Cirque du Soleil star Erica Linz graduated from high school with a very interesting resume: an extensive background in gymnastics, music and theater.
There appeared to be only one employer for her — Cirque du Soleil — and she’s performed in a variety of shows for the theater company known for its acrobatic productions. Linz has become the face for the company as the star of “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away 3D,” a feature film that blends acts from several of the company’s shows. She plays a young woman who falls —emotionally and physically — for an aerialist and their love story becomes the thread that holds the varied acts together.
“She’s kind of the straight man that’s meeting all of these characters for the first time. She doesn’t fit in, so, in some ways, she’s a proxy for the audience,” says Linz. “It’s a lot to express through your face while trying not to get swept away and match the heightened reality that the characters are bringing to you.
“It was a cool and exciting challenge because it lands somewhere in-between a real life character and sort of a Cirque du Soleil character.”
This bizarre world full of giant insects, synchronized swimmers, fire handlers and acrobats is a long way from where Linz grew up in Colorado Springs, Colo. She spent her youth training to be a gymnast; it was her floor exercises that let her know she had bigger interests.
“My floor routines were always a little sassy and had a little more attitude in my competitions than I was supposed to. That’s when I decided to concentrate on theater,” Linz says. “After graduating high school, when I was 19, I moved to (Las) Vegas. I had not been that aware of Cirque du Soleil when I was growing up. We weren’t a wealthy family and didn’t have a lot of opportunities to travel.”
Her only knowledge of the group was through what she saw in TV specials, but it was enough to let her know there was a place for someone with her unique skill set. Since joining Cirque du Soleil, Linz has appeared in different shows, including “KA” and “Mystere.” Currently, she works on a free-lance basis and has appeared in a number of shows in Las Vegas.
Linz loved working on the film, even though there were only a couple of lines of dialogue. She believes that makes the film accessible to any market around the world. The lack of dialogue didn’t mean the job was easy. Along with having to sell the emotions of every scenes with just her face, Linz performs an original aerial act with co-star Igor Zaripov. The pair have worked in some of the same shows but have never performed together.
“It’s a simple matter of physics. I am in the 98-pound area and usually work with someone who is about 135 pounds. Igor is about 180 pounds. That means I just can’t not move him the way I can move someone lighter,” Linz says. “He would be like the Earth and I would be like the moon.”
The 4-feet-9 actor/acrobat doesn’t look like she could move anyone. She explains that she doesn’t have to have big muscles to do the aerial work, but she does a lot of training with smaller weights to strengthen the ligaments in her shoulder so that she can hang from one arm high above the stage. And she does that in the aerial number she performs with Zaripov, the only original performance in the film.
Working with cameras was a learning experience for cast and crew. The first time the cameras moved in close on Linz and Zaripov, she kicked it.
“The next time, they didn’t get as close,” Linz says.
A side benefit of starring in the film for Linz is that she gets to talk about her Circus Couture charity that raise money for cancer research and care.
“There was only one clinic in Nevada that treated kids with cancer, whether or not they had insurance. With the economy tanking, it was in danger of no longer being open,” Linz says. “At first I felt helpless because I wasn’t a doctor or scientist. I was just an acrobat. Then I had an epiphany that all my friends were acrobats and designers and painters. Most people want to do something good. All you have to do is ask.”
Last year, more than $250,000 was raised.