INTERVIEW: CIRQUE DU SOLEIL PERFORMER AMIEL SOICHER-CLARKE


Amiel Soicher-Clarke wears the Oak Massive Sweatpant
Interview by Conor Riley
Photographs by Elvin Tavarez

Amiel Soicher-Clarke – who was obsessed with the trampoline by the age of five – was always fascinated by visual arts, movement and music but hadn’t realized that sports and artistic inspiration could be intertwined. Active on the Canadian National Trampoline Team from 2005-2011, the desire to perform onstage grew as he watched his future jumping partner Joe McAdam perform Teeterboard (a giant wooden board see-saw human catapult) onstage. A few years and a few injuries later, his focus shifted when he was invited by Cirque du Soleil to learn Korean style Teeterboard in 2014. After a year and a half of living and performing with Cirque du Soleil in New York, Amiel moved to Montreal for other opportunities in the acrobatic world with Cirque du Soleil. We recently caught up with the Acrobat to discuss his work in the Trampoline world, what inspires him, and his favorite summertime activities.

OAK: How did you get into the world of trampolining? How did you know this was your passion?
AMIEL SOICHER-CLARKE: I grew up in a small community based housing cooperative in Calgary, Canada and was that little monster running around the playground flipping, screaming and tiring my parents out. They put me in a gymnastic class, which gave me a focus for my energy and antics and I wouldn’t want to do anything other than being on the trampoline. Most of the motivation came from myself, while my coaches gave me the right information and knew how to manipulate me psychologically to push my abilities further.


Amiel Sochier-Clarke wears the Oak LA Rebel Jacket and Oak Boyce Short.

OAK: What is the biggest difference to you between the competitive and performance environments, and which do you prefer?
ASC: Because Trampoline is a judged sport, you are required to follow a strict code of points. Some elements that wouldn’t conventionally be credited look super rad onstage. I think breaking free of always striving for perfection in a judge’s eye was a big part of the learning curve. It is super liberating. You can go freestyle, as long as those onstage know what you have planned. This was a neat thing to do, instead of being critiqued with a score, we can now just show off to people and hope that it inspires them.

OAK: How did you transition from competitive trampolining to working with Cirque du Soleil?
ASC: After an unfortunate series of shoulder injuries and surgeries to repair both shoulders, I took a lot of time to reflect on my priorities. I realized that I didn’t want to compete anymore, but still loved doing acrobatics. This is a total euphemism, because I totally went crazy for a while. I was making foolish decisions; not taking care of myself, alienating myself from my friends and as a result lost a lot of confidence and didn’t know what to do with my energy. I made the decision to get back into shape and begin acrobatics again for myself, because I loved doing it regardless of what team, what score or result I produced. I was asked by Cirque du Soleil casting to put together a demo. Eight hours later, I woke up to an email inquiring if i would be keen on trying Korean Teeterboard in Montreal, if it goes well, then I could be hired for a show.

Teeterboard is a long wooden plank that resembles a catapult. You use it like a trampoline, but instead of springs, it is your jumping partner’s force down on one end that sends you flying up in the air, and vise versa. I had never tried this before, but recall watching a show that came through Calgary once and it did pass my mind that I could potentially do it. Regardless, it terrified me! I had two weeks to get rid of my apartment in Calgary, consolidate my life and move to Montreal to begin training. The training was intense. I recall a lot of ice baths to heal the body. The Teeterboard is a wooden board. It is high impact, aggressive and intense. A significant part of the training is making mistakes (most of the time are damn painful), building the bone density and strength required to withstand such a high intensity apparatus. Once you get past this, you begin to play with different series, the innovation and creativity is limitless.


Amiel Soicher-Clarke wears the Oak Massive Sweatpant

OAK: How would you describe your personal style?
ASC: My personal style is all about unique cuts that can change the male silhouette, mixed with quality craftsmanship. Usually involves earth tones, heather greys and black. Oak garments embody a lot of that elevated, yet simple aesthetic. The garments fit my body so well, but work also with how I move on a daily basis. Oh, and with cozy fabrics. Cozy is key! It’s a no go if you can’t move freely in what you wear, especially for what I do. In summertime, I like to show a little bit of skin… Maybe a bit too much.

OAK: Who or what inspires you?
ASC: I am a total nerd. Science inspires me. I am inspired by textures and things that suspend time around you. I am all about the elements of life that can make time non existent and melt away temporarily. For me, it could be watching a dance piece, theater, reading a compelling novel, I could continue listing various other dorky activities.

The audiences we perform for can be a significant source of inspiration. Small details, facial expressions, reactions and the general generosity of energy that they give us. We would have workshops in various cities we toured in with local Social Circus organizations for children–these kids teach us so much. It is both inspiring and humbling. Performing for my Mother and Father was pretty neat. I haven’t ever been so nervous in my life. My family also is a big source of inspiration. I have three siblings that are so unique, driven and bright. My mom and dad have been so supportive of my unconventional carnie life, too!

One standout inspiring moment that I will always remember. I recall gazing out into the audience and briefly saw a young girl twirling her dress in the aisle of the theatre mimicking the gorgeous dancers we had onstage. It made me tear up–she was so engaged, happy and was suspended in her own happy moment. It put a lot into perspective. There is something so empowering with the risk we put in to doing dangerous acrobatics onstage. It empowers other people to fulfill things that conventional life can leave behind.


Amiel Soicher-Clarke Oak LA Rebel Jacket and Oak Boyce Short.

OAK: Favorite thing to do for fun in the summer?
ASC: Bicycle rides that lead to reading somewhere outside in the sunshine are my favorite summertime activities.

OAK: If you could do anything else besides performing with Cirque du Soleil, what would be your dream job?
ASC: In the kinetic world, there is only so much that your body can handle. As you get older, it becomes more and more challenging to maintain. When I do move on from Acrobatics, I would like to pursue Biology academically. I wanted to be a doctor when I was younger, which is also still something I am interested in! I think I could take the life experiences of touring, quick decision making and ability to handle pressure and use that to my advantage as a doctor. Who knows what will happen down the line.


Amiel Soicher-Clarke wears the Oak Massive Sweatpant

OAK: What is one thing people might find surprising about what you do?
ASC: The finished product is the superficial denouement. Lights, costumes, makeup do make the piece sparkle; but there is a lot of background work to create and produce what is onstage for the audience. The amount of maintenance for one’s self is pretty surprising. Most of my day is associated with getting ready for my act and the show. I have a bit of a neurotic approach, compared to some; my sleep schedule, what I eat, how I prepare my body, rehabilitate aches and past injuries is all part of my day to make sure I am in the best shape possible to perform. Another surprising thing is the amount we communicate onstage. Sometimes plans divert and mistakes happen. People don’t realize that we are adapting all of the time, and play it off like it was the plan the whole time. Most of us are a bunch of clowns. We totally read each other to filth. We all have done some really embarrassing things onstage. By accident, hopefully. We all understand how that feels, so we have to make fun of one another when you encounter that. I won’t go into details, but I have had a few (a lot) of them.

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