Cirque du Soleil performers use massage therapy to stay nimble

The magical Cirque du Soleil touring circuses require their performers to do more than 350 shows a year. The resident shows in Las Vegas ask even more – about 475 per year.

All that activity means a lot of tired muscles and injuries. So Cirque du Soleil has hired a legion of physical therapists and massage therapists to bring the life back to bodies contorted, twisted, crumpled and stretched for audience enjoyment. Massage Magazine reports in its October 2006 issue that the performers see massage therapy as a necessary means to make it through their grueling schedule of shows.

The gymnasts most often suffer shoulder-and-wrist inflammation. Jugglers have spinal issues and neck tension. Acrobats and dancers get low-back spasms and injuries in the pelvic region. Trampoline performers have a lot of problems, from sprained ankles to dislocations. Even the musicians suffer from tightness in the upper back. And contortionists? Do you even have to ask? They hurt everywhere.
It pained me to read that performers saw sprained ankles as just “routine injuries,” certainly not “showstoppers.”

WOW! If you’ve ever had a sprained ankle, you know the level of pain we’re talking about. It’s amazing that they can just say “the show must go on” and keep working.

According to the article, there are five massage therapists who work the shows in Las Vegas – O, Mystére, Zumanity, Love and Kå. Then there are another 11 massage therapists who follow the traveling shows around the country and the world – Alegria, Corteo, Dralion, Quidam, Saltimbanco and Varekai.

Cirque pays for the massage therapy – up to a point. They allow two 20 minute massage per week for each performer. That may sound like a lot, but many of the performers choose to pay for extra sessions and extra minutes out of their own pockets. “Throughout the week you accumulate little tensions and your body starts to get tight,” says Helena Saldanha, a 26-year-old Brazilian artist who performs acrobatics, sings and acts in Corteo. “When I get massage, it rebalances that energy, spreading the tension from acute places.”

What’s also interesting is how these artists, who represent more than 40 countries and speak 25 languages, prefer their massage therapy. “A Mongolian contortionist dislikes deep work,” says Janette Powell, a therapist who works with O in Vegas. But Russians want deep tissue massage, even to the point of pain, she says. And neither Russians nor Mongolians appreciate the use of ice on injuries. Powell attributes this to the interesting cultural differences.

Cirque du Soleil has been moderating how far it pushes the performers lately, and has been increasing the use of physical therapy and massage.

I wonder how much better office workers would perform with two massages a week?

Author by Daryl Kulak