Quick Q&A: Silja Dos Reis Of Cirque Du Soleil

Two trapeze artists dangle midair at a stage performance.
Silja Dos Reis of Cirque du Soleil

Photo by Matt Beard/Cirque du Soleil

You do everything from ice skate to fly on ropes in this show. How did you prepare for all that?
I started ballet lessons when I was 3 years old and started skating at 8. I finished third in ice skating at the French National Championships. And this isn’t the first time I’ve done rope work—I tried it on my own, out of curiosity. I even worked in a circus for a year, just for fun. So I use what I learned in all of those places. If you follow the rules you pick up in training, you can enjoy it rather than worrying about your safety all the time.

As the lead actress/acrobat in Crystal, you’re onstage for almost the entire two-hour production. How tiring is that?
Even if I weren’t doing tricks for two hours, I’d still have to be onstage and in character the whole time. That alone is tiring. I can’t be “on” for a while, and then go backstage and rest and stretch. Then there are the acrobatics, but we’re trained for that. The demands are a little bit physical, but mostly mental.

How does this compare to competitive skating?
The approach is very different. In competitive skating, they only focus on how technically good your jump or landing is. Artistic technique counts for a little, but not much. Of course, it’s just the opposite in this show. And you don’t do a trick just because it looks good. You can’t do it if it doesn’t make sense for the story.

You’re from France. First stint in America?
Yes. I’ve worked for cruise ships, but that wasn’t like being in the U.S.

What’s the biggest adjustment?
Food. Right now, we’re in Duluth, Montana, and it’s very tough finding something to eat. I’m a French girl, which makes me somewhat picky. I don’t like pizza and burgers. I try my best to eat here at the circus where we have some other choices. Maybe fruit and a good smoothie. I try to find Indian and Thai places so I can vary things a little bit. But I’ll admit: It has been a challenge.