Cirque du Soleil’s Big Top returns to the Philadelphia area this month with AMALUNA, a show that takes audiences to a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. AMALUNA is inspired by Greek and Norse mythology, as well as Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. This Cirque du Soleil show features a cast comprised mostly of female artists, including a 100% female band- a first for the brand! The production takes place in Oaks, PA (Montgomery County) from July 24th through August 25th.
We spoke with performer Alix Croop who is from nearby Allentown, PA. Alix competed in artistic gymnastics for 16 years and attended the University of Pittsburgh on a full athletic scholarship. She then went on to complete a Master’s of Science degree in Counseling Psychology at Chatham University. More on the show and Alix’s career below…
Q: What is AMALUNA about and what is your role in the show?
A: Amaluna is an island of women, ruled by the Queen- Prospera and protected by goddesses and warriors. A group of sailors crash upon the shores in a shipwreck, which causes a lot of commotion. A love story unfolds between the young prince, Romeo, and Miranda, the daughter of Prospera. Obstacles are presented to test the young lovers, as the balance of the island is destroyed. You’ll have to see the show to find out if they live happily ever after.
I play the role of an Amazon in the show. We are a group of nine women whose job is to protect the island. We are especially weary of the sailors who have crashed on our shores. We perform a group uneven bar act with releases, dismounts, and synchronized sequences… all while keeping an eye on the sailors!
Q: Your bio says you competed in artistic gymnastics for 16 years. Can you tell us a bit about that and some of the highlights for you?
A: I began gymnastics when I was five years old, at Parkettes in Allentown, PA. I competed for Parkettes up until I graduated from high school. One of my highlights during this time was winning the Regional All-Around Title, and competing at the Junior Olympic Nationals- earning an 8th place finish in the All-Around. I went on to compete for the University of Pittsburgh on a full athletic scholarship. My favorite moment from my NCAA career was winning the Uneven Bar Title at our Conference Championships during my senior year.
Q: You are also part of two other Cirque Du Soleil shows- CORTEO and VIVA ELVIS. How does your gymnastic training help your performances in these shows?
A: Gymnastics has prepared me both acrobatically and artistically for all three of the Cirque du Soleil shows I’ve performed in. A lot of Cirque artists come from a gymnastics background because this sport gives its athletes such a well-rounded skill set- strength, flexibility, coordination, air awareness, etc. As a younger gymnast, I was pretty shy when it came to performance. It wasn’t until my NCAA Gymnastics career that I started to really open up artistically. This quality is so important when performing on the Cirque stage. You have to be able to transform into your character each night on stage in order to really perform the story of the show and pull the audience in.
Q: You had a job in Neuropsychology and were a mobile therapist. What made you decide to take a break from that and join up with Cirque Du Soleil?
A: I loved my work in Neuropsychology, to be honest. It’s a field I might want to get back into later down the road. I was introduced to Cirque du Soleil and encouraged to submit an audition video back in late 2009. I had recently finished my NCAA Gymnastics career and was just starting my Master’s program, but was excited about the idea of getting back in the gym to put a video together. I was fortunate enough to make it into Cirque’s “artist database” upon submitting my video and started to receive calls from the casting department months later.
I loved my work and wanted to finish my Master’s, so I wasn’t open to any opportunities at the time. Though, each call was so thrilling to receive! It was almost a rush of adrenaline whenever I would see the phone number pop up as an incoming call. I would think, “What show are they casting me for now?”, “What kind of skills might they want to see?” Because I was so drawn to it with each phone call, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue once I graduated. So, after completing my Master’s, I decided I would give it a go next time they called. I was ready for a little mental break from the field, and a change of pace. I also wanted to seize the opportunity while I was “still young”. Shortly after graduating I received a call I’ll never forget, with a contract offer! I was so thrilled. Within two weeks, I was packed up and flying out to Vegas to run away with the circus. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!
Q: What act/acts do you think the audience will really be blown away by in AMALUNA?
I like the Chinese pole act performed by the Romeo character, it will have the audience on the edge of their seats. His character also takes the audience on a journey of struggle that people can relate to.
Q: Tony Award winning stage artist Diane Paulus created/directed AMALUNA. Did she give you any advice that really stuck with you during your time with the show?
A: I wasn’t part of the creation for AMALUNA, so the first time I met Diane was when she visited our show while we were in London a couple years ago. It was super inspiring to hear her visions for each character in the show. There wasn’t one piece of advice in particular that stuck with me, It was more her passion for the show and detailed explanation of each scene that helped me understand the story of Amaluna even clearer. We tell the story on stage each night, but it was refreshing and inspiring to hear these special details straight from the creator of our show.
Q: You’re from nearby Allentown. Is there anything you’re looking forward to checking out/seeing in Philly or Lehigh Valley while you’re home?
A: I’m so thrilled to be performing close to home! I haven’t even thought about things to see or do while I’m there. I’m mostly looking forward to being near my family and having them come out to see the show! I began working for Cirque du Soleil more than seven years ago, and this is the first time I’ve toured the US. I never expected the show to stop in Pennsylvania, so I’m overjoyed for this opportunity. I can’t wait to grill outside with my family, bake with my Nana, finally meet my niece and nephew. I’m also looking forward to having my close cast-mates over to my house for dinner one night! If you have some suggestions as a local though, I’d love to hear some! I’ve been on the road for so long I’m not even sure what to expect while I’m in town!
Suggestions for Alix? Drop them in the comments below. You can also find her on Instagram at @jump_laugh_travel where she posts breathtaking photos of herself doing jumps, flips and handstands all around the world! More information on Cirque du Soleil’s AMALUNA and tickets for the show can be found at www.cirquedusoleil.com/amaluna.