Marque and Becky Ohmes are stunt professionals and performers who have over 10 years of experience working in aerial acrobatics. For the past two years, the couple has been performing in “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” as aerial angels. I had the pleasure of speaking with them about their careers, and their upcoming performances at the Fox Theatre.
Marque: We were actually on a different tour, and we didn’t get to St. Louis last year.
K: That’s right – I read about the different tours. How many are there every year?
M: This year there are two Cirque Dreams Holidaze tours. We especially requested the one that goes to St. Louis.
K: Have either of you been to the Fox Theatre before?
M: Yeah – we’ve actually not performed there, but I remember reading about it and everything growing up. But, we have never been there to perform, so I’m really looking forward to it.
K: Great. I was reading that you are from Kansas City – is that right?
M: Actually, I as born in O’Fallon. My grandparents, my dad, and everyone are from St. Peters. And then when my mom and dad got divorced, originally my mom moved up to South St. Louis area and then she got a good job in Kansas City. So I pretty much grew up in Kansas City from 2nd grade on – but the one thing that’s really neat is that we always spent Christmas at my Dad’s house in St. Peters. So I always remember going back for Christmas in that area.
K: I’m sure it will be nice to be back here for the holidays.
M: Exactly. And a lot of my family is going to come out and see the show. So I’m really looking forward to that too.
K: And Becky – you’re from Dallas, right?
Becky: Yes, I’m from Dallas, Texas.
K: So I have to ask – how did the two of you meet?
B: We met out in Los Angeles, California – dancing in a show out there.
K: I figured you must have met at some kind of show. I read that you both have been professionally performing for some time now.
I was looking on your website, and saw a ton of really neat videos that show stunts and performances that you have been in. It was a lot of fun watching through them. I was wondering how you both decided that you would make a career out of doing what you do.
M: Well stunts, I think are something as a young boy, that just look like fun. But as far as doing aerial work and stuff, we both started as dancers like Becky was saying. And we kept getting jobs apart from each other. In the performing arts, unfortunately, you have no guarantees on the next job sometimes. We always worked consistently, but sometimes we got jobs apart when we first started dating.
I told Becky, “Why don’t I teach you Adagio dancing?” It’s a lot of partnering dancing where the guy lifts the girl over his head – and all those types of things. And she was gung-ho, and was like, “Yeah, that sounds like a lot of fun!” So I taught her Adagio, and from then on we always got hired as a couple. And so we did that for five or six years, and when we got to Las Vegas and found we were a little too short to be considered a featured Adagio there. So at that time aerial was kind of beginning, and we saw some aerial acts performing. We said, “Why don’t we try that?” And as soon as we started, we really clicked with it.
B: We were both gymnasts when we were younger, so we just took to it very naturally.
K: I bet. It’s an incredible thing to watch; I’ve never seen ‘Holidaze,’ but I’ve seen other Cirque performances and they are great. And I bet for you two it’s nice to be able to travel together and not be apart during the holidays.
M: It’s such a nice thing – it really is. There are so many times that we get to go around the world and be together – and obviously get paid to do it. So we’ve seen so many wonderful things, and performing together is always a blast too.
K: Cirque Dreams Holidaze is obviously a holiday themed show. What other types of work do you look for when these performances are over? Do you usually get jobs together, or do you sometimes have to travel alone?
B: With stunt work, we don’t look for jobs together. Those are all individual jobs. But with our act, it’s the two of us together – so those jobs are always us performing.
K: When one of you gets a job – let’s say doing stunts in a movie – do you usually travel together, or will one of you stay home?
M: Really, that definitely depends. Sometimes we have been lucky, and gotten on films together. The way you get stunt work is the stunt coordinator needs to hire you. Because Becky and I are constantly together, and we meet a lot of them together, they sometimes know us both. So if they can, they will definitely hire us. But other times, maybe I fit to stunt-double one of the actors, or she’s a good fit to stunt-double one of the actresses. And they can only use one of us. In those cases, only one of us will get the job. But we’ve been really blessed, and really lucky, with how we have gotten hired together at times – even in doing stunt work.
K: For this show in particular, it was the first time you performed in it. How did you get involved in Cirque Dreams Holidaze?
M: Actually, Cirque Dreams contacted us from our website. It was really neat – we had literally just gotten back from a different contract. We had been home for like two days, and I got an e-mail from Jill Winters, and she asked me if we would be interested in performing for Cirque Dreams. I immediately called a buddy of mine in Los Angeles, and he used to work for Cirque Dreams. I was like, “Hey, did you give them my name?” And he said, “No, I didn’t.” But sure enough, he told me all about the company – and he worked for them for many years. So we contacted Jill right back, and she said she found us on the website. She loved our videos, and they had a position available if we wanted it. So it worked out wonderfully last year, and of course this year we were more than happy to reprise our roles in the show.
