Dancer to Dancer

Former comp kid (and 2013 DS Cover Model Search winner!) Hayden Hopkins grew up training in Seattle, WA, cultivating her huge social media presence along the way—she has more than 200,000 followers on Instagram alone. The 20-year-old recently landed her dream job: dancing in Cirque du Soleil's Las Vegas show Mystère. DS had her keep a diary last spring to get the behind-the-scenes scoop on what dancing in a Cirque show is really like.

—Courtney Bowers

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The cast of Mystère (by Matt Beard)

Cirque du Soleil isn’t your grandmother’s circus. It’s sleek, sophisticated and sometimes a little scary. Every scene is a production in itself, complete with radiant costumes, intricate choreography and, our favorite part, technically extraordinary dancers. Since the early 1980s, Cirque du Soleil has grown from a tiny crew of street performers in Canada to a huge organization that now puts on 20 shows across the globe—each with its own plot and zany cast. This year marks milestone anniversaries for several Cirque du Soleil productions, so DS asked four dancers—from four different Cirque du Soleil shows—to share 10 secrets only an insider would know.

1| “The audience response is stronger than in the traditional dance world. The crowd reacts to everything with excitement, amazement and disbelief. It was shocking at first—it took a while to get used to spontaneous outbursts within the theater.” —Natalya Bashkatova, La Nouba

La Nouba at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year!

2| “The costumes are legendary and so detailed. The cast is measured from head to toe to the millimeter, and no two artists have the same outfit. They even laser scanned my head to get my wig size!” —Jarrett Kelly, The Beatles LOVE

The Cirque du Soleil show with the most recognizable soundtrack, The Beatles LOVE, has been performed to Beatles classics at The Mirage in Las Vegas since 2006.

3| Mystère’s stage is almost a full circle, so I have to be aware that I’m always being watched at many angles.” —Israel Lazo Gutierrez, Mystère 

*It’s a big year for Mystère: 2013 marks the show’s 20th year at Treasure Island in Las Vegas.

4| “Unlike the ballet world I’m from, diversity and uniqueness are praised in Cirque du Soleil. Having an unusual body type or uncommon proportions is actually a huge plus. The dancers here never have to try to blend in.” —Agnès Roux, Zumanity

*Zumanity: The Sensual Side of Cirque du Soleil, at New York–New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas turns 10 years old this year.

5| “Our schedule is unlike any other. We work five days a week, two performances per night, and we often have to come in early for training, rehearsals or meetings.” —JK

6| “Doing 478 shows a year is hard on a dancer’s body. We have to be prepared physically and mentally, and we challenge ourselves to make every show passionate.” —NB

7| “We have great physical therapists, massage therapists and Pilates teachers. And they’re all on site!” —AR

8| “I always wondered what gymnasts do after they compete in the Olympics. Now I know—they join Cirque! Our cast has so many world-champion athletes.” —JK

9| “Each performer came to work for the company in a different way. I auditioned in Paris, but some friends have been spotted at competitions, on TV programs or during performances with other companies.” —AR

10| “The cast members have incredibly diverse backgrounds. You’d be surprised at how many disciplines each performer has studied—beyond what you see onstage.” —IG

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