LIFE IN THE CIRCUS
From Acrobatic Gymnastics to the Circus: Jessica Ward
Jessica Ward is one of Australia's most successful Acrobatic Gymnasts. She was named Gymnastics Australia 2002 National Acrobat of the Year, 2003 Elite Team of the Year and 2004 International Acrobat of the Year. Now based in the US, Jessica is touring the world with Cirque Du Soleil's Torak - The First Flight, an immersive, multimedia production inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar film.
You have had an incredibly successful Gymnastics career in Australia. How has your acrobatic background assisted your performing?
Acrobatic Gymnastics has been a large part of my technical background and a huge benefit to my performing career.
Acro is such a multi-faceted discipline in how you train to balance, tumble, dance and perform, as well as be a good team player. The performing industry is calling more and more for people who are versatile in their skill sets so these are a valuable collection of things to be able to offer to an employer.
Having the experience and knowledge of what Acro taught me definitely gave me a good starting point to help me transition from competitive acrobat to professional performer. That being said, it was definitely not as easy as I thought it was going to be!
What attracted you to the world of Gymnastics?
From when I was three years old I just loved dancing and being upside down.
I started training in Rhythmic Gymnastics, Artistic Gymnastics and Acrobatic Gymnastics. Eventually my mum, Lynette Ward, opened the Lynette Ward Acrobatic Academy in NSW where I trained and competed for over 10 years. My mum was a dancer and acrobat growing up, she’s a total guru and a wealth of knowledge.
I still love seeing all forms of gymnastics disciplines, the standard is growing every year. It’s really exciting to see the up and coming talent.
There are over 40 projectors which transform the arena floor and inflatable set pieces from lush greenery to rivers, deserts and lava.
It is largely an ensemble style show where all of the acrobats perform multiple disciplines and cover each others roles, so needless to say, everyone is very multi skilled!
What advice would you have for young athletes that hope to perform?
The best advice I can give is to be patient! Expect that things are probably going to take a longer and more convoluted route that you hope.
I have been very lucky to have my amazing family and friends supporting me and pushing me to keep going when all I wanted to do was give up. It took four years from the day I first auditioned with Cirque du Soleil to when I signed a contract with them. As much as I wanted the job the day I auditioned, I can now appreciate all of the things I did during those four years and how much I learned from each and every training, performance and person that I encountered along the way.
Never stop learning, surround yourself with encouraging people and be prepared to work really, really hard!
Cirque du Soleil Toruk- The first flight links-
How did you get involved with Cirque du Soleil?
I first auditioned for Cirque du Soleil at the end of 2011.
I performed in a special event in early 2015 called One Night for One Drop which Cirque du Soleil presents to raise funds for and awareness of global water issues.
At around the same time that I auditioned for One Drop, I had also been asked to submit an audition video for Toruk-The First Flight. I never would have dreamt that I would end up booking both!
Can you tell us about the show?
The show that I am currently working on is called Toruk- The First Flight. It is an immersive, multimedia production inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar film.
Toruk- The First Flight is a touring arena show. There are just short of 40 performers and roughly 60 technicians currently working our way through the USA and Canada, traveling to a new city every week.
The show is quite different to what Cirque du Soleil has previously produced. Its quite a theatrical show where the story is told by a narrator. The cast are all dressed as Na’vi, the tall, blue characters from the Avatar film and share the stage with some of the creatures of Pandora, who are brought to life by a team of puppeteers.