K: When you do something like this for Cirque Dreams, do you create your own choreography or does someone else come up with the basis for the performance?
B: It’s actually our own act, and it’s our own choreography. Last year the choreographer watched it and really liked what we had. He asked if we minded if he made some suggestions, and of course we were like, “We would love suggestions.” So he helped us tweak a few of the dance moves and stuff. It was a little bit of a collaboration – with his choreography and our choreography.
M: And Neal, who is the producer/director of the show, just pretty much liked our stuff. And he just said, “Yeah, that’s wonderful. It fits the music great and everything.” Generally when go into a situation, they will give us the music ahead of time and we will try and make the routine fit for that music. Each show that we do is slightly different. And in this show we are performing to “O Holy Night,” which is just such a beautiful song. We are supposed to be Ariel Angels, so we really just came up with the choreography that fit that song – and that showcased it as much as we could. Neal really liked it, and as Becky said – made a little suggestion here, or a little tweak there. But really, they kept it pretty much how we presented it.
K: When you are doing something like this, it sounds like you are tweaking your act constantly. Is there any way to say how long it takes you to get your performance down for this show?
M: Very good question. Gees, not to age us, but we have been training for a really long time. And throughout the years, you pick up more skills and more tricks. You build up your repertoire, of more tricks and skills that you have, and when you do get a call to do a show and they present the music or concept, you have more of a pallet to choose from. So that’s one of the things we try to do, is make the number fit what they are looking for. And luckily, because we have been in this business a long time, we have plenty to choose from.
B: It’s always a question that people want to know; like how long does it take to train to do this, or how long is the rehearsal process. It’s kind of a difficult thing to put a timeframe on, as Mark was saying, because we’ve been doing this for over ten years. So Basically the act, for ten years, has been growing. And just getting better and better every year. We’ll maybe take out a trick, or change tricks, and we have so many that we can pull from instead of when we first began – and we had five tricks. Before, if they wanted something else, well – we had those five tricks.
M: We could rearrange the five in a different order, but that was it.
B: Now, we have so many to pull from, that we can do so much.
M: And when we hear the music, and the concept that they ask us to create, we automatically start thinking, “This trick would be great here. Then it could flow into this one.” And that is kind of how now-a-days, we create the tricks.
K: For this show, explain to me a little bit about it and the role that you both play.
M: As it’s called “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” it’s really a celebration of this time of year. We all start off as sort of ornamental figures that get awoken at the beginning of the show – like we’ve all been asleep. It’s like, what if you could turn the lights on and catch the ornaments when you’re not around? We all play thee different characters throughout. I’m actually the baker in the first half of the show, and Becky is Mrs. Claus in the first half. There are all these different acts – four different ariel acts, hand balancers, jugglers, contortionists, singers, roller-skaters. Literally, they pull from all across the world and bring the best acts over here; from Russia, to Europe, to America, Canada, China. From all over.
You are going to hear really good holiday music. There are wonderful singers, and you’re going to see amazing acrobatic feats that are ‘Cirque’ and the circus now-a-days. It really is for the entire family, and that’s what is really neat. Becky, at one point, actually gets to be in the audience for a short time. She gets to see these children’s faces, and that’s really one of the neatest things.
B: Yeah, they are just so excited. And it’s such a spectacle for the kids. The bright colors, and the music; the costumes are incredible. The rhinestones alone that are on the costumes are amazing. And the whole setting – there is a huge tree, and thirty-foot-tall towering soldiers. It’s just an incredible spectacle, and to see their faces. They are so amazed, and so excited. As an entertainer, it’s exactly why you do this. To bring joy to people, and to look out at the audience and see how much fun they are having watching us. It’s incredible.
K: I bet. Tell me a little bit about your act as the Ariel Angels.
M: We are the very final act. I think, not even talking about us as much, we do an act with what we call “silks.” People also call them chiffon material, tissue. It’s the material that we hang off of, and wrap in and get flown above. We carry each other, and pick each other up and fly around the stage. I think one of the neatest things is during our last trick, the entire cast comes on-stage. It gives it such a neat ending to the show.
B: It’s a really pretty picture.
M: There are all these costumes, again, and us doing our final trick. I think it’s one of the neatest things that we get to be a part of – kind of finishing off the show, if that makes sense.
K: I’ve seen acts that have used the silks before. How different do you think this act will be from some of the others out there?
