Student-athlete alumni profile: Kent Caldwell
Tell me a little bit about your time at U of M?
Great experience. The gymnastics team was ranked 8th in the nation my freshmen year by my senior year, we were national champions. Academically, I took a ton of cool classes. I ended up being a dual major with a B.F.A. in Art and Design and a B.S. in Brain Behavior and Cognitive Science. Combining technology and art gave me a great foundation for my current and future interests.
How did you go from U of M gymnastics to Cirque du Soleil?
I didn't have a job lined up after graduation and I always wanted to live abroad. I found a Michigan alumnus who ran a gym in Guatemala and I ended up coaching there for a year. I made a demo tape and waited to hear from Cirque du Soleil. I kept in shape and learned Spanish. About a year later Cirque called, and within a couple of weeks I had packed up my life and moved to Japan to begin working with them.
Tell me more about the process for joining Cirque du Soleil?
I sent in the demo videotape to show basic skills. They put me in a casting database and I found out I was a good fit for the Japan show. I ended up being the right height and size for the role. It worked out very well and now I have been in Las Vegas for 5 years.
I can only imagine the workload that must go into preparing for your performances. What does a typical training day look like for you?
An acrobatic discipline called Chinese poles is my primary act. It is a large group act with most of the cast, and several of us (myself included) specialize on the apparatus. I also support the show with my skills as a tumbler, stilt walker, and drummer. I was selected captain of the act and that comes with some added responsibilities. One of those is teaching new cast members choreography, where to stand, and how to hold and climb the pole properly.
Training for Cirque is much different than training for athletics. For the show, my routine is the same night after night. We end up performing the show 475 times a year. As a result, I can't be too picky about my eating habits before I show like I would for gymnastics competition, because there are just too many shows. Maintaining my performance at a consistently high level night in and night out is critical.
Athletics gave me a lot of self-confidence and it has translated to life and Cirque. By the time I was a senior, I felt mentally prepared to handle everything that came my way in a competition. These skills definitely help me with my performances in Cirque today. I look back to those performances where I handled tough situations and it gives me confidence when performing.
What are you working on at the moment, and what are your plans for the future?
I have stayed with Cirque for longer than expected. I expected to perform for 5 years, but I want to stay longer. Performing for a live audience is hard to beat. It also gives me freedom to focus on my creative work and art. I can make any kind of art I choose because I don't have to rely on it for income. This is very liberating, and has allowed me to integrate exciting tools and process like 3D printing, electronics, LEDs, Arduino, and other tech into my work.
Authored by: Chris Matsos