Past gymnast, Laura Kmetko, is now a teeterboard performer in Kooza, the latest Cirque du Soleil spectacular to arrive in Perth. GWA was very fortunate to grab a few moments of her time, in between her training and rehearsals, to gain some insights into her journey and life with the circus.
The bubbly performer began her career as a young gymnast and quickly moved to the Victorian Institute of Sport as part of the High Performance Gymnastics Program. It was during her time here that she was exposed to Cirque du Soleil and was identified as a potential future performer.
Laura describes the audition process as “very long”. Becoming a performer with Cirque du Soleil is different for everyone, ranging from scouts identifying you at a gymnastics championship or the Olympic Games to trials that are periodically held by the company in major cities throughout the world.
Laura dedicated herself to gaining a position with Cirque du Soleil. She spent three years studying circus arts, further developing her skills and building her repertoire. In 2013, she was selected to join Kooza in Paris. Her dream had become her reality.
Having not seen Kooza prior to her selection, understanding the story of the show and what her role would be, proved to be an exciting learning curve for Laura. She describes her first days with Kooza as a very “welcoming and exciting experience”. She met many people that speak different languages and who have a wide range of amazing talents.
When asked about what makes this her dream job, Laura explains it is the “travelling and moving around constantly” that she loves the most. However, she also finds this the hardest part of the job. “You just get used to one place and get comfortable and then it is time to move on to the next location”. Laura never underestimates the need for mental strength when travelling with Cirque du Soleil. It enables her to remain focused while on tour and maintain strong teamwork.
Healthy eating, taking care of her body and working out have always been a big part of Laura’s lifestyle and well equip her for life on the road. Laura enjoys new ways of working out including Pilates, boxing and cardio. When exercising, being connected with her music is also very important to her as it increases her motivation and creates a peaceful mindset. In her spare time, Laura is learning Catalan, a language which is a mix of French and old Latin. She is also picking up some Russian, Ukrainian and German from her work mates.
So what did Laura learn from gymnastics that equipped her for life in the circus? “Everything from the gruelling nature of the training at such a young age, learning about yourself as a person to how you deal with being coached. However being involved in gymnastics is quite different from the circus as it is far more individual. With the circus you have to collaborate and express yourself as part of a team. The personal discipline will always stay with me from gymnastics”.
Laura never gets tired of performing. “No two shows are the same and the crowd and people on tour are always changing so it makes it impossible to get bored of the show”. Performers also continually challenge themselves by developing new skills or even moving to a different Cirque du Soleil show. Laura explains with the environment changing all the time, it is important to set your own goals with what you want to do. Laura herself is currently studying to be an understudy of the Innocent character that appears in Kooza, an opportunity she is very excited about.
Having travelled all over the world, with Perth being her 20th city with Cirque du Soleil, we asked about her favourite city. Two came to mind. “One was a city we didn’t actually do a show in but somewhere I would never have seen but for performing in a major city nearby. It was a small town in Austria where my father was born. However, as for a city that I have actually performed in, it would have to be Melbourne. It was really cool and special to be home”.
Before having to rush off to her rehearsal, Laura gives this advice to young, aspiring gymnasts. “Try to look at your whole life and think about what lessons gymnastics can teach you for the future. Gymnastics is something you can move through and it will help you to develop strong self-esteem”. She says to “find that thing in gymnastics that gives you joy and focus your energy there and it will always be easier than you think”.