Today it is our privilege to bring you an interview with the ‘Artist Coach for Cirque Du Soleil’, Elizabeth Cauchois. We discuss Elizabeth’s various roles in Cirque du Soleil, the books that have helped shape her outlook on life, transforming a passion into a business/ career plus much more…
What types of movement do you specialize in?
I grew up as a competitive gymnast. I studied ballet and went to school in NYC at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. As I toured for over a decade, I learned a lot ‘on the job’ as an aerialist and during this time also studied and obtained the National Academy of Sports Medicine certification in Personal Training as well as specializations in Fitness Nutrition, Women’s Fitness and Physical Enhancement.
How did your passion for these disciplines begin and develop?
From the beginning, starting gymnastics at the age of four, I was always active and quite competitive. I saw Cirque Du Soleil’s presentation of Alegria when I was 13 and that was the end. I had to do exactly that. My path changed in specialities quite a few times, but I made it to the big stage when I was 20.
At the time I saw the show, I envisioned myself jumping into their power track act (high energy tumbling, group act). But I noticed that these gymnasts were much more than what is required in sport, they had showmanship and grace— this pushed me into ballet classes.
I studied classical ballet from some of the world’s best classical performers. The precision of this art form sparked that same satisfaction I had in perfecting my routines as a gymnast. So… Then I aspired to join Cirque as an “Acro-dancer”.
At 18 when I started auditioning for Soleil as a generalist gymnast and joining the other millions in the dancer auditions, was around the time I started school in NYC. At a random Starbucks, there was an advertisement on their bulletin board for “Aerial Silk Classes with former Cirque du Soleil Artist”. I started sneaking out of school at lunch breaks and taking these aerial classes. The strength built from years of gymnastics training and grace from studying ballet married in the air. I wanted to work for Cirque… as an aerialist!
There is something about striving for perfection and syncing movement to music that brings me to life. There is always something to work on and there is always a different instrument to express with my body.
What does your role at Cirque Du Soleil involve?
At Cirque, I have come a long way. At 20 I joined the production of VAREKAI touring South America. I was a static trapeze porter (the one who bases/holds on to the flyer) for the triple trapeze act. This was an aerial act with 4 females: 2 porters and 2 flyers. The act was presented as a mirror image, so the choreography needed to be precise. Not to mention, it is literally 4 people on one bar. You could just about cough and the apparatus would swing the wrong way. I was there replacing a performer that was on a medical leave of absence so when she returned, I was back on the job hunt.
Having Cirque on my resume made it quite easy at the time to find work. I jumped to another large-scale production show called CAVALIA touring Europe/ Asia for a few years before returning to Soleil.
I re-joined the company 3 years later to join the production TOTEM touring Australia and Japan. I was hired to perform in the Rings Trio act. This act had much more of a feature than Varekai as my character is quite… (silently) loud. The scene opened with two muscle beach boys having a friendly competition. I entered through the middle of their flex fest and change the mood of competition between the boys, to a competition for my attention. I played ‘not interested’ and was more into the competition aspect, proving once and for all that woman are just as strong as men 😉 As a woman on an Olympic, male gymnast’s apparatus doing press handstands and dislocations in a pink bikini… I had FUN on that stage.
Off the stage, I was also the show’s dance captain. I maintained show choreography, hosted rehearsal clean-ups and could be an eye for artists looking to re-spark some magic.
I left the production to get married! and search for other opportunities in the performance world.
A year later, I came back to Cirque in a 3rd production of theirs, AMALUNA touring South America, again. This act was by far my favourite to perform. The Valkyrie character is written to be so stoic and strong. It was here that I fell in love with aerial straps. The act was another trio, but all females with leather shin guards, crowns and crazy blue contacts lenses. This contract was short but sweet as this was an opportunity for me… not we!
My husband and I re-joined TOTEM in 2019, where we previously met. Fell into the grooves of our previous roles only this time… I was asked to create a solo aerial straps back-up act. Rock and roll. It was a crazy learning process, but I am so proud of the end result and the whole team of technicians that got me there. My character is a Phoenix bird of fire that rises from the ashes and it is VERY satisfying to present. I can proudly present my life’s work as an artist in this act and I couldn’t be more thankful.
