Arts

Full-time solo acrobat crosses U of O off long list of worldwide performances

Photo: Joey Albert

In the middle of the Jock Turcot Universtiy Centre stage, a man balanced on his bare hands on tall beanpoles with great ease as a crowd cheered him on.

While most of us struggle to juggle two things at once—whether it’s school and work, or more likely, coffee and a phone—Joey Albert’s job is to do just that, and more.

The acrobat performer stopped by the University of Ottawa on March 4 to perform his latest routine for students as part of the month of La Francophonie.

Albert started out as a juggler in high school in Timmins, Ont. He said he felt different from his classmates as most of the boys in his classes were into hockey and the girls were into dance. Rather, his dream was to travel the world to amaze crowds, pulling acrobatic stunts and showing off his juggling skills full-time. He eventually left his hometown to pursue his dream in Montreal at the National Circus School.

“It was really intense for a (performance) school,” he says. Albert loved the ability to be surrounded by talented performers but also became a challenge, as it was intimidating. He used the intimidation as motivation to push himself further.

Though what he does is extremely risky, Albert said he learned to internalize his fears so they don’t affect his performances. He still goes into each performance realizing that every stunt could be very harmful.

“It rarely happens that I think of that during a show,” said Albert. “When I train, that’s when I have my fears.”

Albert has performed for 10 years now and has travelled to the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Australia, and undertaken two cross-Canada trips. He also lived and performed in Los Angeles in the early stages of his career.

He first performed with three American acrobats, but found it to be an issue having to constantly travel across the border. This led him to create his own solo act, and has performed in French for the last four years.

“It’s really the only job I have done,” he said.

Though he performs in both languages, he said the French crowds are typically more responsive to his routines. “French crowds are always ready for a good laugh.”

He prefers indoor venues, partly because the sun won’t get in his eyes and partly because of the more established crowd atmosphere, he said. “People know when to clap. Outside you got to put them in that mood and gain their trust.”
Le Cirque du Soleil is often associated with the crème de la crème of acrobatic performances. Despite the company’s reputation, Albert declined to join the Canadian super troupe when they approached him.

“People often think that’s what I aim to do,” he said. “It’s actually the opposite.”

Rather, he said he enjoys being his own boss. Performing on his terms means more liberty.

“It’s less stable,” he said, “but it is worth it.”