Le Cirque du Soleil
Le Cirque du Soleil came to Santa Monica in 1989 for the first time and we were quite taken with this amazing new kind of entertainment extravaganza. I was a theatre major in college and had seen a lot of theatre, but nothing I had seen in the past, including the original, groundbreaking production of A Chorus Line had ever affected me like this first troupe did.
My husband Stuart was a chiropractor at the time and was so excited about the troupe, that he offered his services to help them...to give them something in return for their great affect on us. They were just beginning to get the attention they deserved and were still an open minded group of an artist run production company and they gladly accepted his offer. Gave him lots of tickets, a troupe signed poster and jacket he still wears today.
We went to the last show and I brought my camera with me. One of the trapeze artists had asked Stuart to watch her perform and hopefully see something she was doing wrong that was hurting her. I snapped a few photos while Rachel performed and then had the camera with me when we went backstage afterwards. And snapped a few more. Very grainy color film, but boy, it was a very exciting set of images.
So when they returned the next year, for Nouvelle Experience, we arranged for me to be allowed full access to the site to shoot. I was very shy at first and since few spoke English, it was difficult to find a commonality to help me do my best with the camera. But fortunately, I thought to bring a book of some of the first photos and shared them with the troupe. Once they saw the images, everything changed. They thrillingly accepted me as a fellow artist and worked with me whenever they saw me point the camera at them. The French trapeze artists even gave us a lesson on the trapeze (in French) which we documented by video.
By the time the Saltimbanco troupe arrived in 1993, Le Cirque du Soleil had become world famous and all the rules had changed. Stuart was still their chiropractor, but now he was paid his full professional fees, and despite the artistic director writing a recommendation for me that said "Helen captured the circus performer like no other photographer he had seen", I was no longer allowed to photograph their corporate brand. We did however, get another lesson on one of their rigs....a bungee set up where we were hooked up to the top of the 35 foot tent and pulled ourselves up to the top and bounced down to the ground. Two of the members grabbed the heels of my sneakers and pulled until the bungee cord was tight. And then let me go like a sling shot. I sailed all over the tent with a giant smile on my face..
It was an amazing experience to spend so
much time with the troupe and it forever changed my life. Not only did I learn to trust more, I was inspired to dedicate my life to photography. I learned the important lesson that
one has to follow their passion to lead a fulfilled life.