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No Days Off for Cirque du Soleil's Mark Ward

John Richards, Special to The Informer | 7/24/2013, 12:16 p.m.

WI: Before joining Cirque in 1993, you performed with several dance groups, including Chicago City Ballet, the Ballet Chicago, and the Dance Theater of Harlem. How did your previous experiences prepare you for your time with Cirque?

MW: Well, I left two weeks after I graduated high school. I went straight to New York. I started training at the School of American Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem and I got a job 6 months later. I've danced in many companies, not just those three companies you mentioned, but all over the United States and abroad. I did enjoy that time and it was great. But like I said, I trained for many other things — singing, acting, dancing, acrobatics. But I was kind of limited in those other things. But when I joined Cirque du Soleil, it was amazing because I was able to do all of those things that I trained for in one company.

WI: In "Quidam" you play the principal character, John, who's basically the ring leader. What is your day to day preparation for this role?

MW: "Quidam" is actually my second show with Cirque du Soleil. My first show was "Mystère" in Las Vegas, where I was an original member. I did dance ball-walking, Japanese taiko drums, bungee and fast track. I mean, it was very, very, physically demanding. My role as the principal character here, it's not as physically demanding, but it is mentally demanding because I'm leading the whole show. I have four acts of my own — I have to always be on. I still train four times a week in the gym [and] I have extra rehearsals to stay in optimum shape.

I just celebrated my 20th year with the company. I completed 7,000 consecutive shows, I don't know how I did it, but thank God. I've done over 7,000 shows without ever missing a show in 20 years, so my health and my preparations are very, very important to me.

WI: 7,000 consecutive shows? Wow! Have you suffered any injuries in your career?

MW: Luckily again nothing where I couldn't continue to work through. Even in my career as a dancer and a gymnast, I broke my arm a couple of times as a teenager. You need to lay off then, but as a professional dancer, I actually only went on. I missed one performance when I sprained my ankle right before show. I was on stage warming up and I twisted my ankle. I've just been very blessed in that department, I get the sniffles every now and then but I've never had anything deter me from working.

WI: Okay, I'm still stuck on the 7,000 consecutive shows [Laughs]. How do you explain your longevity and dedication? You're like you're like the Cal Ripken of Cirque du Soleil.

MW: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah, I've heard that, that's quite the honor. But like I said, I don't really know how it happened. I just, you know, I have a very high work ethic. I'm here to work. I don't believe in a little headache or a little bump or something like that. If I'm able to work, I'm gonna work. I know that's not for everyone, but I have been blessed with good health and everything and a lot of luck. It's just my stubborn, hard will, nothing's gonna stop me from working.

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