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Wire Walking with Philippe Petit

Editor’s note: This post was written by Soleyman Pierini, 1st year trouper.

Trouper Soleyman Pierini with wire walker Philippe Petit

In 2012, when I moved to Canada from Italy, one of the first things I did was to watch a Cirque Du Soleil show. In Italy, the culture of circus isn’t very present, but as soon as the show was over I had chosen my next goal: to become a circus artist!

I started training and eventually I went to ENC (École Nationale de Cirque de Montreal), and one day the school got a call from a casting agency. They needed a boy that was (or at least looked) from eight to ten years old, and that could walk on a wire, for a movie called The Walk, by Robert Zemeckis (who was already one of my favorite directors!) and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The movie was about Philippe Petit, the extraordinary wire walker who put a wire between the Twin Towers in New York and walked on it. The call was for the role of young Philippe Petit.

I auditioned, had a callback a few days later, and twenty minutes after the callback, the production called me to say I got the role!

And the experience of being in a movie and meeting all the actors (and being one of them) was extraordinary! But even more extraordinary was to meet Jade Kindar-Martin, a former Smirko, and Philippe Petit (the real one!). Jade was doubling Joseph Gordon-Levitt in difficult wire walking scenes and also coached me for a few days on the wire.

Even though I only spent about half an hour with Philippe on set, he showed me a few things about magic and juggling. He even gave me advice that my mom didn’t like at all, and that I still apply today: “If you are practicing something and it’s not working, and your mom tells you that dinner is ready, just ignore her and do what you are doing until it works.” After that, I saw Philippe on set a few more times, but we didn’t really get to discuss much again. The next time I saw him was at the première of the movie, but even then we didn’t talk much about performing.

The year after, I went to train wire with Jade Kindar-Martin for a few days and we stayed in touch. In fact, he told me about Smirkus, and suggested that I might like it. He has no idea how right he was!  And I’m still waiting to learn more from him!

In the meantime, I also wanted to take a workshop with Philippe in order to learn some of his performing secrets, but he was always very busy.

Walking the wire from the famous World Trade Center Walk

However, this past summer, during the 2018 Big Top Tour, my parents let me know that ten days after tour would end, Philippe could give me a private workshop! I was extremely happy, and couldn’t wait! It actually felt very good going back to the U.S. after tour ended, it brought back some nice memories of jump days. And I had the occasion of buying one last pint of Ben & Jerry’s! You guess the flavor…

Anyways, back to the story.

As soon as my parents dropped me off at his house we started the workshop. He gave me some extremely valuable knowledge about magic, juggling, character work, respect of the props and tools, poetry on the wire, and I had the privilege of doing some improv in his ‘Smallest Theatre in The World” (backstage was 8 inches wide…)! One of the most amazing things he gave me the occasion of doing, was to walk on the same wire he used for the World Trade Center walk!

It was a wonderful experience, and I felt really lucky and grateful, for this magical meeting, especially after having just spent more than two months with my wonderful Circus Smirkus family!

Because, after all, it all gets connected.

Soleyman performing in the 2018 Big Top Tour: Vaudeville

If I had not studied circus at ENC, I would have never met Philippe and Jade, and if I would have never met them, my passion for circus, magic and acting would perhaps not be as it is now, and I would have probably never known about Circus Smirkus. And if I would have never known about Smirkus, I would never have had the honor of meeting the wonderful individuals, the true family, I found there.

I still remember, five years ago, when I told myself: “My goal is to tour with Cirque Du Soleil in about five years, and to be happy!”

And honestly, I couldn’t be any happier than what I’ve been this summer with Circus Smirkus!