By MIKE CHAIKEN
The end of high school was approaching for Helena Merten.
But, she didn’t know what she wanted to do next.
She had been doing gymnastics since she was five.
So she thought, hmmm, how about learning to be a circus performer?
That’s where she decided to concentrate her energies.
Her goal, she said, was to join a small circus troupe and work her way up to something bigger.
Merten ended up at something bigger– much, much bigger.
Merten landed with the renowned Cirque du Soleil.
And she will be coming to Hartford June 19 as Cirque du Soleil presents “Luzia” under the big top in Hartford.
Press materials from Cirque du Soleil explains, “‘Luzia’ takes you to an imaginary Mexico… Audiences (are invited) to escape on a surrealistic journey through a sumptuous and vibrant world suspended somewhere between dreams and reality.”
Merten said she never considered she would end up working with Cirque du Soleil even though it had been her dream job ever since she saw the troupe for the first time when she was 7.
“I thought I wouldn’t be good enough,” said Merten.
But here she is.
There was some consternation when Merten decided not to go to university after high school. But, in hindsight, she said, “I couldn’t have made a better decision.”
For “Luzia,” Merten is one of the hoop divers. But, she said, that is just one of the skills she possesses. In fact, she said she learned how to do this particular stunt just prior to joining the cast.
Merten said she is more of a generalist in the circus arts. She does a little bit of everything. And being part of “Luzia” is an “incredible training ground” as the performers are willing to share their myriad of skills with her.
“I love learning new things,” said Merten.
One of the stunts in the show also has taught her something new about her skill as a hoop diver. In Luzia,” there is a scene where she performs with tread mills. She said it adds a different sensation to the stunt while there is something moving beneath you.
“Luzia” also has introduced Merten to a new world.
“I actually am learning a lot about Mexico (in the show),” she said. With the sets and characters, she said you are immersed in the world of Mexico.
Other than the performers, Merten has several favorite dimensions to the show. She enjoys the special effects and set designs. She likes the bright colors that permeate the show. And she loves the “good energy” of the show.
When audiences leave “Luzia” after the final curtain call, Merten said she hopes Cirque du Soleil had managed to transport them to a different world where they could leave the daily grind behind for a while.
And, ultimately, Merten said, she hopes “Luzia” will inspire them to open their hearts.
Performances of “Luzia” by Cirque du Soleil from June 19 to July 21 are Monday through Saturday at 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday at 4:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 1:30 and 5 p.m. Shows are under a tent at Market Street in Hartford.
For more information and tickets, go to CirqueduSoleil.com.