Again, I assumed the position backstage as TOTEM’s “Artist Coach” (previously considered Dance captain) and took on the same responsibilities of supporting the artistic director.
(Totem Phoenix, Aerial Straps by Eric Hernandez)
How have you transformed your passion into a successful business/career? What advice would you give to anyone trying to do the same?
At first, Cirque du Soleil was a dream of mine, simply a crazy life goal. When I made it for the first time, I had a moment of — ooo what now?? Quickly, as you could read from my previous answer, I found so many ways to grow as a performer but also, branch out into a management position, as well as study and acquire certifications all in the world of “performance”. I know that the life span of a performing artist has a sensitive and shorter timeline than other occupations, so I started strategizing my “next life” ’s work.
I found so much value in studying the Personal Training courses for my own personal enhancement but now, I am shifting focus and have become quite passionate about sharing this experience and knowledge with others.
My advice would be to stick in the realm of what makes you tick! From being a passionate 4-year old gymnast—teenage ballet dancer—adult aerialist–show manager—and now personal trainer I can tell you that my happiness is exponential. The clichés of ‘follow your heart’, couldn’t be more true. Your profession of passion will become your specialty and there is always room in the world for specialists.
Are there any people, books, or experiences that you would be willing to share with us, that have really helped shape your outlook on life?
”The Power of Now” by Echhart Tolle. Classic, but as a performing artist where being in the present moment can literally be a matter of life or death… it was a GREAT read.
Cirque Du Soleil’s “The Spark” by Lyn Heward and John U. Bacon. I read this as a teenager aspiring to perform for the company. I devoured this book in a matter of hours.
“The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. Touring with a close-knit 100-person tent community it was vital to learn: 1) Be Impeccable with Your Word 2) Don’t Take Anything Personally (oof, I’m due to read this again). 3) Don’t Make Assumptions 4) Always Do Your Best.
French/ English Dictionary… My husband is French, and my company is French-Canadian 😉
“Boost Your Immune System” by PIL Publications International, Ltd. Touring in every corner of the world with 2 suitcases for 10 years, this book always “made the cut” when I was packing.
What advice would you give to someone who is demotivated or doesn’t know where to start with getting into sport and fitness?
First, I always ask, “WHY?”
Why do you want to loose weight/ gain muscle mass/ work on general fitness? The deeper you dive to inquire within yourself these questions, (I find) the better the motivation and results. Get to the real WHY’s of why you want to change, and you will stick to a plan.
I like to know the far away, distant, crazy, dream goals and then chip away at them and set milestone goals. Feeling the satisfaction of accomplishing a week/month goal keeps you motivated to stay on track to the far away ones. Baby steps with baby victories!
(Wedding by Sandrine Bonvoisin)
Are there any specific principles that you try and live by and why?
“Consistency is key” and the “do SOMETHING” approach.
Healthy eating and fitness is habitual. The more you do, the more you want to do. And it works the other way too— the less you do the less you want to do. Set the goal and create the “habit” of taking care of yourself.
The do SOMETHING approach is gold because even on the days where gym time feels like a total drag, you get yourself to do SOMETHING, anything. That something is more than the nothing you were planning to do. It always feels rewarding afterward and thus feeding the beautiful consistent habits.
What is your approach to overcoming setbacks?
I clean. HAHAHA I promise, that is what I literally do but I know there is deeper reasons why. When I am stressed, frustrated, injured, or just can’t cope, I grab a rag and clean.
I organize my thoughts while I organize my surroundings. By being in control of my environment, I feel I can also gain control of my thoughts and reorganize my perspective.
What are you goals and plans for the future?
My husband and I have SO many ideas on how to improve individual fitness programs. When we were both grinding to learn how to become “marathon” athletes, performing 10 shows a week for so many years, we quickly discovered that the mass trendy dieting plans and fitness routines are NOT a one size fits all deal. Everyone is so uniquely different and requires time, attention and dedicated work to improve their own personal situations. We walked the walk to understand this and want to inspire and coach individuals on how to make it happen for themselves.
We started our online personal training company this year, Cut 2 The Core Fitness. It is in its baby stages as we continue to perform but want to build this platform and offer worldwide, online fitness and nutrition guidance.
(Backstage by Magdalena Mitter)