Chapter 1. Cirque Du Soleil and the Coronavirus
Updated: Mar 31
March 26th, 2020
Hi, Mary Here. I’ve never written a blog, I haven’t written much of anything in over 10 years. I used to write a lot about my life, writing was a way to deal with loneliness, heartbreak, sadness, normal things that 18 year olds are dealing with while figuring out life. When I first moved from my small hometown in West Virginia and moved out West in search of a new life I struggled because I missed my friends, was broke, and didn’t fit in with the Utah culture I had moved into. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Utah people but I come from a very different place, was raised more like a hillbilly tomboy and not a “proper” young lady. It took me a long time to figure out who I was and my journal writing was my therapy.
Now I sit in quarantine in Las Vegas with my husband Tyce, our son Jaxx, and our 2 friends Buyana and Suvda, aka The Contortion sisters from Mongolia. What I’m looking at right now is very entertaining, the sisters are practicing their contortion while Jaxx tries to copy their movements.
SO how did a West Virginia country girl and a Utah mormon boy end up quarantined with Mongolian Contortionists in Las Vegas? As of now the whole world knows about the Coronavirus. It has shut down almost every country and managed to turn the Las Vegas strip into a ghost town. It’s especially eerie to drive down the strip, it feels like at any moment zombies are going to attack.
Earlier this year, Tyce and I got 1st runner up on AGT the Champions which led to us getting a job offer for a new show in Vegas “Celestia” We got to perform one weekend of shows when it became clear that the Virus was turning into a serious pandemic. Slowly, each casino made the announcement that they would be closing and evacuating the hotels indefinitely, which led to Cirque Du Soleil not only shutting down their Vegas shows, but every single show world wide.
We’ve known the Contortion Sisters since I was pregnant with Jaxx. We were at the same Cirque Du Soleil audition. Because I was pregnant, Cirque had Tyce do the whole audition process (acting, acrobatics, and strength test) and would review a video of me after I gave birth. Fast forward to Jaxx being 4 months old, me and Tyce were back performing full time and got a call from Cirque saying they were looking at us for a new show. I was almost afraid to tell them I had a baby because we just had another company reach out to hire us, but when they learned I had given birth a few months earlier they basically said “Oh you have a child? never mind we can’t hire you” they didn’t even ask for a recent video or picture to see what kind of shape I was in. Pretty sure they are sexist A-HOLES. If they found out a man had a child or even 10 children back home I don't think they would have reacted the same way they did to me. SEXIST.
Cirque was different, The acrobatic coach was a woman named Sonya, who grew up in Cirque, She started performing with them when she was 15. Now she’s a mother herself so she didn’t judge me or my work abilities. She asked for a recent video, watched it, and then they hired us. The choreographer of the show was Lydia, also a mother. These two women along with Fernand the Director believed and saw something in us that I never saw in myself.
I saw my first Cirque Du Soleil show when I was about 16. My mom bought a dvd of the show “Alegria” and I fell in love. The music, the athletics, the art was all so fascinating to me. But I had absolutely no thoughts or ambitions of ever being a cirque performer. I had zero acrobatic training, I don’t even think there was a gymnastics gym in my town, and I just assumed that you had to have grown up in a Russian circus family to make it in a company like Cirque.
A couple years later I moved out to Utah for dance/theatre at the University of Utah, and like I mentioned earlier, I was broke in those days.
I saw a job posting for Cliff divers. Whaaaaat? Cliff Divers you say?!! That intrigued me. I grew up jumping off cliffs at my favorite lake in Kentucky, I prided myself as being the girl who wasn’t afraid to jump off of the highest cliffs. I looked more into the job posting and found out there was a restaurant in Utah called the Mayan that had a cliff diving show. The inside looked like the rain forest Cafe, and had 30 foot cliffs that divers would do flips off of.
I had zero diving experience, but I was desperate for money, so I scheduled an interview. I was used to the West Virginia minimum wage which at that time was 5.15 per hour.
When I heard that the starting rate for divers was 11.00 an hour I was like WOOO WEEE sign me up! I’ll jump off of whatever cliff you want. That was the beginning of my acrobatic career. I didn’t know how to do flips but the divers there taught me. I made some of the best friends of my life there, and met Tyce. One day I’ll write a whole chapter on the Mayan, it was full of love, drama, laughter, is the reason I married Tyce, and through a series of events would eventually make me a Cirque Du Soleil Performer.
HAHA Looking back I can’t believe we did all that cliff diving for 11.00 an hour. The pool we dove into was tiny and I can’t believe there weren’t more serious injuries. The worst I got there was a ruptured eardrum and dislocated shoulder. My friends had stitches, concussions, broken bones, etc. But nothing life threatening thank goodness. But HEY! We were young and excited to have a job that we loved and that was great money for me back then.
