Performer Tarek Rammo Talks about Life with the Cirque du Soleil and the Upcoming Dralion Show

Ed Newman

Tarek Rammo is a featured performer in the travelling Cirque Du Soleil show Dralion, specializing in an Aerial Silk duet as well as his solo Aerial Straps and other acrobatics. Rammo, who was born in Beirut, moved to Holland with his family at age one. At nine years old he took an interest in gymnastics. After eight years of competing he saw his first Cirque du Soleil show which generated a spark, and produced an interest in performing. He has now performed all over the world with companies such as “The 7 Fingers”, “DanceWorks Rotterdam/Andre Gingras” and “The Ulrike Quade Company”.

EN: Did you have an interest in the Olympics while young and competing?

Tarek Rammo: I was doing competitive gymnastics for about ten years. I was on the national junior team of Holland and I did have a dream of going to world championships and the Olympics but the urge to pursue the performing arts was a lot stronger. When I was about 17 I decided to switch careers?

EN: How many Cirque performers come out of a background in the Olympics.

TR: Not sure of the number but there’s quite a few who have competed at a very high level, including some who have won medals in the Olympics, that find a new career at the Cirque du Soleil after they finish competing.

EN: Do performers who become part of the Cirque choose the show they want to be part of? How does that work?

TR: Basically what happens is you do an audition, which is a general audition if you’re a gymnast for example. If you can make it through a rigorous day of auditioning you end up in a database, a big file where all the potential artists for Cirque du Soleil end up. Once they have an opening in a show, they look specifically in the database for someone who will fit that part.  Then they may or may not contact you. It may be a month or a year or three years before you get a spot on the show. It depends on your skills and availability.

EN: What makes Dralion so exciting.

TR: It’s an interesting show. As the title suggests, East meets West, Dragon and Lion… drawing the most supreme acts from all over the world. All this combined with lights and a live band makes it a spectacular show.  

EN: What are the challenges?

TR: In terms of personal challenges…. As artists we’re living out of our suitcases. We’re moving every week. So you really have to adapt your life, knowing that you have to be portable.

It’s also, of course, being away from home. Away from your family. Away from your friends. And though we choose this because we love it, it’s not an easy part.

EN: Do you have a wife and kids?

TR: I have a wife. And funny enough, she just arrived here this week because my old partner who I was doing the aerial duet with unfortunately had an injury.  My wife is also an acrobat and she was also in the database for the Cirque du Soleil. Because we’d worked together, they just brought her in to replace my old partner for the upcoming weeks, so I am actually the luckiest guy right now in the Cirque.

EN: It must be demanding.

TR: We’re doing about 7-8 shows a week. It’s all very physical, and with the travelling combined it’s quite an effort because in every city we have to do rehearsals and make sure everything is all right in terms of height. Everything is different everywhere, but we have a very good technical team that makes sure everything is exactly the same in every city we go to.  We have to do the checks; we have to do the rehearsals, because it’s all high risk.

EN: Do you have any favorite acts in this particular show?

TR: I really enjoy doing my own act, but some of my favorite acts in the show… I would say the hoop diving number by the Chinese troop. It’s a number where they stack circular rings on top of each other and they do all kinds of crazy jumps through them, landing on the stage. It’s a very high stakes number and very energizing.

We have a very good juggler, too. He’s a great dancer as well, in perfect harmony with the music. Very energetic and engaging.

EN: How do performers maintain high energy levels for these shows and not get jaded so that it’s routine?

TR: That really depends on the person. Some people need a lot of sleep, for example. They go to bed quite late after the show but spend most of the day in bed. Others will wake up early – I’m an early riser. I need to go outside for a bit, get some fresh air, do my personal work, relax a bit.  

Some people are really focused on their diet, their eating habits, to maintain their energy level. Others are more casual with that, so I would say it’s really different for everyone. Some people work out every day before a show because that’s what they feel they need.

EN: What was the first Cirque show that you saw?

TR: I saw Alegria when it was in Amsterdam in the Big Top. I’ve seen about three or four others after that.

EN: Costumes for this show originate from Africa, India and China. Are the performers also from Africa, India and China?

TR: They’re from all over the world. We have a very large troop from China. One of the main characters is from Africa, she’s an African dancer. The Water Element has an Indian background, though she was raised in the U.S. her heritage is Indian. I’m from Holland with a Lebanese background, and there’s Russian, Ukrainian, people from Argentina… a total of 18 nationalities on this tour.

EN: You go to different cities for a week at a time…

TR: We usually travel on a Sunday. After our show or shows, we board a bus and travel through the night. We’ll have Mondays and Tuesdays off. Wednesday is usually the busiest day because we have to do all the checks. That’s really the start of our work week.