Rope-skipper extraordinaire Adrienn Banhegyi did not run away to join the circus. Cirque du Soleil came to her.
The 27-year-old, Hungarian-born champion jump-roper was last seen in the Cirque du Soleil production of "Wintuk" in New York City. Locals can look for her as a headliner in the latest traveling edition, "Quidam," coming to Baltimore's 1st Mariner Arena Aug. 24 to 28.
Banhegyi will be taking the part in the show of another champion rope-jumper, who just happens to be her sister.
"I am replacing my sister, who is taking a break from performing," said the petite performer.
During a special preview in Baltimore, Banhegyi demonstrated her skipping talent for local reporters, encouraging each to take a turn at jumping with her.
The stunt made the point that perfect jump-ropers may be born rather than made.
Banhegyi said she knew that she had to become part of the sport the first time she saw it performed on television. Encouraged by her father, a physical education teacher, she has been perfecting her art for more than half her life now.
She joined the National Skipping Team, where she took home a world championship three times and captured the European championship five times. While competing professionally, Adrienne began teaching skipping to children, as well as working with professional athletes to incorporate these skills into their athletic programs and dance training.
The intricacies of rope skipping boggle the mind. The athletic demands on the body, plus all those complicated, choreographed movements, belie the ease with which Banhegyi controls her balance and timing.
Watching her in action is a reminder of the popularity of skipping rope in the lives of children. "Consider how these possibilities could change the life of a child," Banhegyi said.
One suspects there aren't many venues for this particular talent, even in other Cirque du Soleil shows. Still, Banhegyi says her art is respected by her Cirque mates.
Cirque du Soleil remains a unique concept, both in performance art circles and in circus craft. There are no dancing bears here, though there are clowns who, at times, represent the animal kingdom or, perhaps, life forms in other universes. The performers are all human and each exhibits a superhuman ability at acrobatic feats and the ability to fill spectators with awe.
Cirque du Soleil now rules in three separate domains. There are the traditional blue and yellow tent presentations, the residential extravaganzas popular in Las Vegas, and the touring arena shows like "Quidam," which is the sixth Cirque Du Soleil show to visit Baltimore since 2003.
According to Francis Jalbert, a manager for Cirque's arena productions, " 'Quidam' is the embodiment of both everyone and no one at the same time."
" 'Quidam' represents a nameless passer-by, a solitary figure lingering on a street corner, a person rushing past," he continues. "This show gives us a voice. It's about human beings with the emotions of joy, nostalgia, and a bit of sadness."
This production stands out among the past dozen or so as the most child-friendly, and may boast the best dancers. It originated as a big-top attraction in Montreal in 1996, but was converted to an arena format for its 2010 North American tour.
As in "Alegria," an earlier Cirque production, "Quidam" opens with a group of bizarre characters stumbling onto the scene and quickly constructing a fairytale world amid swirling clouds of stage smoke and roving searchlights. The plot, if one can call it that, involves a young girl named Zoe who feels ignored by her parents and conjures up the whimsical, alternate univese of "Quidam."
It isn't long before Zoe dreams up a a cast of 52 acrobats from 18 different countries, who speak 50 different languages, not to mention encountering Adrienn Banhegyi, performing those incredible rope tricks first imagined in the far reaches of an Eastern European country.
"Quidam" will be at the 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore, Aug. 24-28. Shows will be Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with additional Friday and Saturday matinees at 3:30 p.m. and Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m. Adult tickets range from $40 to $85; children (12 and under) are $32 to $69; and senior citizens, students and military are $36 to $72. A limited number of premium tickets are also available for all performances. For more show and ticket information, go to http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/quidam.