IT takes a very confident individual to wear the contortionist costume in Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza.
Fortunately 21-year-old Odgerel Byambadorj has no qualms about slipping into the beautiful but skintight body suit she has worn since joining the show almost seven years ago.
The Mongolian contortionist is the youngest performer in the Kooza cast, which has set up its famous blue and yellow Grand Chapiteau at Belmont Racecourse.
Unlike many in the cast, Byambadorj does not come from a circus family and simply started contortion as a hobby when she was eight years old.
“So many people do contortion in Mongolia, I would see it on television. My grandparents and I decided I would give it a try as an after-school activity,” she said.
“Kooza came along and my coach told me it had these positions and we were going to train. It had always been my dream to work just once in a Cirque du Soleil show.”
Byambadorj joined the cast when she was 14 and juggled her performance commitments between finishing her school studies through the Cirque du Soleil touring school, a school program the company no longer runs.
“During the day I’d go to school here and then perform in the show at night, go home and do my homework,” she said.
“I’d often be studying in-between shows with my makeup on.”
Byambadorj said it took 45 minutes to warm up before the show, doing basic stretches and trying out the tricks the contortion trio perform in the show. Afterwards there is a 30-minute cooldown with Pilates exercises and they also have a weekly training session. Byambadorj said she loved that Kooza was a light and happy show for audiences compared to some of Cirque du Soleil’s darker offerings.
“And I hope we inspire some little girls in the audience to be contortionists,” she said.
Odgerel Byambadorj in Kooza.