We chat with one of Club Med‘s gentils organisateurs (just a fancy name for an employee), Inès Kwai-Pun, on what it is like to tour the world as a circus performer.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hong Kong is where I grew up, though I am half Mauritian. I suspect that’s where my love for working in sunlit tropical places comes from. I was never a sporty kid and much preferred reading, so I naturally took a path in English Literature and French.
Where are you now?
Right now I am in the brand-new Club Med Sanya on Hainan Island. The sand here is wonderfully soft and I get to work by the beach every day at the circus, where we teach slacklining, juggling, diabolo, aerial hoop and silks, and pretty soon flying trapeze. At night we perform in all sorts of shows for our guests.
How often are you traveling?
I get to travel once every six months because as a GO (gentil organisateur) for Club Med we never stay in the same resort, or village, as we call it. I spent last year in our five-trident Mauritian village La Plantation d’Albion as a landsports instructor doing everything from water aerobics to archery, and trained in my spare time for circus shows.
How did you become a circus performer?
At the age of 7 I saw Cirque du Soleil live in Hong Kong, and it was love at first sight. I tumbled around at home with my sister trying to do the same moves. My background in ballet helped, but I didn’t get serious about circus training until I joined an aerial hoop class at Pole Paradise Studio. I was hooked instantly. It was an amazing feeling knowing that practicing circus arts was not an unattainable thing.
Is it as dangerous as it looks?
They say every Circus GO will get hurt at least once in his or her career. So far that hasn’t happened to me yet except for a sore shoulder from pulling kids down from the Bungy Bounce, and big bruises from aerial hoops.
So how do you go about learning new tricks?
Training for performances can be grueling, and for me it was a steep learning curve. In Mauritius, with zero background in circus, I was given five days to learn a routine on the triple trapeze — a static structure that can hold up to seven people.
There was a copious amount of sweat, tears and swearing before I got it smooth in the end. And then, the sense of satisfaction you get from success is indescribable. Six months later I was the main character in a show doing an aerial hoop solo and romantic double straps number — in a wig.
What’s your favorite city? Why?
Other than Hong Kong, which has the perfect distance between crazy nightlife and countryside? Brisbane. I am probably biased since this is where I spent more time than anywhere else. I have been to more exciting places (Austin!) but Brisbane is such a perfect harmony of city, nature, good food and multiculturalism.
What were the coolest things you did in Brisbane?
Rock climb by the city lights at the Kangaroo Point cliffs. The local climbing club was incredibly friendly and welcoming. Kayaking in the river that flows through the city was also fun. I would also recommend the numerous galleries, museums and cultural events they have all year round.
Do you ever miss home?
The model answer to this is yes, right?
The truth is, when you work 14 hours a day, the rest of your time will be spent sleeping and showering, not thinking. At the end of a long day I have no emotional energy to miss anything. It is an intense job, but I don’t think of it as a job. I live as a GO, so this is my life now. I am never bored enough to want to be somewhere else.
But sometimes I do get a craving for vegetarian dim sum and dooting my Octopus card on the MTR.
Does traveling prompt you to see the concept of home in a new way? Or Hong Kong in a different light
Funnily enough, the more people I meet, the less affinity I feel with the typical city dweller — the impatience, the consumerism, the optophonism. That’s a word I made up for staring at your phone.
When you work long hours in the sun and put energy into every smile and every dance, everything that is in your phone doesn’t seem so important anymore.