Cirque du Soleil are back in Australia touring their latest show TORUK – The First Flight, based on James Cameron’s blockbuster film Avatar. We spoke with Aussie acrobat Peter Kismartoni to find out more about his unconventional career, working with Cirque and being on the road.
Tell us a little about how you became a member of the Cirque du Soleil cast.
I had been an elite gymnast in Australia and was called in to audition in Melbourne for Cirque du Soleil in 2007. Shortly after, I was offered a full contract for KÀ in Las Vegas, and the rest is history!
You’ve been with Cirque du Soleil for 10 years, what’s been the highlight to date?
I’d say the first time debuting on stage with KÀ in 2008. I remember being super nervous, and feeling the crowd at the MGM Grand… it was a very surreal experience. Having a tour of the studios where they created AVATAR with James Cameron as a personal guide was also quite the highlight!
What can the audience expect when they see TORUK? How is it similar or different to other shows from Cirque?
It’s a very different than any other production. It’s inspired by a movie, which is a first for Cirque du Soleil and follows a strong storyline with an English speaking storyteller. The whole set is covered in projections to bring Pandora to life. Visually, it’s out of this world! There are also many new apparatuses that have been created specifically for us like the Bone Structure, where I get to do acrobatics on a see-saw moving skeleton.
Tell us a little about your role in TORUK.
We all play Na’vi, the blue creatures found on Pandora and we portray different tribes. Most of us are generalist, which means we get to showcase a variety of disciplines. I’m in many acts with gymnastics movements, handstands, capoeira moves, acrobatic wall climbing and even an aerial number to name a few.
Tell us a little about your training and how you prepare in the lead up to a performance.
I’ve been training gymnastics since I was 5 years old, so acrobatic movements have always been part of my life. Joining Cirque du Soleil I had to transition into character work and movement, which was new to me. For TORUK I also had to learn how to do flips and turns with a tail!
What’s a typical day on set entail?
I get to work late morning or around noon and get ready for trainings and rehearsals which last a few hours. After eating, I will go to the dressing room to put on our Na’vi makeup, which takes about an hour. Then, it’s the costume and all the accessories that go with it. I warm up and do my pre-show exercises and then it’s show time for two hours! We’ll often have two shows a day so it’s a pretty full schedule.
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
We’re currently holding the ‘’Ping Pong Championships of the World’’ in the dressing rooms at intermission and before the show. Of course, it’s for fun but it’s almost literally a ‘’world’’ championship because we have 20 different nationalities on tour! I also really like becoming a Na’vi and bringing Pandora to life every night. Everything in your real life disappears when you become totally immersed in this amazing world.
Where’s the most exciting destination Cirque du Soleil has taken you?
Earlier this year, we performed in Mexico in front of 10 000+ people every night and that was surreal. I also fell in love with Miami because of The Everglades, a huge wetland national park in Florida. And I’d say Taipei because there were parks full of snakes a few minutes from the arena! As you can tell, I love travelling and being in nature…
Where’s your favourite holiday destination in Australia and why?
It would have to be the rock pool in Blairgowrie. It’s a great place in summertime to go cliff jumping or to play in the water as there are awesome rock pools and beaches. Also Wilson’s Prom which is about 1.5 hours from Melbourne, it’s a beautiful national park in the southern most point of Australia. It’s got the best hiking and amazing scenery any time of year.
How about your favourite overseas holiday destination?
Costa Rica for its lush rainforest and crazy amount of life within them! Snakes, scorpions, frogs, birds, monkeys… you name it – Costa Rica’s got it!
As someone who travels often for work, what’s the best piece of advice you can share for people travelling?
Whatever you think you need, you only need half of it! So often, we over pack and bring too much… But after years of travel, I think I’ve got it to a tee: I now travel for months on end with only a backpack and a small carry-on.
What can’t you travel without?
A carving knife because I love carving wood. I’ll go hiking and if I see a nice stick that fell off a tree, I’ll pick it up and make art. It’s definitely good to have a hobby when on the road and small wood carving doesn’t take much space in my luggage.
How do you ensure you feel your best when you’re relocating a lot?
We usually take flights every week but I’m lucky to not suffer from jetlag. The pressurized cabin air can be dry so it’s good to drink lots of water and stay hydrated before and during flights.
This is your first time performing back in Australia as part of Cirque du Soleil. What are you most excited about as you return home to perform?
Performing for my home city - Melbourne! After being in Vegas at a resident show, I’ve literally been waiting 10 years for this homecoming. That’s where it all started, that’s where I learnt all the skills I needed to be here. It’s nice to bring it back around to where it all began.
Lastly, what’s your favourite thing about being home in Australia?
The smell of Eucalyptus. It’s such a refreshing scent that makes me feel at home. Hanging out with my mates and of course, seeing my family!
Last shows for TORUK – The First Flight are on sale now for Adelaide and Perth shows - limited availability, book now!