Thursday, September 9, 2010

Totem profiles - Mark Freeman

Mark Freeman, from Manchester, England, is 26 years old. Mark is a “High Bar” performer in the Totem act known as Carapace. He is one of the four Frogs, an acrobat who does amazing stunts on bars and trampolines in the very first routine that the audience sees.

Mark’s background is in competitive gymnastics. As a teenager, he was part of Great Britain’s national gymnastics team. This led him to a gymnastics scholarship in the USA, at UC Berkeley. He earned a degree in Sociology at Berkeley, while continuing to train and compete in gymnastics. He also coached recreational students during those years.

A couple of years before graduating, he wondered what he might be able to do with his gymnastics skills outside of the traditional realm. He had friends who had joined Cirque du Soleil, and it sounded like a great route to him, a way to use his strengths in a less-punishing, more fun way. He sent a CV, and was asked to come to an audition for gymnasts in Las Vegas.

While in Las Vegas, he stayed with a friend who was performing with Mystere. This allowed him a behind-the-scenes look at Cirque du Soleil, and he was excited when he passed the audition and was invited to join Cirque 2010. Mark came to Montreal in September 2009, to be part of the creation of the Carapace act, one of the very first elements developed for Totem.

Mark greatly values his gymnastics training background; in gymnastics, he says, he was taught to push himself out of his comfort zone, to always look for new challenges, and to keep a strong work ethic. But he also felt in gymnastics that it was all about the competition. Being part of Cirque du Soleil, it is a more holistic approach; the directors take great care for the safety, health and well-being of the artists for the long term.

He is proud to be a part of this show. It is a cast of mature, professional artists, which helps keep him and some of the other younger guys grounded. He says “I love seeing talented people do what they do best”, and he finds it fascinating that such a diverse, international group of people can come together so beautifully.

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