Aaron Felske is a human jack-in-the-box. In the opening scene to Cirque du Soleil’s new Kooza show at the Entertainment Quarter, Sydney, he is launched five metres into the air by a coiled mechanical contraption. Crouched down and delicately folded into a small wooden container he bursts high into the air and glides across the stage to the thudding beat of a drum.
The spotlight catches his figure mid-flight and the audience gasps as gravity hurtles him towards the floor. Felske’s glutes are tense, his core is locked tight and a big red smile is painted over a nervous grimace. A perfect landing is expected.
“It’s not the biggest stunt of the show, but it’s one of the most important,” says Felske.
Unlike a gymnast who performs his moves in perfect silence, hundreds of distractions are scattered around the arena to throw Felske off course. Glaring lights beam into his eyes, crowds of children scream in excitement and other members of staff can be seen swallowing swords backstage.
“So many different elements could go wrong,” says Felske.
“There’s the pulley machine, the crowd, lighting, nerves – it takes some serious choreography to get it right.”
As his weight meets the ground a sigh of relief follows. That’s one move completed from two and a half hours of scripted madness.
Felske’s role as the ‘Trickster’ requires an intense level of dance, gymnastics and acting. His performance is forged from 16 years of hard training. After graduating from the University of Wisconin, USA, in 2000 he joined his first Broadway Show. Since then, it’s been constant strength and conditioning training with yoga and pilates.
“I have to be very flexible and strong at the same time,” says Felske. “I need to propel my body into flips, push it into jumps or hold it in a tense position.”
Through years of bodyweight training Felske is confident in performing any feat of acrobatic insanity thrown into his script and manages to keep the single ladies swooning with a sculpted form.
He remains long and lean with a mix of gymnastic training, ballet sessions and weight lifting workouts. Pull-ups and dips are the foundation of his strength workouts as he builds muscle and burns fat simultaneously with reps ranging from 8-16. He avoids heavy squats to avoid bulky bodybuilder-like thighs but builds explosive power through box jumps.
For his rock hard core that glistens in the limelight, Felske completes a circuit of 10 different ab-chiseling exercises at 25 reps.
Give his killer workout a go. . . If you’ve got the juggling balls
Freak Show Core
In and Outs
Sit down with your legs straight slightly off the ground. Hold your spine and back straight and pull your legs into your chest. Straighten them out and stay as sturdy as a balancing elephant.
Start in the same position but move your legs in a cycling rotation, as if you’re riding a bike across a tightrope. Don’t look down.
Lying on your back with knees bent and hands behind head, pull your abs inward and curl your head forward until your shoulders are off the floor. That’s right, you performing monkey.
Wide Leg Sit-Up
Lie with your legs spread out wide. With one arm behind your head, sit up so that you’re opposite arm reaches diagonally to your toes. After returning to the start switch arms and repeat.
Position yourself flat on the floor and lift your legs to a 45-degree angle. Alternate between each leg by slowly lowering them to an inch above the ground before lifting them back to the top. Breath, you’re half way through. At least you’re not the lion trainer.
Hip Rock n Raise
With your legs bent and feet together, rock backwards and raise your hips off the ground. Embrace the contractions in your core as you screw up your face like a world-class gurning act.
The motion is identical to the Rock n Raise but this time keep your legs pointing straight in the air.
Perform a regular sit-up while reaching forward with your hands and touching your toes. Slightly lift your legs at the same time. Can you see your abs yet? What a magic trick.
With one leg pointing to the sky, sit up so both hands slide to the top of your ankle. You’re going to have to battle through 26 reps this time, 13 on each leg. Unlucky for some. Well, you.
The last exercise comes from Russia but brings little love. Plant your bum on the ground with legs and torso raised off the ground. Rotate from left to right in a controlled twisting motion with hands interlocked between your chest.
KOOZA is currently performing in Sydney. Following the Sydney season, KOOZA moves to Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. For tickets and information go to www.cirquedusoleil.com/kooza and watch the trailer below.