve and the coaches saw potential in me, I was moved to Sports Acrobatics at the age of seven. I then continued to train until I retired at 18.
Can you describe OVO for anyone who's not familiar with it?
It's such a fun, colourful and family-friendly show, full of high-level acrobatics. Whether you're six or 60, there is something for everyone. It's an easy storyline to follow about a day in the life of an insect, from waking up at the beginning to the big banquet feast at the end. There's also a love story, but I won't spoil too much for you. You'll leave the show full of happiness.
What's your role? What sort of stunts does it involve?
I'm the Black Spider in the show, which is an acrobatic character. You'll see me appearing throughout most of the production, as I'm supporting a lot of the other acts too. I do a mixture of character work, acrobatics, aerial and dance.
Did you learn any new skills particularly for this show?
Actually, yes. When I first joined OVO, my acrobatic background was acrosport. So when I was given the role of the Black Spider character, I started to learn corde-lisse (rope). I also now perform the back-up act of the show on cerceau (aerial hoop).
Learning new skills is always an amazing and thrilling feeling. Constantly improving as an artist is what it's all about. I love to keep evolving and growing. There is always something you can learn.
What does an average day on tour look like for you?
I'm a very active person, so here is what a normal day would look like for me:
- Head to work
- 2/3 training sessions, consisting of choreography and specific training for the show
Do you do anything to stay in shape for the show or is being in it enough?
I love to work out. For me, it's part of my lifestyle. So five to six times a week I'll work out on top of performing. But the show does keep me in great shape.
You're also in charge of teaching new members of the company the choreography. What's that like?
I love teaching and helping my cast members with choreography. For me, it's a nice achievement - being able to share a passion and see the artists improve.
It's also interesting, because every single person is different. We have a lot of high-level athletes coming through Cirque, but that doesn't mean their coordination is tip-top on the artistic side. So it's fun to be able to help them grow and improve.
What was the audition process for OVO like?
I did an audition for Cirque du Soleil, not OVO necessarily. I was lucky that Cirque held a closed audition at the gym I was training at. It was a fun process. They get you to step outside the box and learn to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. That's a lot of what I would say being an artist is all about.
Do you have any advice for young people who might want to be in something like Cirque du Soleil?
Never stop chasing those dreams; nothing worth having comes easy. My dream of wanting to join Cirque du Soleil first started when I was eight years old. You've got to be willing to put the work in to get the results you want. Through hard work, determination, sacrifices, dedication, commitment, perseverance...anything is possible!
Photo Credit: Goff Photos