AERIAL ACROBAT EN­JOYS CIR­CUS LIFE­STYLE

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT - Stephanie Lyew Sun­day Gleaner Writer en­ter­tain­ment@glean­erjm.com

THE LIFE of an acrobat starts in the gym­na­sium, learn­ing the ba­sics – splits and flips – un­til they can master the harder, hair-rais­ing stunts. But aeri­al­ist Shein­nek Ma­habee of Soul Dy­nam­ics Cir­cus took a dif­fer­ent route.

Ten years ago, fac­ing the tran­si­tion from high school to univer­sity, Ma­habee was in a place of re­flec­tion and de­ci­sion mak­ing. It was at that point that a man ap­proached her in a su­per­mar­ket, first ques­tion­ing her about her weight. Any fe­male would have thought it for­ward, but be­ing a cu­ri­ous 18year-old, she re­sponded, “I am 90 pounds” and ac­cepted his busi­ness card.

“I had no for­mal train­ing in gym­nas­tics back then, much less aerial ac­ro­bat­ics,” Ma­habee told The Sun­day Gleaner. “I was young, rest­less, fear­less, ex­cited and yes, cu­ri­ous. Plus, I had wanted to go Edna Manley Col­lege to study per­for­mance art.”

‘IT FOUND ME’

Ma­habee said aerial ac­ro­bat­ics is not for the men­tally weak. At five feet, four inches and 130 pounds, she is fly­ing high, per­form­ing with aerial hoops and silks, the Span­ish Web (a fast-paced act done us­ing ropes sus­pended from the ceil­ing) and var­i­ous rou­tines on the trapeze.

“It found me at the right time. It put me through univer­sity to study bank­ing and fi­nance,” said Ma­habee, who works as an in­sur­ance agent with Guardian Life.

There’s no deny­ing it is a dan­ger­ous pro­fes­sion, but she has never had an in­jury. “Ev­ery type of act re­quires dif­fer­ent types of mus­cles, so I con­stantly ex­er­cise and do car­dio work­outs,” she re­veals.

Eaton Som­merville, founder of the Soul Dy­nam­ics team, says that the train­ing re­quired is mostly to strengthen the body. The in­di­vid­ual also has to be men­tally strong.

“If an in­di­vid­ual is not men­tally pre­pared, then it makes no sense to work with them.

While you can help some­one to get the phys­i­cal strength, if there ex­ists even a small amount of fear, it will be hard,” said Som­merville.

Som­merville has not re­cruit- ed or changed any of the 10 mem­bers (two of whom are fe­males) of the team over the years. ‘Ev­ery­body that is a part of Soul Dy­nam­ics has grown with the group,” he said.

He added: “It is one of the few, if not the only lo­cal cir­cus group com­prised of clowns, body con­tor­tion­ists, cy­clist, dancers, and ac­ro­bats; just the an­i­mals have been ex­cluded.”

Their ma­jor clients are mostly ho­tels along the north coast and at western end of the is­land, as well as pri­vate events that want to add an el­e­ment of sur­prise, such as aerial ac­ro­bats pour­ing cham­pagne into a guest’s glass.

The tra­di­tional cir­cus dis­ci­pline is tak­ing flight fast – (pun in­tended) and both lo­cals and vis­i­tors are scream­ing at the awe-in­spir­ing acts. Tak­ing on the dis­ci­pline re­quires just that — dis­ci­pline. The group does not have a set re­hearsal time, only those sched­uled for learn­ing new rou­tines, and it de­mands that each mem­ber catches on quickly.

NO COM­PE­TI­TION LOCALY

Ac­cord­ing to Som­merville, who also per­forms, there is no com­pe­ti­tion lo­cally, al­though acts from our Caribbean neigh­bour, Cuba, have been in­vited by ho­tels to do a few acts sim­i­lar to what Soul Dy­nam­ics is known for.

“The only area we have not ven­tured into is the cruise ships, and it has been chal­leng­ing to book over­seas per­for­mances be­cause of the de­mand here,” he said.

“Most of our mem­bers do have nine-to-five jobs, and then most days, there are two to three book­ings.”

He ad­mit­ted that while the per­form­ers work all year round, the peak sea­son are be­tween De­cem­ber to Jan­uary and dur­ing Easter and Hal­loween (Cos­tume par­ties).

“It has been the most re­ward­ing 15 years to live my dream as an en­tre­pre­neur in a field that is not filled with com­pe­ti­tion,” he con­tin­ued.

FILE

Aeri­al­ist Shein­nek Ma­habee has no fear.

Eaton Som­merville, founder of the Soul Dy­nam­ics team.

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