Japan Today

Life a series of magical mystery tours for aerial contortionist

By Chris Betros

Aerial contortionist Asa Kubiak likes to say that her life is a series of magical mystery tours. Having honed her craft with the Cirque du Soleil, Kubiak, 24, is now a Japan-based freelance performer.

What is your background?

My beginnings were very rustic. I was born at home in a small cottage on the shores of Kennebunkport, Maine, and spent my first year in a log cabin in the north woods near the Canadian border. However, by my second birthday, my family and I had flown to the bright lights and big city life of Tokyo, where my parents had first met. We soon resettled in Kyoto in a beautiful traditional house where I was home schooled and lived for the next 14 years. It is still my heart's home and I return there whenever I am back in Japan.

Were you interested in circuses when you were younger?

At the age of three, my mother enrolled me in swimming classes, and courses in gymnastics and ballet soon followed. My parents took me to see my first Cirque du Soleil show in Osaka when I was 8, and it changed my life forever. On our way home I told my mother, "That is what I want to do in my life." My dream to join Cirque propelled my exploration of various sports and physical skills. I became an ardent lover of many body arts and went on to study diving, rhythm gymnastics, and other styles of dance.

Although I competed at a national level, it was not only the competition itself that excited me, it was the delight derived from challenging one's being, body, spirit, and learning new expressive arts.

When did you join Cirque du Soleil? How long were you with them?

I auditioned for Cirque du Soleil when I was 16 and to my surprise, I was accepted. I joined their "General Formation" in 2000 and initially trained for "O," their Las Vegas water show. When I turned 18, I was signed to perform in their touring production "Quidam" doing a featured hand to hand balancing duo act "VIS VERSA."

By wondrous coincidence, I premiered with "Quidam" in Osaka, exactly where my Cirque dream had begun 11 years before. I spent an amazing and intense four years touring the world with the show. The experience was truly rewarding. Although each audience was unique, they all taught me about the magical exchange that can occur between performers and audience during performances, and about the pure joy that comes from sharing yourself from a deep soul level. This interchange of energy is what continues to feed me as a performance artist up to this day.

As I was ending my chapter with "Quidam," I found a new love in the aerial borne Tissus-Silks.

What are you currently doing?

I am now a freelance artist developing and performing both aerial and floor acts for a number of international shows. This last year I worked in major productions in Quebec, New York and Dubai, and recently returned from Moscow where I premiered a new solo tissus act at a Cirque du Soleil special event.

I am also playing with new ways of merging aerial work with fluid dance movement, incorporating yogic and acrobatic hand balancing on the floor. Thanks to Jet Set, my agency here in Japan, I have the creative freedom to explore this realm and also have the opportunity to model, do promotional events and TV work.

Have your diving, ballet and gymnastics skills all combined to help your acts or are they incompatible?

Far from being incompatible, they have proved incredibly synergistic and each has contributed unique aspects to my movement, expressiveness and style.

How many hours a day do you practice?

I practice an average of 3 to 4 hours a day, but during rehearsal periods, the days can be much longer.

What is your favored workout method?

I start my day with a mixture of yoga, pilates and various exercises that I have learned from all of the disciplines I've practiced over the years.

What do you think of Japanese audiences?

Compared to other audiences I've experienced around the world, the Japanese are the most emotionally subdued. Sometimes they are so quiet it's hard to know what they are truly feeling or receiving from your performance. However, being raised in Japan, I know quite well that respect and politeness are most valued in the culture here, and their gentle applause does not signify disinterest. Still, sometimes you wish they would just let loose and scream a bit if they feel moved to.

How do you like to relax away from performing?

Spending time with family and friends, cooking and sharing meals and tales around the kotatsu, going for walks, runs, listening to music and dancing my heart out.

© Japan Today

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I wonder what her chances doing this would have been if she had not been home-schooled.

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Yes. Interesting parents that spent some time abroad and then home-schooled their child. Individual to say the least.

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