French performer Ghislain Ramage, 33, is one of an international cast of 50 acrobats, musicians, singers and actors presenting heart-stopping feats and laugh-out-loud antics for Cirque du Soleil’s spectacular production KOOZA – a breathtaking, colourful homage to the traditions of circus.
Most kids dream of running away to the circus. What inspired you/or took you to circus school at age 6?
I don’t actually remember what inspired me at first, but I must have seen one of the traditional circus’s that was coming to my hometown every year. What I remember though is that I was already climbing trees, jumping and running everywhere! So when I asked my parents if I could do circus, they thought it was a great idea. then I got really lucky that there was a circus school in my hometown…
Did you ever want to leave circus school, or did you just love it?
This idea never crossed my mind. From the moment I decided I was going to audition for professional circus schools, I told myself that there was no way back and that I would have to do everything I can to become a circus performer.
When did you know that a career as a circus performer was for you?
At the age of 15, as I was doing circus as a hobby, one of the teachers of the school decided to create an amateur company with whoever was motivated to be part of it. Of course I was the first person to raise my hand! And for the next five years, I developed a lot of new skills, learned how to work in a group and learned what it’s like to be part of the creation process of a show and performing with it.
Before that experience, I never imagined it could be my life as I thought you had to be part of a circus family to be part of the circus. But myself and couple of other friends got so motivated by this project that we started looking at schools and professional formations. And many of us, because of that one project are circus performers today.
You specialise in The Cyr wheel. Can you explain what that is.
The Cyr wheel is nothing more than a simple metal ring that’s human size. You can manipulate it and spin while being in it using the balance of your own body and the momentum it creates.
What do you love most about KOOZA Cirque du Soleil?
KOOZA is a very happy and joyful show. It takes you to a lot of different places. From jaw dropping acrobatics to hilarious clowns and mesmerising music. I often see people in the audience in awe, laughing, or even crying. And as a performer on stage, it means a lot to feel that the audience is having an emotional journey when watching the show.
But apart from the show itself, the cast and crew is amazing. And it’s very important to work in an environment where people are happy and love what they do. And to create such a show, we all have to work together and trust each other. It’s teamwork. And I love that.
I also love the Big Top. I’ve been on different Cirque du Soleil shows that were in arenas or theatres, but the Big Top is by far my favourite. There’s something to it that’s more confined and personal. When you walk in the tent, you feel special, privileged. And from an artist perspective, being able to look at people in the eyes and feel their emotions is something I would never get tired of…
Last but not least, the kitchen. We are lucky to have the most amazing kitchen team that cooks delicious meals every day. It’s very important for us to eat healthy, and our kitchen is always on top of it!
How many hours do you train a week?
It really depends. Especially on this show because my position is to be the main backup act. It means that I need to be ready to replace any act that could be out with my Cyr Wheel solo. But I have four different versions of it and I’m also the back-up of one of the clowns (the King). All those roles involve lots of training to make sure I’m always ready to jump in if something happens.
So I can’t really give you an accurate number of how many hours I train because it always changes, and I do train lots of different things. I have to keep my body in shape doing different types of workouts and stretching. But it’s also important to know how to keep energy and strength to do the shows. It’s all about balance and knowing the limits and needs of your body.
What do you love most about life on the road? And what are the challenges, and how do you overcome them?
Who’s never dreamt about making a living doing something you love, and to travel the world at the same time? Well, this is what I’ve dreamt about… I always been wanting to travel the world, but not just as a tourist. Travelling and being able to make a connection to every place I go to. Sometimes we really do have an impact on people by traveling with the show. It can be at a lot of different levels, from brightening someone’s day to being an eye-opening experience in someone’s life.
It still is an eye-opening experience for me! I’ve learned so much by meeting different cultures, meeting people and making stories. I can easily say that I’m not the same person I was nine years ago when I started to work with Cirque du Soleil and travel the world. Travelling changes you, it teaches you how to look at life with a different perspective. That’s also why when you start, it’s hard to stop! Because there is always somewhere new to go to and to learn from!
But of course there are some downsides to this type of life. Not having a home, being far away from your family, the challenge of relationships… It used to be difficult for me in the first couple of years I was on tour, but I’m in a better place now. I think it’s a matter of acceptance, they’re only challenges if you decide that they are.
If you weren’t a circus performer what would you be?
I absolutely love photography. Before I decided to go full on with the circus, I studied cinema at school and learned a lot about photography, composition, how to tell a story through the frame… I always loved it. I would always have a camera with me and take pictures of my travels but never really pushed it to the next level up until two years ago when I decided to change my whole kit and started learning more about the techniques and the editing process. I don’t consider myself a professional photographer yet but I really enjoy having something new to be passionate about that I can do aside of circus.
What advice would you give an aspiring circus performer?
To never lose the passion, and the love for being on stage. Whatever happens on the way, the challenges encountered, it’s always the love for what you do and the work you’ll put in that’ll make you succeed.
KOOZA combines thrilling acrobatic performance with the art of clowning.
Presented in a colorful mélange, KOOZA springs open like a bejeweled toy box to capture the audience’s imagination and set their pulse racing. Sheer human effort – performance in its rawest, purest form – is showcased in all its splendor and fragility.
Tickets are now available online at cirquedusoleil.com/kooza