Get ready for an artistic ride with Cirque du Soleil Toruk – the First Flight this November, with a storyline inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar. Be transported into the world of imagination and be amazed by the mythical tale set thousands of years before any humans ever set foot on the mesmerizing world – Pandora.
We were given a chance to interview Peter Kismartoni, who began gymnastics at the age of 5 and had competed in many states, national and international competitions from age 10 till 24. Peter has been one of the acrobats for the show since 2015 and most of all the captain of many acts in TORK – The First Flight.
Here is his story…
1) Can you tell us a little about your background?
Growing up, I played many sports and played the violin, but always kept my main focus with gymnastics from an early age. I won a handful of state titles and an Australian championship in 2003. Once at University, while studying Myotherapy and Sports therapy, I started re-training martial arts forms and became part of a performing acrobatic martial arts demonstrations team around Melbourne. Later I got very interested in action and fight choreography for film. As this was becoming my new passion, I had a call from Cirque du Soleil inviting me to an audition! Shortly after the audition, I was offered a full contract for the show KÀ in Las Vegas. So in 2008, I left Australia and began my Cirque du Soleil career. I performed in Las Vegas for over 7 years, learning a lot and having the opportunity to perform in other side projects and charity shows along the way. In 2015 I was one of the lucky artists chosen to transfer to the creation of TORUK – The First Flight by Cirque du Soleil, and I have been touring with the show ever since!
2) What is your highlight since you joined the creation of TORUK – The First Flight?
The creation process of the show was awesome because we had a lot of creative freedom. All the artists were exploring numbers on these ‘one-of-a-kind apparatus that were created specifically for the show. We got to try our ideas and literally be a big part of evolving these acts from scratch.
After all this hard work, the opening night in Montreal (December 21st, 2015) was another great highlight. Many celebrities, including James Cameron and his team were present. You could feel the excitement in the air! Last year, as we were touring in Los Angeles, we also got to visit Lightstorm Entertainment’s studios. Having James Cameron explain how he created AVATAR in the actual workshop was both exciting and super insightful.
I’d say that coming with TORUK to Australia is definitely another strong highlight for me. After performing in resident shows in Las Vegas, let’s say that I’ve been waiting 10 years for this moment! Needless to say, I’m ecstatic to finally get to perform in Melbourne and I can’t wait for the premiere.
3) As a born and raised Melbournian, what do you miss about Melbourne the most while touring around the world?
Being allowed to walk barefoot everywhere with the smell of eucalyptus in the air! But I travel with a kangaroo skin that I carry in my luggage. I put it in my hotel room so it reminds me of Australia wherever I am in the world!
4) Tell us a little about being a performer as part of Cirque du Soleil family, what does your average day look like?
On this tour as we are in a new city every week, so the day usually begins with exploring a part of the city, or surrounding nature! Then I will make my way to the arena for some lunch as we have a catering team on site. On most days, we’ll have training before shows. Since I am Captain for a few of the acts, I’m always present at those rehearsals, either to help integrate new artists into it or to evolve the act itself. We’re constantly working on improving our show!
After training, I’ll have dinner before heading to the dressing room to start putting on the Na’vi makeup. Since TORUK – The First Flight is a prequel to James Cameron’s movie AVATAR, there are no human beings in the show, we are all Na’vi with the blue makeup and bodysuits.
Being in the dressing room is one of my favorite parts of my day because the artists get along well together so there’s always constant laughter and games! It takes about an hour to complete the makeup. As a hobby, when I finish, I use the leftover paint on the brushes to create a picture in the hopes of improving my drawing skills. (It’s a very slow process!) Then, I put my costume on, which is a blue bodysuit with many layers of accessories, and start my warm up and exercises to be ready for the performance. Then it’s show time, and often we’ll do 2 shows a day!
5) What were the toughest moments as an acrobat performer to get to where you are today?
Becoming an acrobat takes a lot of dedication and perseverance. You have to be willing and able to repeat the same movements, sequences, and numbers until you are close to perfection! Once you become a professional, performing up to 10 shows a week in front of thousands of people can also be very demanding. In this light, I think the challenge for me is to overcome the mental and physical pressure that can come with it. Luckily, Cirque du Soleil offers us various tools to help maintain our well-being, be it through our performance medicine team and coaches that travel with us, or mindfulness apps and other programs that are available to all employees.
6) Out of all the Cirque du Soleil shows, which one is your favourite and why (other than the one you are currently in!)?
Other than TORUK, I would have to say KÀ. Not only because I worked on it for 7 years (so of course, it holds a special place!), but because I feel it has everything! A story, acrobatics, projections, all intertwined with an out-of-this-world mechanical stage that moves and spins in all planes. It’s a very unique experience for both the viewers and performers.
7) If you could choose a different career path, what would it be and why?
I wouldn’t! This is the career I chose and I’d choose it again without a doubt! However, when I do retire from being an acrobat, I would be interested in a career in conservation of the natural world as it is an issue that I feel is very important. In this sense, our show TORUK has an interesting message that resonates with me as the Na’vi philosophy is at one with nature and everything is connected.
8) What are some tips would you provide for young acrobats?
If you want to go far as an acrobat, there’s no easy way about it: hard work works so you need to stay focused and motivated. Above all, you have to love it! When you’re passionate about what you do, commitment and drive will come easily. You will see just how far you can come and how dreams can become a reality. However, to really go far as an acrobat, it takes consistency and years of training. Which is awesome because it’s fun and builds remarkable friendship bonds over the years of training (and bruising) together!
9) If you could describe yourself under 5 words, what would it be?
Enthusiastic about life
10) Lastly, what would a day out with you be like?
Finding snakes in the bush and going to the river to swing off the rope swing! After eating an awesome meal, we’d go train some acrobatic movements and perform a show! Ready? Let’s do it!
Photo credit: Matt Beard © 2017 Cirque du Soleil
Photo credit: Thierry Ballangé © 2017 Cirque du Soleil