Eight-year-olds rarely dream of growing up to become a spider— but then again, Alanna Baker was no typical eight-year-old.
From a small village outside of London, Baker began training for acrobatic competitions at age five. She hadn’t even turned nine and she knew exactly what she wanted to do.
“Cirque du Soleil came to London. My family got tickets and I was so excited, and then so mesmerized,” reflects Baker. “I told them ‘I want to be in a show like this.’ They thought I was joking… but fifteen years later, here I am. They couldn’t be more proud.”
So much for running away
with the Circus
Baker admits her dream of joining Cirque was “a bit of a long shot” when she first brought it up, but she never treated the idea as if it was out of reach.
“I was training five days a week, but I knew what I wanted and my family was supportive,” explains Baker. “They kept saying, ‘you’ll get there, just keep training.’ And then I did. Dreams do come true. It just took a lot of hard work, commitment and dedication.”
And that’s not to mention a few sprains and a ton of natural talent. As a gymnast, Baker has been to the World Cup, toured internationally and won the European Championships twice. Still, she cites her parents as the biggest factor in her success:
“They were the most supportive,” she said passionately. “I couldn’t be more happy with what they did for me… driving me hours to training, giving me everything I needed to make that dream from 15-years-ago come true.”
That sense of trust established with her parents emboldened her ability to transition from an athlete competing in a solo sport to a performer who has worked with over 100 other performers for the past four years in Cirque Du Soleil’s touring circus production.
Baker agrees that it takes a special type of gymnast to work alongside a giant crew that makes each Cirque performance possible: “you have to have so much trust in your team members,” she added.
A little over four years ago, Baker took a leap of faith and attended a closed audition at her gym for Cirque Du Soleil and was asked to join the company shortly after. Before she took her current role as the Black Widow— a graceful, black spider. “Spiders are something you see everyday. I spent a long time researching the angular movements, looking at scientific videos on YouTube to observe the way they move. Their small movements are the most stunning— sometimes less is more. Especially when on stage, when I’m still and then suddenly move it catches the audience’s attention.”
Since joining the show four years ago, Baker and the 150+ person cast and crew have toured internationally, staying in cities for only a few nights.
“We’re like a big family,” said Baker. “Everyone has the same passion to be on stage and we do what we love every day. It’s always inspiring.”
Later this year, Baker will return to London, where her dreams first started. Only this time, she’ll finally be on stage.
Wednesday, May 31 through Sunday, June 4.
$36+. Times vary. For more information, see online.
The Huntington Center, 500 Jefferson Ave., 419-255-3300.