A pair of young contortionists from Maple Ridge are rising quickly to the top, the big top that is, of the circus world, including a possible spot on the popular television show America’s Got Talent.
Malin Niklasson, 16, and Cooper Yarosloski, 15, just took part in the prestigious Viva Fest, where acrobats, trapeze artists, aerial artists and contortionists, to name a few, converged for a four-day international competition at the Silverton Casino and Hotel, just south of the famous strip, in Las Vegas.
This was Yarosloski’s second trip to Nevada for the competition, coming out in first place in the student category for his hand balancing act and winning a third for this aerial act.
It was Niklasson’s first time. She competed in a duo contortion act with Yarosloski as a team. They came in fifth place, out of six teams after falling while Yarosloski attempted a handstand with Niklasson wrapped around his waist. But the pair laugh about it, taking it all in stride.
“At the competition it didn’t work out. We did end up falling but it ended up to be ok,” giggled Niklasson, glancing over at Yarosloski.
“The judges realized,” she chuckled, explaining that there was an audible thump when she hit the ground.
“We saved it,” smiled Yarosloski.
“We saved it,” agreed Niklasson.
The pair train out of Circus Lab, a circus training school in the Port Kells area where students are coached in the arts of aerials, contortion and trampoline.
“All the things you see in Cirque,” said Yarosloski referencing the most premiere circus performance act in the world.
Yarosloski and Niklasson first met at gymnastics.
Yarosloski started gymnastics when he was 9-years-old and only did it for about half a year before he stopped. Then he started dance and shared the same dance teacher as Niklasson. The pair performed acro together, explained Niklasson, which is a form of dance that incorporates contortion and gymnastics.
Niklasson who started gymnastics at a parent and tot program when she was only 18-months-old just stopped competing in the sport last year in order to focus more on the circus arts.
Now Yarosloski is in his fourth year at Circus lab and is entering his third year performing circus acts, Niklasson has been attending Circus Lab off and on for the past two years.
“I love being on stage and showing people different kind of,” Yarosloski trails off.
“Wacky stuff,” Niklasson says, finishing his thought for him.
“Yeah, it’s different from other performances. It’s just fun seeing other people and what their reaction is. Sometimes they are excited or scared sometimes,” chuckled Yarosloski adding that he loves meeting people that share his talent.
“I love it because it’s me, I’ve been bendy for my whole life and I love showing people my talent and sharing it with people,” explained Niklasson.
Yarosloski and Niklasson have been partners now for only a couple of years and since they decided to become partners training has become more intense. One of the most difficult things working with a partner is getting the tricks solid.
“If one of you is off it’s kind of scary,” said Niklasson.
They started their routine for Viva in December, rather than September as most teams would do for the February competition, because they did not know if they would be going. Tyler Ayres, their Circus Lab coach, choreographed their three minute performance.
When they arrived in Las Vegas, though, their competition was moved ahead a day because of a sand and wind storm that was threatening the integrity of the circus tent. They only found out the morning of competition that they would be performing that night.
“(We were) kind of shocked and not really prepared but we did it,” added Niklasson.
Conditions became so bad that the aerial acts had to be cancelled in the tent because it was just too dangerous.
Yarosloski and Niklasson train once a week together for about five hours, although Yarosloski trains 20 hours a week on his solo routines. He is home-schooled which makes his training schedule easier to accommodate.
Niklasson attends Thomas Haney secondary and says that since the school is self-directed she is able to get her school work done around her training schedule as well.
The dream for both would be to become part of the Cirque du Soleil team.
They are currently auditioning for America’s Got Talent after being approached by a casting director for the popular show immediately following their performance at Viva.
The pair have been attending summer camps the national circus school in Montreal called École National du Cirque and have both been accepted into this years summer camp as well.
“I fell in love with the training. It’s affiliated with Cirque du Soleil because they are Cirque du Soleil performers. They are the best training you can get,” said Niklasson.
“Especially for our age,” added Yarosloski.
They are both planning to audition for the school’s three-to-four-year college program.
“Then at the end of that you perform for scouts from everywhere and you have a 95 per cent hiring chance to get into any professional circus,” explained Niklasson.
“If I get into this program I will be in some type of travelling professional circus,” she promised.
The pair agree that the best part of performing are hearing the cheers from the audience.
“When people are cheering you on it hypes you up and it makes you give 110 more per cent than you are already giving,” said Niklasson.
“Yeah,” said Yarosloski, in 110 per cent agreement.