Eric Saintonge is my gymnastics coach. He has been helping me develop a stronger acrobatic base to make me more competitive in the world of contemporary circus. But, Eric’s experience and background goes far beyond front handsprings…
After spending six of his late adolescent years on the National Gymnastics Team, Eric went on to perform for companies such as Cirque du Soleil and Cirque Eloize. It was through the touring production of Nomade with Cirque Eloize, that Eric was introduced to a new discipline the Cyr Wheel.
Now, Eric tours his own Solo Cyr act at many special events throughout North America, and is a sought after personal trainer. Oh, and did I mention… he’s also a family man, and proud father of 2!
Here’s a little bit more about Eric:
Gymnastics was your life for many years. When Cirque du Soleil came “knocking on your door” what was the biggest reason that you left gymnastics and joined the company?
“At first I didn’t care about circus. I kind of a had condescending feeling towards it. I was good at school and wanted to become an engineer. Didn’t want to have clown written in my resume!
But then one of my ex-coach made the move to Cirque du Soleil and I saw him a few years later when Saltimbanco was in town (1995?) it’s then that he made me realize that becoming a circus artist would be a great continuity to what I’ve had been doing for the last 16 years. He said: “In the circus you will do what you good at”. That had me thinking…no pommel horse, and I would be paid for doing stuff that I like to do?
One thing led to another, and the research and development team called me to do acrobatic research on an apparatus that they built, or would be building.
That was it, my foot was in the door, and the door hasn’t close for the last 18 years!”
Having a family is a big part of your life, but I’m sure continuing your career as a freelance artist, and now a personal trainer hasn’t always been easy. How do you strike a balance between career and family life?
“As a freelance circus artist, I had to make choices. I try to not take long contracts that would have me gone for long periods of time. There is a big market in Europe, especially in Germany, for diner shows. Diner show is a theatre where you can go for dinner and while you eat or between services there’s circus act and all this is link together with an MC. The problem with this kind of contract is that they last between 3 months to a year, which is why I decided not to do them. As long as the contract last no more than 10 days to 2 weeks I’m usually fine (my wife as well, she has to take care of the kids!!) with it. As a matter of fact, as I’m writing this I’m a week away from an 11 days contract in Dubai!
As a personally trainer I can manage my appointments according to my children’s school and daycare schedule, and my wife (also a former circus artist) work schedule as well. It’s a matter of logistics!”
You traveled for a long time with some pretty big circus companies. What would you say it the biggest thing you were able to take away from your experience of being on the road as a circus artist?
” I learn’t to take care of myself! That might sound weird, but when I left on tour with Alegria in 1997, I had never been in my own apartment. I was living with my parents until the departure.
I also learnt that wherever you are in the world, and whomever you meet, at the end of the day we are all the same! We are all humans and all have more or less the same daily problems and enjoyments.
I’ve traveled to small villages in Palestine, as well as performed in big cities like Paris, Sydney, Berlin…. No matter where you are kids will always play in the park!”
Now that you are performing and producing your own solo act, what would you say are the benefits to self-producing, versus working for a big circus company?
“Simply put, self-producing means that I am my own boss. I decide when I train, how I train, and generally get a higher pay.”
You’ve achieved so much already in terms of a career in circus. What is you next big goal, and why is it important to you?
“I’m slowly moving towards more and more to personal training. However, I don’t want to be a regular personal trainer. I want to help people change their life.
I have recently become a certified CHEK Exercise Coach. This course really was life changing. The approach taught by Paul Chek is an integrative approach. We look at an individual from different perspectives; nutrition, digestion, sleep, spiritual, emotional and gather all of the information and use it to create an optimize training program for this individual.
This means I won’t write them a program in 5 minutes. I go through the process of assessments (flexibility, posture, muscular, nutrition, sleep/wake cycle, digestion, stress).”
Here’s a clip of a Eric teaching push-up techniques for Cirque du Soleil!
If you could learn any other discipline in Circus what would it be?
“I would love to try the Wheel of Death! It looks amazing. You must get such a huge adrenaline rush doing it. But the name of it says it all…You could die! So would love to try it without dying!!
Trampo-wall is something that I wish existed when I first started to do circus. It’s an amazing discipline that is beautiful to watch. I think I could have been good at it.”
I know you are an avid follower of the “Paloe” diet… what would you say is your favorite Paleo treat?
“I love a nice juicy steak with tons of raw and cooked vegetables. One of my favorite breakfasts is veal liver with bacon, raw vegetables (peppers, cucumbers, carrots) and avocado. (sounds delicious) A nice sweet treat is an apple with almond butter.”
If you would like to know more about Eric, feel free to visit his website.
For more information on Paul Chek and the Chek certification visit: www.chekinstitute.com