One on One with Camille Santerre-Gervais, a ‘Bug’ in Cirque du Soleil’s ‘OVO’

What does it take to be a gymnast in a traveling circus? Camille a bug in Cirque du Soleil OVO, gives us the scoop.

Cirque du Soleil is perhaps the most prestigious circus in the world. Its theatrical, character-driven approach and the absence of performing animals help defines Cirque du Soleil as the contemporary circus that it remains today.

Each show is a synthesis of circus styles from around the world, with its own central theme and storyline. Shows employ continuous live music, with performers rather than stagehands changing the props.

“Ovo,” the Cirque du Soleil show that plays at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore on Aug.. 23-27, means “egg” in Portuguese.

And yes, there is a large white egg in this show whose theme is insects in which performers juggle, leap, fly and bend as ants, cockroaches, butterflies, a ladybug, flies, crickets, and spiders.

I got the chance to have a conversation with Camille Santerre-Gervais, one of the bugs in the show and she explains her experiences touring with the company.

Tell me about yourself and how you got involved with Cirque du Soleil.

I’m originally from Montreal and ever since I’ve been a kid I’ve been going to all the Cirque du Soleil shows. Every year I would go to the tent and then I was always like so amazed with everything they do and I would always tell my mom “I would love to do this one day,” and she’s like “okay” (laughs) and then I started doing artistic gymnastics in college.  Then after that in like my Junior year, I wasn’t so sure what I wanted to do after college, and I saw a job opportunity with Cirque so I applied, did a few online videos, and then after I graduated they contacted me and told me they had some training for if I was interested and the training lasted for a month and then after that they contacted me and offered me a contract.

So how would you compare your training as a gymnast with the training for Cirque du Soleil?

I think it really goes hand-in-hand because what we do as an artistic gymnast especially like the bars, on the even bars and that is the basic icing for what I’m doing in the circus. It really prepares you well, I think because of your hard schedule and all the conditioning you do, so I think you’re really ready to move on to the Cirque du Soleil level and then when you get there, of course, it’s a big adaptation because it’s completely different like I work with four guys up there and that’s the hardest part is just getting used to working as a tandem with other people.

Can you tell us more about the show for those who aren’t familiar?

It’s a love story about a bug, a ladybug, which is the Foreigner as we call it and so throughout the whole show you see how they’re just chasing after each other. I think everyone can relate to that story because everyone goes through it and then through all of that you see all the different insects and colonies that we have and you see all the acrobatics which leads you to a great ending.

What is your role in the show?  What bug are you playing?

The Japanese beetle.  We’re doing a flying act called the Russian cradle where it’s 4 guys and 6 girls.  We’re there to protect the colony and watch out for any bad things.

The Russian Cradle

That’s a lot of people involved with that routine.  Do you find it more comforting working with a group or doing your own thing individually?

I love working with people.  Sometimes you can get on each other’s nerves but you make really good friends and they become like family.  We really have fun up there.  That’s one thing I love is how we support each other.  If you’re nervous or something, I like how we have each other to bring comfort to the group.  It’s a wonderful feeling and gives you a better sense of confidence.

I see here that you are a traveling circus.  How many stops have you been on or were planning to go?

So far, we’ve been in around 70 cities around the globe throughout the past year and a half.

How’s it like living on the road?  Do you make time to go visit your family?

See what we do is that we work like 10 weeks in a row then they give us 2 weeks off.  That’s actually one of the best things about arena touring, how flexible it is for you to go home.  Of course, you miss your loved while on the road for those 10 to 11 weeks but at the same time, I feel that while on the road, I am with my second family so it makes things easier.

So what has been your favorite stop so far?

That’s hard. (laughs) I really loved Philly.  It has a lot of history and I’ve learned a lot but I gotta go with Puerto Rico.  I had a lot of fun there.

Are you a first generation performer because sometimes when I think of circus performers I think of how many have come from backgrounds where their families were part of the industry.

Nope.  I’m the first one.  My family really didn’t think that I would be doing this but they’re supportive.

Well, maybe you can start your own tradition for when you start having kids.

Yeah, (laughs) Ihuess so.  We’ll see.  It’s a possibility.

So what’s your favorite thing about being a part of Cirque Du Soleil OVO?

Performing nearly every night and performing for different crowds, to kind of see their reactions to what we do.  It really is a reward for all of the hard work we have put in everyday.

Cirque du Soleil OVO stops through Baltimore at the Royal Farms Arena, Aug. 23-27;

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