How the performers of La Perle stay in such impressive shape
If you are ever near Skydive Dubai and notice some very fit men and women flying around on straps hanging from yellow bars in the workout area, consider yourself lucky. People pay good money to watch those same athletes perform death-defying acts in the permanent La Perle by Dragone show at Al Habtoor City. “We’ll go over there on weekends or on our day off and train outside and have fun together,” says Darren “Daz” Trull, an aerial captain for the company. “We’re a bit sick like that. We get bored easily.”
The 31-year-old Canadian gymnast and former Cirque du Soleil performer has been with La Perle by Dragone since the show started, as has his fellow Canadian and colleague Elisa Tauro, 28. She got her start performing at the Club Med resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and fell in love with flying trapeze after trying it as a young girl on a family vacation.
The duo – with a little help from La Perle’s artistic director Tara Young, who is also from Canada – took a rare and well-deserved break before a recent Saturday afternoon performance to talk about how they keep themselves in top physical and mental shape while performing 10 shows per week.
In addition to working out by the beach on days off, Trull and Tauro estimate that they exercise in other ways for at least three hours a day. Each is required to attend company conditioning sessions twice a week and to add in their own regular workouts. “Personally, I train more body weight; it’s more directly related to the acrobatics that I do – aerial straps, hanging by my wrists,” says Trull.
Tauro loves Pilates reformer and tower classes at Life’n One in Jumeirah, as well as yoga at Zoga in Business Bay. “We do so much conditioning and you work out so much, you don’t get much time to sit, relax and stretch,” she says. “Stretching is just as important as conditioning.”
Neither performer loves doing cardio, so Tauro gets around it with 45-minute boxing sessions, or grinding out 30 minutes on the elliptical. For Trull, daily sessions that involve coaching other performers fills in the cardio gap.
Prehab before rehab
Trull and the other aerialists don’t wait until they are injured to take action. Prevention is key, which is why they regularly pull on colourful, stretchy Therabands to stabilise their muscles. “We do it every day, or should be doing it every day,” he explains.
“I guess you call it ‘prehab’, which is pretty massive. The science of training and keeping the body in shape has changed so much. You see such a difference now from when I started. Even the term, prehab, didn’t really exist when I was 23. It was conditioning, and if you got an injury, deal with it… now we’re taking care of it beforehand. You see a lot of that in what we do,” Trull explains.
La Perle’s in-house wellness team, which is headed by an osteopath, incorporates a variety of methods to help the performers stay healthy and cope with inevitable aches, pains and injuries, including dry needling, acupuncture, massage, cupping and electronic muscle stimulation.
Food as fuel
La Perle has an on-site cafeteria catering to the diets of 23 different nationalities, including several vegans. Trull isn’t a big eater, so he adds regular whey protein shakes to keep up his calories. A recent lunch is a bit of pasta, chicken and salad. With the quality of vegetables in the region unknown compared to Canada, on arriving in Dubai, he started taking a multivitamin supplement.
On the weekends, he treats himself to a cheat meal, often involving his favourite: chicken wings. Tauro says she doesn’t have a specific diet, though she does limit sugar. “I used to take a multi-vitamin, but now I just try to get it from the food I eat. I like to cook all my meals and eat at home.”
Although keeping in top shape is part of their jobs, rest days are essential. Both performers say they like to sleep and watch Netflix on at least one of their days off. Tauro spends Sundays getting a manicure, watching movies, going to the beach and chatting with family. “Here, you are with people all the time, so you need to sometimes have ‘Elisa time’ and recharge,” she says.
Play – and talk
In addition to the beachside aerial sessions, Young uses her Broadway background – she was 18 when she made her debut on New York City’s Broadway with the Cabaret star Liza Minnelli – to lead the performers in tap, hip-hop and ballet classes. And although there aren’t any on-set psychologists, she does find herself filling the role sometimes with those who are homesick or struggling.
“Show business is a very challenging path to take,” she says. “The entertainment industry is so exciting, but it’s very, very difficult. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable to go out there and trust not only the people that you are with, but the rigging you are hanging from.”