Five Questions with Cirque du Soleil Performer Jeffrey Whaley
A dance battle between a BMX rider and a classical ballerina? The legendary Cirque du Soleil comes to the Del Mar Fairgrounds this spring with its first production fusing extreme sports and traditional circus performance.
Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil
This spring, Cirque du Soleil returns to San Diego with its first long-running show in seven years. We peeked under the big top at "Volta,” the circus’ first-ever performance fusing BMX riding and rope jumping with traditional circus elements—and perhaps the only place you’ll see a dance battle between a BMX rider and a classical ballerina. Jeffrey Whaley, a professional BMX rider in the show, told us what it’s like to show off his sport this way. And about learning to do his own makeup.
Check out this snippet of “Volta,” at the Del Mar Fairgrounds April 3 to May 5; tickets $54.
How’s San Diego treating you?
It’s my fourth time here. It’s one of my favorite places in the U.S.—I love this town!
Good answer! So, this is the first Cirque du Soleil show to feature extreme sports, right?
Exactly. We have BMX freestyle and flatland, rope skipping. It’s one of the main reasons this show is different. People are going to notice that right away.
How did this unique show come together?
All of the riders come from the competition world. I’ve been competing for eight years. Another guy on the team has been in it for 15 years. I’m from Montreal so of course I knew about Cirque. One day they contacted me saying they wanted to put together a show with street sports. Three years ago we had a one-week workshop to see if BMXing would fit into the Cirque world. For six months we had training and rehearsal six days a week, putting the show together act by act, bit by bit.
It was a huge learning experience getting to know how to deal with all of these elements together on the stage, learning to trust each other. There are parts when a few of us are riding at the same time so we have to go the right speed, drop in at the same time, and make sure everyone knows what they’re doing. It was tough but so worth it.
What is it like to fuse BMX with more traditional Cirque elements?
So many people are so talented, there’s no way it wouldn’t work. The crowd will be really surprised, it’s not what they’re used to seeing—we go fast, we go high, there’s moving ramps, people hanging from the roof by ropes. It’s totally different from any other show. It’s such a different way of showing our sport to the world. It feels great to perform it.
Did you and the other BMX riders have trouble adapting to circus performing?
Makeup was a tough one for us. We never put on makeup for any events. It was really hard for us to accept it and learn. It took me over two hours to do my makeup. That was so weird for us, but you get used to it.