Changing course in 2011

As the first person to pass an audition with Cirque du Soleil as a Yo-Yo performer my heart swelled with a sense of accomplishment. “My parents worried about me for a long time. But finally , I had an achievement I could confidently share with them!” and I was proud of that.

However, a follow-up from Cirque said: “People who passed an audition are officially registered in headquarters’ artist database. We will contact to you again when we need you to join in the show.”

...What? Is there any difference between registering on the website like any one can do and my current status? Did passing an audition just mean “It is now a little bit easier for the casting team to find you?” Actually, I had no contract with them, and couldn’t feel anything more substantial. On the other hand, I had passed the audition. I felt there was no way to get Cirque to notice me. I felt I was in a holding pattern.

Time flowed – soon it was 2010, then 2011. In March, the Great East Japan Earthquake had a severe impact on the domestic entertainment market. Not only was I no closer to Cirque, even the opportunities to work as a performer were shrinking.

Although I felt desperate, I knew things would never improve if I just stayed at home. So I said to myself: “OK then, I'll make this a year of practice. As long as the chance of being invited to join Cirque still exists, I’ll prepare an act that won’t embarrass Cirque du Soleil’s first Yo-Yo artist.”

First, I borrowed a rehearsal studio to practice performing on a big stage. Because I didn’t have much money, it was difficult for me to find a large studio at the time. However, I cut costs by using a studio from midnight to 6:00am.

I also asked a lathe engineer to restart work on my new Yo-Yo which had stopped at the prototype stage. I had calculated the ideal size for a performance Yo-Yo, but the prototype made of aluminum was ridiculously heavy, and the glove protecting my hand melted in 5 seconds from the friction between string and glove.

So I collaborated with Kikusui Forging Company to make a Yo-Yo out of magnesium, which is lighter than aluminum, though still heavier than a normal Yo-Yo. Somehow I could handle this amazingly big Yo-Yo. “If I train a lot, it might be possible to use in the show.”

At the same time, I asked composer Hideyuki Fukasawa to create special music for my performance.Even though it was an individual request and he had a busy schedule, his response was polite and serious, and I am still really grateful to him. So I had a great practice environment, exclusive Yo-Yo, and special music - everything I needed came together.

With the support of many people and repeated after-midnight practices, I finally completed my “Yo-Yo Samurai” act at the end of 2011.

This act, created for Cirque du Soleil, would get its debut in an unexpected way.