Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - THE GRILL -

The first time Ninjin Altankhuyag saw Cirque du Soleil per­form, she wept.

“The show was re­ally mag­i­cal and beau­ti­ful,” she says by phone from South Korea. “I re­ally wanted to be a part of it.”

The Mon­go­lian na­tional watched Koozå, the Big Top spec­tac­u­lar cre­ated in 2007, on video. She went on to au­di­tion for the 50-strong cast by video her­self. There was a five-year lag, then, at 19, she got the call. She’s been tour­ing the globe as a con­tor­tion artist with Koozå ever since.

Altankhuyag, 23, be­gan learn­ing con­tor­tion, a tra­di­tional art­form in Mon­go­lia, from the age of 5. “I saw a girl on TV and I told my mom, ,Mommy, I want to do that.’”

Lessons paused while she lived in North Korea, where her fa­ther was a diplo­mat. She says her four years at the em­bassy were “calm, quiet… it was just like nor­mal life”. She kept up her prac­tice, and stud­ied bal­let, win­ning a sil­ver medal in North Korea’s in­ter­na­tional cir­cus com­pe­ti­tion. Now she trav­els 10 months of the year, with a month or so at home to re­cover. Next stop, Aotearoa.

“It looks very beau­ti­ful,” she says, hav­ing seen the coun­try only in pho­to­graphs. “I have al­ways wanted to visit.”

Home / Away Per­form / Ob­serve Teach / Learn Sing / Dance Gold / Sil­ver An­i­mals / Chil­dren Sight / Sound Money / Fame Dreams / Re­al­ity Day / Night

Air travel / Road trip Tea / Cof­fee

Guilt / Re­gret Din­ner / Dessert No­to­ri­ety / Ob­scu­rity

Cirque du Soleil’s Koozå plays at Alexan­dra Park, Auck­land, from Fe­bru­ary 15-March 17. Ticket prices be­gin at $69. See cirque­du­soleil. com/new-zealand/auck­land/kooza.

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