Meet Maya Kesselman – Luzia Hummingbird

mayakesselmanMaya Kesselman spent the last year traveling the globe cloaked in a beak and wings running on a treadmill and diving through hoops while the stage below her spun.

The Burlingame High School graduate now stands on the brink of bringing her circus act home, as she will return to the Bay Area next month as a cast member of Luzia, the newest Cirque du Soleil show.

Kesselman, 27, joined the internationally recognized troupe in late 2014 after honing her skills as a youngster in San Francisco and then later as a burgeoning talent at training programs in Canada and Belgium. With her local debut in the Latin American accented show just around the corner, Kesselman said she is ready to share her talent before an audience filled with friends and family. “When they come to see me perform in this show, it will be a big deal for me and a big deal for them,” she said. “I’m excited. I’m ready to show people at home what I’ve been up to.”

What she has been up to is a nonstop global tour, most recently in Toronto, with more than 120 other cast and production members often doing a show per night, and sometimes two. After completing about 200 shows, Kesselman said she is beginning to feel comfortable in her role as a bird, despite the high degree of danger and unpredictable nature of live performance. “I know what I need to do and I can have more fun,” she said.

Adding to her enjoyment is being able to perform alongside Marta and Devin Henderson as well as Dominic Cruz, three cast members who Kesselman made friends with years ago while a student at the San Francisco Circus Center.

The show, slated to be performed under a tent set up near AT&T Park in San Francisco from November through January, serves as the most recent highlight in a professional circus career which has been the dream of Kesselman since her mom signed her up for her first trapeze lesson at 10. “Since the day I started, it was what I wanted to do,” Kesselman said.

As an athlete who also appreciated performing before large crowds, Kesselman said the circus offers her the opportunity to enjoy her favorite part of both endeavors. “I liked that I could have the performance aspect without the competition, but I could share the stage with others who were like my teammates,” she said.

As she has reached the proverbial big leagues in her craft, Kesselman said she still finds great joy in the unique exposure granted by her career. “At a normal job, no one is on their feet applauding you. At my job, they do that and it is really rewarding. You have given happiness to people and you can see it in their faces,” she said. Compounding the enjoyment she draws from performance is the ability of Cirque du Soleil cast members to collaborate in developing their roles, she said.

Her first seven months on the job were spent working with other elite professionals in creating the vision of her performance and tweaking ways to make it work best for the big stage. “We kind of had to figure out to our best capacity what we could do,” she said. “There is a vision for the whole show, but it is a very organic process.”
It is an evolution as well, she said, as cast members are granted the ability to continuously change and improve on their role throughout the life of a show.

She said being a part of a performance which she feels is in some way a reflection of her input and character makes it even more rewarding. “I’ve put so much into this show and I was allowed to,” she said. “People listened to me and that is really nice to be able to perform a show that I’ve put myself into.”

With the show’s debut locally approaching rapidly, Kesselman said she is ready to bring her talents back to the place where her passion was born. “I’m so excited to go home and perform,” she said.

{ SOURCE: San Mateo Daily Journal | }