Storrington’s Alanna Baker comes full circle when she realises her dream in the Royal Albert Hall.
It was in the Albert Hall at the age of eight that she first watched a Cirque du Soleil show and decided Cirque du Soleil was exactly what she wanted to do.
“My parents were like ‘OK, well keep dreaming, you never know. Just keep dreaming.’”
Now she is back in the Royal Albert Hall again, dream fulfilled, taking to the stage with Cirque Du Soleil’s show Ovo (until March 4).
“I can’t believe it! I am living the dream,” says Alanna who is the show’s only UK performer.
Alanna joined the show in January 2013 and has worked her way up through the roles. She is now playing the Black Spider in the show, a celebration of nature and co-existence, with a cast of 50 performing artists from 17 different countries specialising in various acrobatics.
“I have lived in Storrington my whole life and I have been a gymnast all my life, from the age of five. I started competing. It wasn’t in the family. Me and my brother used to do handstands and cartwheels, and I suppose my parents thought ‘OK, let’s put this into something’. We were naturally a bit talented. And I just love it. It is so helpful in everyday life to be a bit flexible, and I think it is just so beautiful to watch. To me, it is one of the most exciting things you can do and see.
“I was competing until 2012. In 2011, I became the European champion, and in 2012, I was third in the world. I knew my competing career was coming to an end. We had won the Europeans. There was not a lot more than I wanted to achieve. I had done what I wanted.”
A talent scout for Cirque du Soleil approached her, and she went to Cirque du Soleil’s international headquarters in Montreal where she did three months’ formation training – with no guarantee of a contract at the end of it. But she secured the contract, the only one of the three trainees to do so.
“It is such an eye-opener. In competitions you are training every day for one particular competition or maybe for two or three competitions a year, always training in the build-up to the major events. But to be a performer you have got to be on your A game all the time. You could say that it is tougher in some ways, but I never feel like I am working. I am getting pleasure from doing what I love. I am living the dream at the age of 25.”
With Ovo, Alanna enjoyed working in Australia, Japan and Taipei on a big-top tour which then reopened as an arena tour.
“With the big-top tour you have a tent that you go into a city with and you set up, and you stay there for maybe three months. With the arena tour you go into the arenas.”
It is 50-50 which she enjoys more: “With the big-top you are outside. With the arenas, you don’t actually feel like you see a lot of dayl