Gay Cirque du Soleil performer David Rimmer’s act has its ups and downs

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor
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We all frolicked on one — it’s in every playground in America. We called it a seesaw, or a teeter-totter, and it was physics at its most basic: One kid on one side, one on the other, a fulcrum in the middle in a perpetual motion of wheees!

We never thought we could make a career out of it. And, frankly, neither did David Rimmer.

Although Rimmer has been in athletics since his was 5 years old, growing up in Liverpool, he mostly did competitive gymnastics.

“I did artistic gymnastics until I was 17,” he says, and then moved on to trampoline.

“It was a little bit different than jumping on the bed,” he laughs. For one thing, your mom doesn’t yell at you for trampolining; in fact, she’d likely cheer you on, especially if, like Rimmer, you competed in the European and World championship.

It was after a few years of that when Rimmer decided to parlay his competitive sports training into a career.

“I auditioned for Cirque du Soleil in 2011,” he says. He flew to Paris for a weekend-long audition, performing for the famed French-Canadian modern circus company every leap and bounce he could to impress them. Maybe his skills would translate into an act for one of their shows.

Cirque was impressed. They wanted him in one of their companies… doing the teeterboard.

Yeah, Rimmer had never heard of it either.

“When they told me they wanted me to do it, I had no idea what it was,” he confesses.

That was nearly eight years ago. But remember what we said about seesaws? Rimmer learned the specific skills that come from a crew of men — broken down into flyers, pushers and those who do both — soaring high under the big top in a jacked-up version of that. He spent the first few years with Cirque in Corteo, performing in South Africa; about four years ago, he moved onto Amaluna, which makes its North Texas debut this month.

Although the act itself only lasts for 15 minutes a show, the discipline it takes to put on such a show is intense.

“We obviously train a lot — three times a week,” Rimmer says. “It also depends on what we need to do. If we have a new guy on the team, we have to focus on basics and practice our skills. If we’re doing big skills [or learning a new routine], we use a matted area or harnesses. We try to keep ourselves in shape. We all kind of weigh a similar weight. We cannot overload ourselves doing 10 shows a week.”

Each Cirque du Soleil production is built around a look or a theme or a style; one element that sets Amaluna apart is how female-centric it is. Virtually all the athletes, clowns, jugglers and musicians in the show are women. The sole hold out? The men of the teeterboard. And for Rimmer, it makes for an interesting dynamic.

“Pretty much we are the only testosterone in the tent,” he says. “There is a difference between Corteo and here, but the vibe is still the same: Everyone gets along and the environment is nice. You want the audience to have a good time, especially in our team, because we are the boys and we play and go into the audience and [get them psyched up].”

The energy and excitement comes naturally to Rimmer, even the sense of danger that comes from flying through the air.

“There are always nerves [when you perform], but I like working up adrenaline — I do extreme sports, go hiking, keeping myself active.

But running away to the circus is a different kind of thrill than athletics.

“When I was doing [competitive] gymnastics, it was very serious. It was drilled into you as a child that you are going to succeed, and that there’s always some [other goal] to aim for — another competition, another tournament. Your mind is always in the competitive mode. But when I finished my gymnastics career I didn’t want to stop because it’s what I really wanted to do. But here you’re in it to work toward the same goal. I prefer the artistic side [of performing].”

And he also likes the travel. He’s been away from home since he was barely out of his teens, and “seeing different cultures and traveling with this group of people is the best part.”

On the other hand, while some cast members travel with their boyfriends or spouses, Rimmer says he’s too career-focused right now to date. Maybe we he’s ready to settle down, he’ll take the most daring leap of his life… without a net.