B: We are fortunate that we had a coach in Vegas who had very unique tricks, and amazing ideas really. We learned from him, and followed in his footsteps in trying to find unique things. So we do a lot of tricks that you may not have seen before. It’s not so much the rolls and everything; it’s more the flying. And all of our tricks are duo tricks, so we’re always holding each other in one way or another.
K: From experience in the audience I think it’s one of the scariest, yet neatest, things to watch when someone is flying through the air without any supports. Do you have any sort of safety equipment?
B: We’re each others safety.
M: We’re definitely each other’s safety.
B: We get asked that question a lot. People ask, “Can’t they hook a wire to you?” Or, “can’t there be a net or something?” But because with the silk we’re wrapped in, we constantly come down to the ground and then back up. There obviously can’t be anything underneath us, and because we are spinning and moving constantly – you can’t have any kind of safety wire hooked up to you. It would actually end up getting wrapped around you and getting caught in the silk. It would actually be worse. It’s about lots and lots of strength training, to hold on and to be your own safety.
K: With all of the stunt work that you both do, and all the practice, are you passed the point where you get nervous or anxious?
M: That’s a good question. I think the best answer for that is focus. We respect everything so much – in stunt work and our act. As Becky was saying, there are times when I’m holding on to her and she’s not wrapped in at all. Then there’s times where she’s wrapped in and holding on to me – and I’m not wrapped in at all. So we really do trust each other, and we have the strength. Each performance, during each trick, it’s just a complete focus on what we’re doing. You never skip ahead. You never think of being done with that trick until you are on the ground. You have to be so precise, and we respect it so much that you have to be in the moment and focused on what you are doing. And to be honest, when you go back to stunt work it’s the exact same thing. You could have done a high fall a hundred times before, but that day when you are doing it you have to completely focus on what you’re doing – or something bad could go on.
B: I think with most performers, there is probably a little bit of nerves there.
M: It’s good.
B: Yeah, it’s a good thing to feel that. Because like he said, there is risk involved. So it’s good to understand that and know that. And be able to just focus on what you need to do. It’s when you get lackadaisical that things go wrong. It’s when you take it for granted and say, “I know how to do this,” and start thinking about your grocery list instead of what you should be focusing on.
M: And you know, we have so many acts in the show. I would say the same goes for any of the acts – especially the ones who have more than one person. You know if you are doing a solo act, all you have to do is rely on yourself. When you are doing a dual act, or like the Ethiopians who have four people involved in their act – it’s not just you. You have to focus so much to make sure you’re there for that other person. I think a little nerves are good.
K: What is your training routine like on your off days, and just keeping yourselves in shape?
M: We go to the gym five days a week when we aren’t touring. That’s just to stay in good shape; we stretch, we do strength training. Luckily we have a rig in our back yard, so we can hook our silks up and work on new tricks any time we want. We didn’t always have that; earlier on it was more difficult to find a place to try new tricks. But we definitely have a place now, which is nice, and whenever we get a call for a job we can work out the routine at home. But yeah, keeping in shape is vitally important.
K: In your careers, it doesn’t seem like you ever can really take off. It’s your career, and not like you are just trying to get in “swimsuit” shape.
M: Last year, I think after the tour, we went to Becky’s mom and told her, “OK. We’re going to celebrate Christmas, and were not going to think of anything. Give us all the goodies.” And for three or four days, we were at Becky’s mom’s place and she baked all the good Christmas cookies, and carmel corn. We just pigged out and had fun – but after that short time, it was back to business.
K: Well, all that hard work really pays off. I’m really looking forward to seeing the show and seeing you both perform when you come to St. Louis.
M: Well, we are looking forward to coming to St. Louis – that’s for darn sure.
For more information about Marque and Becky Ohmes, visit their website at bam-productions.com.
About “Cirque Dreams Holidaze”
Created and directed by Neil Goldberg, CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE is an original new musical extravaganza filled with spectacle, imagination and whimsical dreams. Ornaments come to life as costumed characters and perform astonishing feats that celebrate the holiday season and showcase pageantry, ingenuity and breathtaking artistry. An international cast of acrobats, aerialists, singers, dancers and musicians fill this Cirque Dream on stage, in the air and while dangling from a 24 foot tall magical tree.
Add to that the pomp, cirque-umstance and amazement of gingerbread men flipping through the air, toy soldiers skillfully marching on thin wires, snowmen daringly balancing, icemen sculpting powerfully, penguins spinning, puppets caroling and reindeer soaring high above a landscape of holiday wonderment and you will see why CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE makes the perfect gift of entertainment. With over 100 dazzling costumes, an original musical score and some holiday favorites, CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE will have audiences of all ages mesmerized with its memorable tribute to the holiday season.