Photography Saskia Koerner
This month, we were lucky enough to catch up with Cirque du Soleil performing artist and new Elixr member, Julie Cameron. She chatted to us about her fascinating career as a contortionist and aerial acrobat, her yoga practice, and her health and fitness resolutions for 2017.
Describe a typical day in your life, when you're not travelling
After many years of travelling with Quidam, Cirque du Soleil, living in Sydney has really given me the chance to enjoy life outside of a circus – and a place that I can call home. I usually begin my day with yoga practice in the morning, followed by a swim in the ocean. If I'm not teaching yoga, contortion or aerial acrobatics, I use my spare time to train, create and work on new skills. On tour, the pace is fast and my main focus is preparing for the shows while maintaining energy to push my body to its limit and deliver high quality performances at night.
When did you start aerialist training and what drew you to this performing art?
I found my love for Cirque du Soleil when I began competing for the UK in Sports Acrobatics Gymnastics at age 14. After watching my first show, it became a dream of mine to perform with Cirque du Soleil. I was originally cast as an acrobatic flyer, where I was thrown around in the air by a group of 12 tall Russian acrobats. After a few years I was given the chance to learn to be an aerialist and developed into a new role within the show, performing my own solo aerial silks act 42 ft above the stage. What I love about Cirque du Soleil is that not only are you defying the limitations of the human body, but the artistry and symbolism throughout the performances capture an emotion and connect with the audience.
How many hours a day do you train?
Up to six hours a day. This also includes yoga practice, stretching and cardio training.
How long have you been performing with Cirque Du Soleil?
Nine years consecutively, performing in three different disciplines in over 35 different countries.
How difficult was it to become a cast member?
Cirque du Soleil have their own casting platform based in Montreal. Members of the casting team attend big competitions to scout new talent. After finishing my last competition in 2006, I sent a DVD to the casting department at the end of the year and was accepted. It was the best Christmas gift ever. A few weeks later, I flew to Montreal to start preparing to go on tour with Quidam as an acrobatic flyer. I was 17 years old.
You've travelled quite extensively – which country has been your favourite so far?
South America was a highlight for me with so many beautiful places to see, from Giant Glaciers in Patagonia, Chile, to the Iguazu Waterfalls in Brazil and Argentina, and Machu Picchu in Peru.
How many months of the year do you travel?
When you're on tour with Cirque du Soleil, you travel all year round. While this often means being away from home during Christmas and New Year, we are always able to make a couple of trips home every year to visit our families and friends.
What's your next destination?
Queenstown is my next travel destination, but this time for a vacation. Although there have been a couple of opportunities to go back on tour, for now I am really happy living in Sydney, being in one place and building a life outside the shows.
How do you relax when you're not on tour?
Camping is a new love of mine. Maybe it's the familiarity of being in a tent... I always loved performing in the Big Top Tent with Cirque du Soleil, but being surrounded by nature and living simply is calming and really gives you a break from city life.
How long have you been practising yoga?
I've been practising for a few years now, but early this year I deepened my practice and it has become a big part of my way of life.
How does it contribute to your aerialist training?
Yoga has helped me overcome and rehabilitate many injuries. It helps to build key stability around the joints and strengthens through mobility. It also allows you to use your mind to be more connected and aware of your body, which helps prevent injuries. We underestimate how powerful our thoughts and minds are. Yoga really helps me to organise my thoughts so they are useful rather than an obstacle.
Congratulations on your teaching certificate. Are you currently teaching?
At the moment I am teaching Vinyasa Yoga at 'This is Yoga' in Clovelly and at 'Umbilico- Space for Movement'. Teaching more yoga is definitely in my plan for the future.
How long have you been an Elixr member?
I've been a member for three months. As soon as I entered Elixr for the first time, I knew that this was not only a place to keep fit, but a place that takes care of your whole wellbeing. Apart from having a calming effect, the studios are beautiful and give you a space to be inspired to create and move.
What prompted you to become a vegan?
During my yoga teacher training, as part of my 'Tapas' (self discipline) assessment I used the opportunity to cleanse and educate myself about what it was I was putting inside my body. I couldn't believe how replenished and great I felt after only a few weeks. I was so energised and full of life, charged physically and mentally. Of course, being a huge animal lover also had a big impact on my decision.
What's your favourite recipe?
My partner cooks this delicious dish from a cookbook called Jerusalem. It's stuffed eggplant with flavours from mint, garlic and chili to cumin and coriander. The dish is topped with flaked roasted almonds and quinoa, and a hint of lemon.
What are your health and fitness resolutions for 2017?
At the moment I'm working on a new hand balancing and contortion act, so I am often upside down on my hands at Elixr. It requires a different type of strength and balance to aerial acrobatics, and one of my goals is to develop it further and hopefully start to perform in Sydney in 2017.
What's the greatest lesson life has taught you?
I'm a big worrier, so to try and stop worrying so much and enjoy life's constant process of learning. To enjoy the journey and evolve. Often things are out of our control and it's easy to get disheartened when things don't happen fast enough, but you have to stay passionate about what you do, work hard and stay humble. Sometimes things that seem impossible at the time are possible.