Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Totem artist profiles - Umihiko Miya

Umi, age 32, from Tokyo, has been with Totem since its creation.  He plays one of the Frog characters in the act called Carapace, doing the high bar, and he is also a Monkey in the show.  (He is, currently, the Monkey who helps out with Greg's act.) 

Growing up in Japan, Umi's family was not particularly into athletics - but he got into sports in regular after-school programs as a child.   He liked all kinds of sports - swimming, basketball, soccer, gymnastics.  The program directors wanted him to take gymnastics more seriously, and start training with an advanced coach, but he didn't follow their advice until he was 12 years old.  But from that point onwards, he trained seriously in gymnastics, and competed.  Eventually, in his senior year of highschool, he won Japan's National Championship in two events, vault and floor. 

When he went to college, Umi's priorities shifted.  He was still doing gymnastics, but he also got interested in work and in socializing.  He didn't train as hard as he would have needed to for an Olympic run, and instead studied Economics and Business, and thought about working in business after graduation. 

A big change happened for Umi when he participated in a government program of international service for developing countries.  This program sent Umi to Panama, to work for 2 years coaching their national gymnastics team, and also developing a physical education program for their schools.  Umi became fluent in Spanish, and was hooked on travel and service opportunities.

He decided his next step was to move to the USA and learn English.  He was able to find work at a gymnastics school in San Francisco, and stayed there for 2 1/2 years, while taking English classes in the mornings. 

In 2009 Umi filled out an online application and submitted a video for Cirque du Soleil.  A week later he was called for Totem.  For him, these years of work on the show have fulfilled many dreams, allowing him to travel, work, stay in shape, and perform.  He feels like tour life has everything he needs.  

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