Gabriel Christo is a gymnast from Belo Horizonte, Brazil. At the time of the interview, Gabriel was in Cirque du Soleil's Corteo Teeterboard act, but has since left Corteo to join creation for the previously announced Avatar show. Listen to the interview to find out more about Gabriel's gymnastic beginnings and how he ended up in Cirque du Soleil.
Where are you from?
I’m from Brazil. From Belo Horizonte.
How old are you?
Can you tell us a bit about your childhood?
I was a very happy kid. Because I was born very flexible and liked to do cartwheels all over the place, my mom put me in gymnastics just to spend my energy. Although, I really wanted to do it. I asked her and she put me in it. I started at age 8 and I never stopped. This year I’m completing 20 years (career).
You started in gymnastics…
I started in gymnastics and at some point I went to the national team. I started competing internationally representing the Brazilian team. In one of these competitions, Cirque talked to me and I decided to give it a try. Right now I’m an acrobat in Corteo.
How did you end up in Cirque du Soleil?
In 2007 I went to compete the World Championships in Quebec City. Cirque had a tent there and one of the talent scouts, he spoke Portuguese, approached me. He knew some of my friends, so he asked if one day I would be interested in joining Cirque. I said eventually one day I could try, but right now I want to try to compete in the Olympics. We didn’t qualify for the Olympics that year and when we returned to Brazil, I decided to write him an e-mail. I [said] I would be interested in trying and like a month later he wrote me back that he had a spot for me.
Was this to audition or did you go straight to general formation?
Because I had been approached by them at the World Championship, they asked me to send a video of all my skills. I didn’t audition. As soon as I returned to Brazil, I started filming some skills – I can do gymnastics, I can do trampoline, I can do a little bit of dancing. So I gathered all this information and I sent it to them and they offered me a profile that would fit my skills. So I never auditioned.
But you said you did go to the general formation?
I went to general formation. I arrived in Montreal and I was there for 5 months. At the end of general formation, they offered me a contract for Zaia in Macau.
What year was general formation?
I did general formation in 2008.
Did you accept Zaia?
Yes. I was in Zaia for 2 years. I did the formation and went right away to China and I signed the contract for 2 years. After the contract with Zaia, I decided to not renew with Macau, so Cirque offered me a creation for a new show, that would be Iris. I finished Zaia and a couple of months later I went to Montreal to do creation of Iris.
Were you with Iris until it closed?
I was. We did the creation and we went to LA. We ran for approximately 2 years before the show closed. I was part of this crew, when it closed. I moved out of LA and I worked in another show called The House of Dancing Water in Macau for 6 months. I was diving. It was a water show.
After that, you went over to Corteo?
Yes. Then towards the end of my contract in Macau… it was temporary. I accepted a temporary contract because I didn’t want to really go back to Macau. I took this challenge because it was a really short contract. So I went over there and then Corteo called me because they needed somebody for teeterboard and I have done teeterboard my whole life. So here I am today!
Can you explain a bit about Corteo?
Corteo is a very lyrical story. It tells the story of a clown that is about to die. Basically, the show is a movie of his life. He goes through the memories of his childhood, the memories of his best friends – the fondest memories about his life. It’s a death told in a very beautiful way. It celebrates happiness.
What is the significance of your act in the show?
My act is the teeterboard act. It’s a battle between poor and rich. Two villages meet for this challenge. On one side is the poor village and on the other side is the rich village. The artists challenge each other and they do tricks. They have a very friendly fight on stage. It’s a very nice moment, actually. It’s super beautiful and it’s impressive. And it’s very theatrical too. It’s acrobatic and theatrical at the same time.
What do you enjoy the most about Corteo?
What I enjoy the most about Corteo… I think it would be that they gave us the freedom to be ourselves. So sometimes we’re on stage and we don’t have a pattern we have to follow every single time. Actually, we have a pattern to do but we can use our own personality to do it. I can just be myself. I can react as I would react in real life. And the makeup is very light too; we’re basically our own faces on stage. It’s very different from other Cirque shows that everything is very calculated and rehearsed. Corteo is a little bit too, but it’s very free. You can be yourself on stage, which is different from other shows. It’s a lot of theatre involved and I love that part. I love that we can give our own spice to the character.
At the end of every show, what is the first thing that goes through your head?
Actually, the end of the show – it shouldn’t be, but it’s one of my favorite parts. Not because the show is done, but because the audience’s reaction. I love getting that back from them. We give so much energy on stage and sometimes we’re tired and we try to find motivation to perform everyday at 100%. Sometimes we don’t have much energy, so when we finish the show and the audience appreciates it and they show it to us; when they celebrate with us and they react really well and they scream at us, they wave, they cry, they smile, that’s when everything makes sense. That’s my favorite part. That’s why I do it.
There must be some tough parts of being on tour. Do you agree with this?
I find touring life very challenging. Most people would think touring is amazing and it’s great all the time because you’re traveling, which it is, but it’s also very challenging. You’re never in one place. It’s hard to settle. It’s hard to have your favorite coffee shop to go to. It’s hard to have your best friends around. Sometimes you’re very far. Living in a hotel is tricky sometimes because you want your own place but you don’t really have it. Those are some little aspects that make it a little more challenging, but it’s still beautiful. I love touring. I love being able to go to new places. And sometimes when we’re in a place that is not our favorite place, we know that soon enough we’ll be changing for another one. It’s just a very, very different life.
That being said, do you plan on staying with Cirque du Soleil for a while?
Yes, I do. We’re looking into a new project for me. As soon as I leave Corteo, I might have a new Cirque show. We’re still talking about it. But I don’t want to stop yet.
Can you say if this is a new show?
A new show coming up.
I just want to conclude saying that joining Cirque was something that I didn’t think before because I wanted to be an Olympic athlete, but when I did it, it became my new dream. I realized so many dreams of mine came true being part of Cirque. I went to so many places and I met so many wonderful people. I saw that this is larger than life. There’s so much that I got from it; I participated in the Oscars and in great events. I find myself in the place that I wanted to be and that’s why I don’t want to quit yet. I’m very grateful and I’m very grateful for the interview too. I love being able to tell my story and maybe inspire other people.
[Photo: © Guillermo Vilcherrez]