Adrienn Banhegyi, a 29-year-old native of Hungary, is a professional jump-rope athlete. In the parlance of circus performance, she's a "skipper."
How professional is Banhegyi?
As a member of the Hungarian Skipping Foundation before she and younger sister Kata traveled to Orlean, France, to audition for Cirque du Soleil she held the world record in consecutive "triple-unders." It's an exercise in which the skipper jumps once, then turns the rope underfoot three times before landing again. Still unbeaten, Banhegyi's world records stands at 330 consecutive maneuvers.
Don't think life as a professional rope-jumper is a Hungarian specialty, like goulash or the string quartets of Béla Bartók. Banhegyi said she gets strange looks from fellow Hungarians whenever she reveals her profession.
"You get all sorts of curious questions wherever you go," said Banhegyi, speaking from Prague while on tour. "It's still more of a sport, but it's something that's getting more entertainment space, too. The energy level of jumping rope is very high."
The same could be said for "Quidam," the latest touring production of Cirque du Soleil about to make its way to West Valley City's Maverik Center. Created in 1996, "Quidam" is one of many iterations to make their way out of the Montreal-based entertainment company specializing in shows that cross the finesse and daring of circus performance with the charm and tradition of busking and storytelling.
You may know the Cirque du Soleil franchise from its Las Vegas base, where an emphasis on sensuous appeal sometimes predominates, but the form and variety of its touring shows are more varied. "Quidam," with a title taken from the Latin derivation of anonymous passerby, tells the story of Zoé, a girl bored with life and parents who pay her no attention. Only after entering the world of Quidam, and meeting others like her who identify with the plight of belonging to a nameless mass, does she feel closer to hope and the soul of humanity.
Cirque designers strove to go beyond the ways past shows used acrobatic equipment onstage, resulting in a show that offered audiences a choreographic flavor different from shows of the past. Banhegyi said those with seats close to the stage action can expect a few cast requests for audience participation. Otherwise, the reliable Cirque trademarks of energetic live music and flawless performance standards remain.
Her spotlight performance jumping rope which includes solo, duet and double-Dutch segments lasts 7 minutes. Otherwise, she's integral to the show throughout, appearing in other acts and, if not, almost continually in the background.
"[Jumping rope] creates an atmosphere of the playground," she said. "In the way that it reminds you of kids playing at school, it's close to the everyday world. It's also nostalgia for older people. It's not just a speed contest, and it's not just a solo act. We give it a lot of artistic elements."
The touring production features 52 artists from 18 countries, with another 50 traveling technicians and other staff. "We travel together, and live our lives together, like a small traveling world all its own," Banhegyi said.
Nothing makes Banhegyi happier than to hear audience members say the show inspired them to pull old jump ropes out of the basement, or a piece of rope from the garage, and start skipping on their own. Before she joined the Cirque, Banhegyi's day job was working as a personal trainer, where clients discovered jumping rope is never as easy as it looks.
"They saw me do a few tricks in the gym and wanted to try it for themselves," she said. "After about 10 minutes of trying, they'd push the rope away."
Cirque du Soleil's 'Quidam'
When • Thursday-Friday, Nov. 1 and 2, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 3, 3:30 and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 4, 1 and 5 p.m.
Where • Maverik Center, 3200 Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City
Info • $31.25-$100, at 801-988-8908 or www.maverikcenter.com