Balancing on 7m Tower of Chairs no Sweat for Cirque Artiste

For Chinese national Yao Deng Bo, 39, being an acrobat is his life, and he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

But one would think so, as Cirque Du Soleil’s resident ‘Chinese Chair’ performer has been training in the art form since he was 6 years old.

The native of Huainan picked up gymnastics and acrobatics at the encouragement of his father – an avid fan of the sport.

After winning awards and performing live on TV shows in China, Yao was asked to join Cirque Du Soleil’s Kooza, its brand new show then. That was in 2007.

In the 10 years since, he has performed the same act – the ‘Chinese Chair’, countless of times. The 15-minute performance entails stacking eight chairs atop one another on a platform, before performing balancing acts from the peak of the precarious 7-metre high tower.

As part of his training when he was younger, it was not unusual for Yao to spend his breaks just ‘resting’ on a stack of chairs metres off the ground.

The years of practice shows, as Yao performs with such precision and fluidity that some critics have even accused him of ‘cheating’ by placing magnets on the chairs to keep them stable.

“(Performing the act) is no longer difficult”, Yao admits, but “what is hard is to be consistent from show to show, day after day”.

Even as he approaches his 40th birthday in September, the diminutive acrobat could easily pass off as someone in his 20s. One gets the sense he’s proud of his how he looks as he teases us to guess his age.

And the secret to his youthful appearance? Resting well and staying healthy.

For sure, being this fit requires sacrifice, and Yao has consistently maintained his weight at 54kg for 20 years now – thanks to a regime that includes training, eating healthily, and also ensuring that he only eats till he’s 70 per cent full at mealtimes.

“If I put on just 2kg, I can feel it, and it’s harder for me to perform,” said Yao, who thinks his size and stature lend themselves well to requirements of the act.

The daredevil also boasts that he never used to rely on safety harnesses or nets until he joined Cirque, where the safety of performers is a top priority.

It’s a thrill Yao gets, as he takes pride in testing his limits and overcoming what others perceive as impossible.

“Everyone can do a handstand on the ground, but can you do it metres above the ground, without a safety net? The feeling is different,” says Yao.

Despite generally having nerves of steel, Yao has his occasional off-days when anxiety creeps in.

And he does what most of us will do: “I’ll take deep breaths to calm myself down. The hardest part is controlling your mind and emotions.”

Ironically, despite his passion for his craft, the proud father of two doesn’t want his children, aged 7 and 3, to follow in his footsteps.

“It’s a tough life. You must start when you’re really young,” said Yao, whose wife was also an acrobat. The family travels around the world with him and the troupe.

Despite his regimented schedule as a performer, what spurs him on to continue and strive to do better show after show, is undoubtedly the audience.

“The greatest satisfaction (of doing this) comes from the audience’ applause, to have that kind of encouragement is just great,” says Yao with a smile.

{ SOURCE: Asia One }