Kristi Wade – Q&A
What is your favourite piece of music?
"Dance music – anything you play in nightclubs."
Tell me about your first kiss?
"It was in Grade 9 and it was at a party. We were playing spin the bottle."
Where have you dreamt of travelling?
"I want to travel to Africa, Europe, the Greek Isles – anywhere exotic."
What is your favourite TV show?
"Heart of Dixie and Pretty Little Liars."
What is your greatest accomplishment?
"Winning the Australian Championships in Sports Acrobatics."
If you were an animal or a tree what would you be?
"I would be a chimpanzee 'cause I could swing around in branches."
What is your fashion style?
What is your pet peeve?
"I hate people who scratch a knife on the plate. It makes my blood run cold. You get a shiver down your spine."
A St. Albert artist lives to be suspended 20 feet in the air.
Meet Kristi Wade, 22, a laid-back Australian beauty who's pursuing an aspiration to join Cirque du Soleil. Trained in the circus-based aerial arts, she is also an acrobat, contortionist and dancer.
Displaying natural talent and a drive for high performance, the five-foot, nine-inch athlete-artist reached a pinnacle of achievement winning the Australian Champion for Women's Trio Sports Acrobatics.
Sports acrobatics, nicknamed "acro" is a competitive partner sport with anywhere from two to four people. Similar to cheerleading without pompoms, it combines strength, flexibility and technical prowess. Moves range from human towers and standard gymnastic routines to the grace and musicality of dance.
Wade, who works as an animal caregiver at Barker's Pet Motel says, "Being surrounded by dogs and their unconditional love is great. But it (aerial arts) is my hobby, my job, my love. Not many people can say that's their reason for living."
Wade is part of a stable of aerial circus performers with Edmonton-based Firefly Theatre. She trains at the theatre's south Edmonton facility about three times a week.
Several trapezes and silks are suspended from the specially designed overhead rigging attached to the ceiling. No harnesses are visible, however a vast array of cushy crash mats are scattered on the floor.
Wade uses the trapeze and silks (hanging fabric that can bear the weight of a performer). However, the lyra, a round aluminum hoop that twists easily while dangling in the air, is her specialty. It requires the strength of an Olympic athlete, the grace of a ballerina and the body twists of a contortionist.
In a YouTube video of Zodiac Arrest, Firefly's January production, she displays an impressive range of hoop hangs. The aerial artist performs somersaults, mid-air splits and turns graceful backflips. It's a beautiful mid-air ballet that ends in a pirouetting blur of spins.
Most people would hesitate being pulled 20-feet in the air on a thin hoop without a harness. Wade, on the other hand, feels completely free and is in her element.
"There's the adrenalin rush I love. You can make it look so beautiful and not scary while telling a story. It's my happy place."
Born and raised in Sydney, Wade thrived in the beach city. Her parents were elite level touch football players and enrolled their youngster in numerous activities including basketball, netball and dancing.
"When I was little, Mom could never find me at family picnics. I was always up in trees."
At seven, a touring show of Cirque du Soleil's visionary Quidam proved a turning point in the little athlete's life, and she leaped into the world of gymnastics. Her natural skills accelerated rapidly, and by the time Wade was 11, she was paid to perform at street festivals and theatre shows.
In a city of 4.6 million, Sidney has seven circus troupes, a vibrant reflection of the Australian cultural heritage.
"It's a beach city and a lot of artistic people and alternative things are attracted to it. It's a very creative culture and it's very competitive," Wade said.
Over the years, the gymnast turned artist racked up numerous medals and awards. And in September 2011, she took another risk in following her boyfriend to St. Albert.
St. Albert offers an opportunity to earn money, and fly out for month-long training stints across North America. In a recent trip to Missoula, Mont. Wade took private lessons on the lyra under Holly Rollins, a former performer at Cirque du Soleil.
The lyra extracts a heavy physical and mental toll. Routines demand superb endurance and physical fitness, and spinning can leave an artist feeling nauseous.
"I could spin really fast. But I had to learn how not to get sick. It was hard at first especially since I have a phobia of vomiting," Wade said.
Training here at home is targeted to maintaining all-body fitness. In addition to training at Firefly, the 64 kilogram artist runs on a treadmill and stops by Servus Credit Union Place to perform chin-ups, foot hangs, sit-ups and leg lifts.
"I even do chin-ups on the fence at work and squats. And in the summer I climb trees."
She's even taking up swimming as many presenters are creating water-based shows that require artists to hold their breath under water for prolonged periods.
Relaxing is another matter. Since finding a Sydney type beach in Alberta is impossible, Wade has turned to snowboarding in Jasper.
"I couldn't do what I do at home. So I adapted and acclimatized pretty quick," she said.
Ultimately, Wade would like to make the United States a more permanent base, and recognizes there are numerous barriers to surmount in presenting mythical, timeless acts.
"That's where all the big shows happen. It's not always easy. Sometimes it's who you know and who fits the costume."
With a wide smile, she remains open to possibilities and the transformative power of creativity.
"I still have much to learn, but I'm much better than when I arrived."