Train Like: A Cirque du Soleil Performer
For David Locke, running away to join the circus wasn’t an idle teenage threat: It was, and is, a legitimate career path. After a four-year gymnastics career at the College of William & Mary, the Natick native joined Cirque du Soleil in 2009. Now, he’s back with the company and heading to Boston this week to perform in Kurios, the circus’ latest mind- and body-bending endeavor.
We spoke with Locke—and the show’s physical therapist, Chad Fraser—to find out what goes into his, shall we say, unique line of work.
While Locke says he tries to maintain an active lifestyle in general, he focuses his workouts on staying performance-ready. On a typical performance day, he trains for an hour and a half on the AcroNet (“Just trying new tricks, jumping around”), a giant trampoline that catapults athletes up to 40 feet above the stage. “That would be my workout for the day,” he says. “It’s pretty intensive.”
Fraser says many Cirque athletes do weight training or cardio outside of the show, but that Locke’s gymnastics background often spares him from that type of training. “He’s always been really comfortable on a trampoline, so he might not require as much of a strength training background as somebody else,” Fraser says.
The company also keeps a Pilates instructor and massage therapist on hand, and Locke says he takes advantage of those services. “Just to get 20 minutes of [massage] work is a real lifesaver sometimes,” he says.
Cirque performers are not required to follow a specific eating plan, but Locke says he focuses on fruits and vegetables and avoids milk. On a typical day he eats lunch, does AcroNet training, eats dinner around 5 p.m., starts the show, and eats again at intermission. “I’m eating all throughout the day to keep my energy up,” he says.
Despite the toll performing once or twice a day takes on the body, Locke insists it doesn’t feel like work. “When I’m out there, I don’t have a lot of stress or anxiety,” he says. “I’m almost out there in a pure state of joy, even though it is a hard number on my legs, on my cardio, on everything else. I’m having so much fun out there that you kind of forget about it.”
Fraser echoes his point, noting that a rigorous training schedule makes the performances less taxing. “It’s almost like a horse race,” he says. “They put so much work in before that when they open up the gate and their legs go on, they’re just playing.”
Cirque du Soleil Kurios will be at Suffolk Downs from May 26 through July 10. Purchase tickets here.