David Resnick is a happy acrobat. He’s a member of Cirque du Soleil, currently in Melbourne performing in TOTEM at the big top at Docklands. “I play two different characters – the Crystal Man, also known as Mirror Man and I also play a frog,” he says. “They are both so different. I do something different every night of the show. I get to change. Some nights I’m hanging from a harness, 60 feet in the air. I get to experience the show from a different point of view.” Resnick was born into gymnastics - his father coached the US female national team so the gym was his playground from a very young age and he grew up dreaming of joining the Olympic team. He was a member of the US national team in the mid-2000s and was discovered by one of Cirque du Soleil’s talent scouts in 2009, eventually joining the company to perform in the Carapace (high bars act) as well as playing the lead role of Crystal Man.
Beat asks Resnick what really tests his skills in this show? “There are different challenges for each role,” he answers. “When I’m Crystal Man, there’s only me,” he answers. (The role is rotated among the performers.) “When I’m a frog, I work with three other acrobats. We perform it in comedy style with the other acrobats or as a duet, so we have to learn the timing of each other’s beats, learn that awareness. At one stage Crystal Man is onstage with the frog. When I’m Crystal Man I’m telling the story of the show, it’s a big part. At the beginning of the show it’s all amphibians, Crystal Man comes down at the beginning, he’s the essence, the energy, Crystal Man brings life to all the other characters.”
Life’s pretty good for this performer who’s still only in his mid-'20s. “My favourite part of the day is when I’m on stage,” he reflects. “Number one is being in front of people, hearing that appreciation of what we do. It’s why we train so hard, that wraps it up, why we do what we do.” How does Resnick cope with the pressure of being part of the world’s largest and most famous, and most famously technically accomplished, circus company? “The level of artistry in the company is compelling,” he answers. “At this level of professional circus and the talent, you have to have discipline. The pressure, it’s not something right in your face but it is what pushes you. You look around the show; you see other people’s work. There’s a little bit of pressure. As a frog, there are five other frogs and we all learn from each other. We’re always asking each other, what is exactly the best way of keeping this show the best it can be? We look at images and documentaries, watch videos of frogs together; we take notice of those things.” How much creative freedom are the performers allowed within the strong Cirque du Soleil culture? “Cirque du Soleil is open-minded. They don’t ever say no. There are choreographies but the culture is creative; there is some freedom, although the show is directed and created within certain guidelines, and there is a choreography you have to follow. Part of being a professional artist is that you get to create your own story on stage. You can make choices. You can still feel free within the guidelines and the regulations and the things you have to follow.”
Did Resnick always aspire to be part of Cirque du Soleil? “It wasn’t in the front of my mind. I knew I wanted to perform. I did gymnastics for quite a long time. Performing was something I was really interested in.” Needless to say, the life of an acrobatic is a very demanding one physically. How does Resnick look after himself? “You have to take care of your body,” he answers. “I was taught that my body is like a temple and we have to take care of it. You have to do consistent warm-ups, and cool down properly; you have to do the core work. My shoulders take the most impact. It’s about taking care of injuries, not to keep pushing. Knowing when you’re tired, that’s the main thing. You listen to your body.”
Resnick is enjoying Melbourne. “I came here once before now. Saw a lot of graffiti. When I was in Brooklyn I went into a bookstore and found a book about the graffiti and street art in Melbourne. It’s an easy going city. It feels laid back, it reminds me a bit of home.” (Resnick is from Reno, Nevada). He’s impressed with the strong presence of circus here, both in the independent arts scene and at a national level, Melbourne being the home of Circus Oz and NICA, the National Academy of Circus Arts. Will the Cirque do Soleil cast visit NICA while they’re here? “We have some workshops, aerial stuff, we’re going to make a group visit to NICA and talk to the kids, Hopefully we will make a pretty good connection. It’s good to see that here. In the States; you might have circus schools, maybe in New York. But there’s nothing like you have here in Australia.”
TOTEM is, of course, a big show with its cast of 45 acrobats and musicians. Since its world premiere in 2010 it has been seen by more than 3 million people across 25 cities worldwide. “There’s a fun, family, connected feeling,” notes Resnick. “No matter where you sit in the tent everybody can feel the same thing. Seeing it at the Big Top is highly recommended. I would say we do something special. There’s no other company like Cirque du Soleil.”
BY LIZA DEZFOULI
Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM is currently being performed at Flemington Racecourse until Sunday March 29.