A number of professional sports in America trace their roots to the school playground. Basketball, baseball, football and even hockey. But can you make a career out of skipping rope? As it turns out...yes.
Adrienn Banhegyi began her jump rope career growing up in Hungary. She won three world titles before auditioning for the acclaimed touring company, “Cirque du Soleil.” She’ll perform with the company next week in East Lansing, when Cirque du Soleil presents its show “Quidam."
WKAR’s Kevin Lavery asked Banhegyi to explain the show’s storyline.
ADRIENN BANHEGYI: And the story of the show is about a young girl whose being neglected by her parents and she’s looking for excitement and adventures in her life. So, she’s guided through the journey by the different characters who bring joy and happiness into her life.
KEVIN LAVERY: And how does your role fit into the overall scheme?
BANHEGYI: (The) jump rope is about seven minutes long and there are lots of performers on the stage at the same time. We are about 20, in different colors, characters and costumes. And we create a kind of a playground with lots of joy and energy.
What you can see during the jump rope act is solo skipping, dual skipping, group skipping, Double Dutch, very high speed manipulation acrobatics. So, everyone is involved a bit from the other acts as well.
LAVERY: Now, you grew up in Hungary skipping rope and you became both a European and a World Champion. How have you been able to turn what began for you as a childhood talent into a professional career?
BANHEGYI: I did competitive jump rope for a long time, and about seven years ago I decided that I would like to do more performances. And that’s when I applied for a Cirque du Soleil job. So, we went to an audition and I could demonstrate my jump rope skills. And it’s a big transition once you get selected to be part of Cirque du Soleil in one of their shows. You have to bring out the performer from yourself, and that’s a kind of a challenge for people; athletes who come from a competitive world.
We have training in Montreal for about two or three weeks where we work with choreographers and lots of other people who help us to recreate, reinvent ourselves as performers. So, I need to learn how to express feelings a little bit more, how to play with facial expressions and with the body. It’s a very interesting experience, and you can feel how much it helps when you’re on the stage.
LAVERY: Do you have any particularly memorable performances that you look back on in your career? Is there anywhere around the world where Cirque du Soleil seems to be the most popular?
BANHEGYI: I think there are different places, and most of the time the reaction from the audience is very enthusiastic. But, for me, I think one of the best performances was in Ottawa in Canada and (also) in Halifax. We had a full house and the people were really alive. They were with us for sure during the whole show.
LAVERY: Do you ever have any opportunity in the places you visit to spend any time at all and meet some of the people and get a sense of some of the local flavor?
BANHEGYI: Yes. Normally we have two days off, so that gives us enough time to look around a little bit in the city. But since the pace of the arena tour is very fast, we change the city every week. Some of us prefer to take a little rest; it depends on the personality. I like to look around and explore as many things as possible in a new place.