Published on April 12th, 2024 | by Andrew Bistak

Helena Merten Interview: Cirque du Soleil Luzia

We catch-up with Australian Helena Merten, circus performer of the latest Cirque du Soleil touring Australia with Luzia to talk… well circus arts!

How did you become involved in the Cirque du Soleil Luzia?

I trained gymnastics disciplines my whole life and I started a circus class at my gymnastics space when I was around 15. I had been applying for positions and submitting my online demo reel for years before I got an audition for Luzia. I had a live audition at the show and the footage of it was sent for further consideration in Montreal before being selected.

Before being signed up with one of the world’s premier circus companies, what advice would you give your 18-year old self?

I think I underestimated the importance of stage presence and movement so it would have been great to be involved in some classes growing up and to have the opportunity to train more circus specific disciplines from a younger age but honestly, I am quite proud of my 18 year old self. I had already landed a job in a very renowned show in the circus World at the time. I applied for everything and anything and truely went for it 100% then loved and appreciated every step of the journey.

What is the story behind Luzia and what makes this performance so important to you as a performer?

Luzia is “waking dream of Mexico”. It follows the clown through his journey in this imaginary Mexican world. When I play the character of the “running woman” I try to draw on many of my personal experiences and emotions. The show touches on life, death, afterlife and everything in between. Some are my own interpretations of the messages and themes, which even give me little reminders in my everyday life. The character makes me remain in the moment and treasure the present.

You have an integral part of Luzia, what is your favourite performance and why?

My favourite part to play as the running woman is the first entrance to stage. I get to see the audience for the first time as they are engulfed by the world of Luzia. The music, the costumes, the automation, lighting, puppetry and flora are all showing off around me and I love watching the reaction of the audience.

Tell us a little about how you train for this performance?

I typically have 3 mandatory trainings per week as I am in group acts with large equipment. Aside from this I would typically train 1-3 hours per day on my own trainings.

And the funniest training moment?

It would definitely be with the Hoop Diving team but there are just so many. One fun time was when we all laid down on our stomachs, on the treadmills, in a long line holding each others feet as we tried to squeeze through the smallest base hoop, while worming every inch of our bodies on by one, as we crossed the centre gap in the treadmills too, which can potentially swallow your clothing or even hands. We made it!

In bringing Luzia to Melbourne, what are you most excited about performing here?

I am excited to see what Australia thinks of the show and how they react to our performance. From country to country, every audience is different and it also gives us a refreshed view on stage and how we can manipulate small touches to suit an audience

With so much happening in many Cirque du Soleil performances, what advice would you give the audience?

Sit back and enjoy, as a performer on stage we love your honest engagement and reactions. It is hard to think about anything else as you are fully immersed here under the big top. Look for the details on the intricate costumes and props or enjoy the bigger picture, you can watch the show multiple times, and you will still see something new.

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About the Author

When he's not trying to save the world, Andrew enjoys travel (although loathes turbulence), going to the movies, reading and being a dad to his two dogs (and now twins) with his wife.

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