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OVO is a happy twist for Cirque du Soleil artist
Ariunsanaaa Baata does things for a living that hurt to hear her talk about -- much less look at.
Baata has been a contortionist with Cirque du Soleil since 2009 and part of its touring "OVO" show for the past three years. Playing the White Spider and, when needed, the Dragonfly in the family-oriented, nature-focused show, the 28-year-old bends and twists and holds herself aloft with just one hand or an individual finger. Or her teeth.
Crowds marvel at these contortions. But for Baaata and her Cirque colleagues, it's just another day at the "office."
"It's common for us," Baata says by phone during a recent "OVO" stop in Grand Rapids. "It's not normal, but it's part of our job. It's the same as becoming a doctor or a surgeon; They have to deal wtih all these blood and body parts all over the place. For them that's common, and for us, doing these (contortions) becomes...well, not easy, but it becomes part of life."
It's even more part of Baaata's life than for others in the cast.
Born in Romania, she moved to Brazil with her family when she was seven years old and became part of the traveling circus in which her father was a performer. "I was really inspired watching people do contortions and balancing," Baata recalls. "I told my dad I wanted to be a contortionist and he started training me, and that was it."
Baata was no mere contortionist-come-lately, however; She became a star attraction and was named Best Contortionist in Brazil for several years' running before making the move to Cirque du Soleil, performing in "Quidam" and "Saltimbanco" before joining "OVO," where her favorite move finds her balancing via her mouth, hands-free, while she bends her body completely in half.
"You have to start doing that early -- but not too early because your teeth have to be strong enough. Otherwise you just wind up breaking them," Baata explains. "You just grow up doing it and learn how to use your body so it works. Some people can't get it and have to stop doing it. Others carry on, like me."
At this juncture Baata is a certified, happy nomad with no home of her own; Her parents have moved back to Mongolia while a brother remains in Brazil. "It's how I grew up. It's all I know, really," she says. She's happy enough in "OVO" that she'd like to stay, and she doesn't envision leaving the Cirque society any time soon, either.
"I'll stay as long as my body allows me," she says. "I know much more about my body now. When you're younger everything's possible. It feels like you can do everything. But with experience you learn how to manage your body. You have muchmore focus than when you were young.
"You're doing the same things but you approach it differently -- and hopefully in a way that you can keep doing it for as long as possible."
Cirque du Soliel "OVO"
Joe Louis Arena, 19 Steve Yzerman Drive, Detroit.
Tickets are $44-$110.
Call 313-471-6611 or visit olympiaentertainment.com.
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