Transformation of a Cirque du Soleil star
JESSICA Ward credits a grounding in “Perth-style” acrobatics with helping her soar on to the international stage in Cirque du Soleil’s latest Avatar-inspired offering Toruk — The First Flight.
Ward’s parents grew up in WA before relocating to the other side of the country in their mid-20s and starting a family.
After training as an acrobat throughout her childhood in Perth, mum Lynette opened her own Sydney gym where then four-year-old Ward was one of the star students.
“The Perth syllabus Mum taught was different to the rest of the country,” Ward said. “The technique focused more on the contortion side of things with lots of hand balancing and tumbling on hard ground rather than mats like in gymnastics.
“Learning how to tumble on a hard stage from an early age, which is what we do in Cirque du Soleil, has been a big benefit to my career.”
Ward also trained in ballet and gymnastics and now lives in Las Vegas, but has spent the past two years touring the world with the show.
She said that while living out of a suitcase was an easy adjustment, learning the make-up routine required to transform into a blue-faced Na’Vi took a while longer.
“Each performer was trained to do their own make-up when we were putting the show together back in Montreal,” she said.
“The first couple of weeks of the tour I was allotted two hours before each show, but it would take me closer to three. Now I can get it all done in 45 minutes.”
Set in James Cameron’s Avatar universe and billed as a prequel to the 2009 sci-fi epic, Toruk is a departure in style from past Cirque Du Soleil shows.
Parts of the set are projected on to a backdrop bigger than five IMAX screens and the show has an array of puppets up to 12m tall. Toruk – The First Flight is at Perth Arena from November 24.
Ready to tumble: WA’s Jessica Ward goes from Jess to a blue Na’Vi for her Cirque du Soleil performance. Picture: Ian Currie