Photo: Cirque du Soleil / Instagram

A circus performer needs to be as fit as a professional footballer.

This was what Colombian acrobat and Real Madrid fan Jimmy Ibarra, 36, told The New Paper, during an interview near the blue-and-yellow striped big top at Bayfront Avenue, next to Marina Bay Sands.

He will be part of Cirque du Soleil's upcoming Kooza show, an all-new production which will feature a range of spectacular acts coupled with whimsical costumes and timeless music.

Photo: The New Paper / Matt Beard

Ibarra, who is 1.8m tall and weighs 77kg, has a physical regimen as impressive as his heart-stopping Wheel of Death act. He needs to be in tip-top shape, even on holiday, to maintain his precision on the rotating apparatus.

In the lead-up to a performance, he follows a strict routine, including getting a minimum of 10 hours of sleep.

Ibarra, a third-generation circus performer who joined Cirque du Soleil in 2007, said: "I wake up and go for a one- to two-hour swim or run. Then, do warm-up stretches, mostly on the legs, before training with the apparatus (the wheel)."

 

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Once the six-day performance period kicks in, he tones wheel-training down to one or two times a week and focuses more on cardio and weights.

Every month or two, his assigned nutritionist will guide him on a healthy dietary plan - focusing on carbohydrates, protein and juices - based on his body condition.

He said: "If I constantly feel tired from the training, I will go through a list of what I ate the previous month with her and she will recommend I eat more carbohydrates, for example, to make up for what I lack."

 

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He does indulge in cheat meals though, his favourite being spicy tom yam soup.

Touring the world does affect his dietary requirements, because of the various cuisines available as well as jetlag.

Ibarra, who has performed in about 25 countries with Kooza, said: "When I was in Japan, I got hungry at 3am and I would eat, but then in the day, I wouldn't feel hungry. This made my body condition fluctuate, because it wasn't used to it."

In Singapore, he has to double his hydration level because of the humidity.

 

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Having nailed variations of the Wheel of Death for the past 15 years, he demonstrates his death-defying prowess and constantly evolving stunts, from somersaults to skipping ropes.

Yet, that does not make him immune to fear.

When he was 19, Ibarra had a near-death experience, falling 8m from the wheel. He was in hospital for six months with head injuries.

He said: "Some days, I'm afraid of death, but I have to control these moments, because it can get me in trouble. Before I go on stage, I tell myself I am a professional artist and I will go through with it."

 

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And all this pays off in the form of a captivated audience.

He said: "When you put on the best show for them, you feel the energy, and the energy comes back to you."

What: Cirque du Soleil - Kooza

When: Wednesday to Aug 20, various times

Where: Under the big top, Bayfront Avenue, next to Marina Bay Sands

Tickets: $88 to $318 from Sistic (www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555) 

This story was originally published on The New Paper, July 10, 2017.

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