Nov. 15, 2019
Class of 2019: Kinesiology grad always wanted to join the circus
Most people only dream about running away and joining the circus but Alexander Seifert, a UCalgary kinesiology student graduating today, actually did it.
Over the past decade, the gymnast has juggled earning his Bachelor of Science degree with fulfilling the physical and creative demands of his working life as a travelling Cirque du Soleil performer.
You can’t do so without ambition and a stick-to-it-ness that Seifert, 29, has demonstrated since he was a four-year-old trying out jumps and backflips in Calgary on his family’s cushiony, 1980s-style black couch.
“My goal even when I was a kid was to be a sports medicine doctor or a physiotherapist, something that would be fun and related to sports,” he says. “I had a lot of energy, always jumping on the couch and my bed mattress, and I liked gymnastics, so my mom got me going to a gym club.”
Cirque du Soleil is a Canadian entertainment company and the largest theatrical producer in the world.
Trained gymnast makes all the right moves
Seifert currently stars as a member of the cast in the Cirque du Soleil show Alegria, performing in Gatineau, Que. and then Toronto. His specialty is tumbling and other gymnastic moves on the PowerTrac, a lengthy, narrow trampoline.
He’s an accomplished athlete and gymnast, having won three bronze medals as a member of the Canada National Team in world championship trampoline and tumbling, along with a gold team medal for double mini trampoline.
Perhaps his greatest balancing act, though, has been finding the time to do homework and classes toward earning his degree, while continuing to grow as a working Cirque Du Soleil performer.
“When I was doing what are called resident shows, where you are in a city where the show is staged, I would study in my town house or apartment, and do some classes online and some classes at a local university, University of Las Vegas, for example,” he says. “Then I’d be training and doing the shows, just making it all work.”
He’d fly into Calgary in the morning, write an exam at UCalgary, then fly out in the afternoon, back to wherever the show was being staged. He was averaging performing in eight to 10 shows a week, while still squeezing in his studies.
Attending circus as child led to dream job
It’s fitting that he is performing in the latest iteration of Alegria. When he was 11 years old, his mom took him to see the first version of the show at Stampede Park.
“We walked into the concession area and it was decorated with the theme of the show, there were birds and feathers and just this magical world that was opening up to me,” he says.
One thing at the show really impressed him — the PowerTrac, so much so that the experience helped to catapult him toward his dream job. When he and his mom left the show, he started doing cartwheels and backflips in the parking lot.
Seifert had already started earning his degree at UCalgary when in January 2012, Cirque made him an offer to become part of the troupe after he’d been spotted by a talent scout.
Now, he has come full circle, injecting his PowerTrac expertise into Alegria while working with a few of the performers that had wowed him when he saw the show 18 years ago in Calgary.
Cirque Du Soleil
Work ethic keeps athlete on track
Seifert’s sister, Kristina, knows what it takes to earn a kinesiology degree at UCalgary — she’s an alumna of the faculty (BSc'09) and is now a physical education teacher at St. Margaret, a Spanish bilingual school in Calgary.
“When Alex was called to work for Cirque, he accepted in a heartbeat,” she says. “This meant putting his degree on the back burner for a bit, but he slowly and steadily persevered. He is a professional and hard working on and off the mat.”
While he’s not planning to do any backflips when accepting his degree during convocation, Seifert is taking measured steps toward his future.
“It took me 10 years to get my degree, but now I have options with an education that can open doors whenever I finish my career with Cirque,” he says.