Okay now bringing it back to Cirque! So in 2017 we went to Eurasia to do our first Cirque Du Soleil Show. The Contortion sisters also got hired and their act along with the Fire spinner Tuione were Jaxx’s favorite acts. (as fate would have it, Tuione was the original fire spinner from Alegria, the show that first inspired me) We all became like family and for the past few years have continued to work and travel the world together. Tuiono and Sonya got engaged (They were each other's first loves in Alegria, then hated each other and didn’t speak for 20 years, but now are finally together again) We were all lucky enough to get hired for a lot of the same cirque productions. But this year we all got split up. Tuione went on tour for the revamp of Alegria, and the sisters signed a 2 year tour with Cirque.
Then the shutdown happened, and Cirque announced the lay off of 4900 employees. We were scheduled to do another show with Cirque in July, but yesterday we got an email saying it is now canceled. It’s heartbreaking because Cirque was the powerhouse of circus, they revolutionized acrobatic performance. I pray that the company will recover from this, and that we will get the chance to perform on their stage again. Thousands of acrobats are without jobs, and don’t know what to do next.
The contortion sisters were in California when the closures were announced. They hitched a ride to vegas and now here we are. Jaxx loves having them here with us, we do too.
Tuione made it to Canada to be with Sonya before the borders closed. We have other friends who are trapped on a ship in Dubai and can’t make it home to the USA. Many performers are displaced with nowhere to go.
I never thought I would live to see the day that the Las Vegas strip would be empty. See Cirque Du Soleil brought to its knees. See playgrounds patrolled by cops making sure that quarantine protocol isn’t broken. Some people are terrified to leave their homes for fear of getting the virus, others think it’s a government conspiracy made to control people. My opinion? I honestly don’t know. I believe that people are getting sick, I believe it is very dangerous for people with weak immune systems. I don’t believe I will die if I get the virus, but I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that I won't live in fear and I want to continue living my life. I believe we should have the freedom to live our lives, but I also understand that it was necessary to close businesses, and have quarantine guidelines made to slow down the spread of the virus so that hospitals don’t get overrun and panic doesn’t overcome the people. So we are following the quarantine guidelines, staying inside except for daily hikes where we stay away from other people. (Most 1st would quarantine ever!)
I think about Anne frank during the holocaust, hiding in a 550 sq foot hidden room for 25 months. Had to stay quiet, could never ever go outside, all while knowing most of the people she had ever known in her life on the outside world were dead. Meanwhile here I am sitting on my butt watching netflix and overeating out of boredom. I can facetime my friends and do home workouts. I shouldn't complain.
What I am really worried about is that economy won't be able to recover if it is shut down for much longer.
Many people think this is a sign of the end of the world. A few days ago I woke up from a nightmare and texted my friend in Utah who told me that they just had a big earthquake. First the virus, now an earthquake! My first thought was to get on a plane to West Virginia. If zombies attack it will be the safest place for us. My family has land in the woods, my youngest brother is basically a character from the Walking Dead. He, and the rest of my billion siblings could all protect each other. (ok maybe not a billion but there's a lot of us)
So if this is the end of the world, I want to leave some kind of a record of who I really am. Some of you have seen me on TV, seen some of our performances, but you’ve only seen pieces of me. Edited versions. Instagram posts and facebook stories. I lived a whole life full of adventures before I ever knew Tyce, and then started a life with him full of new adventures better than I ever could have imagined. Right now I’m missing my family back home. Missing Tyce’s family and our friends in Utah. I miss my childhood friends. You know, the friends who you’ve known since you were 8, haven’t actually seen in 15+ years, but you still consider them your best friends because they helped shape your childhood? A childhood with no internet or cell phones. We had to actually memorize each other's phone numbers and ask for them when their parents answered the phone. We entertained ourselves by building tree houses, playing in the woods till dark, and putting dog poop in neighbors mailboxes. Ya, I miss them.
Maybe this will all blow over, and we’ll be able to go back to living our normal lives. Our show in Vegas is planning on reopening as soon as the government says it's safe. I hope that happens, I hope that people who own small businesses will be able to stay afloat. Only time will tell if I’ll go back to being a circus performer, or a hillbilly zombie fighter. In the meantime, I'll be writing. I don’t expect it to be wonderful, entertaining writing, but I’m doing it so that if something ever happens to me, Jaxx will know who his mother really was, where I came from and what made me who I am. and don’t judge my horrible grammar and writing skills, I’m dyslexic. Yep, I was diagnosed as a child.
Welcome to my world!