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Philipp Siegrist: a Swiss artist on tour with the Cirque du Soleil

Philipp Siegrist showed off his skills on the rings in the Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson show, which was performed at venues including Madison Square Garden in New York. Now the next show is set to launch in Montreal. In this portrait, the artist and Helvetia customer explains how he made the journey from a sports hall in Wettingen to the grandest of stages.

16 December 2016, text: Isabella Awad, photos: Dan Cermak

Philipp Siegrist shows off his skills on the rings, an act that formed part of the Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson show.
Philipp Siegrist showed off his skills on the rings in the Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson show.

His siblings were both members of the gymnastics club, so it was only natural that he would join too. The trainer said he was still too young at four and a half, but changed his mind after a trial session. Philipp Siegrist would train in the gym twice a week. “The sports hall at STV Wettingen was my second home”, he says nostalgically. Becoming a professional sportsperson was not an option back then, however, and he completed an apprenticeship as a car mechanic. Yet gymnastics remained his passion and makes him happy to this day.

The hunt for talent

In November 2010 he was discovered by talent scouts from the Cirque du Soleil, who were looking for still rings performers for their Michael Jackson tour. Philipp Siegrist created an application dossier, sent in videos – and it worked: after five and a half months of preparation in Montreal at the Cirque du Soleil’s headquarters, he spent a year touring the world with the programme. “On the Jackson tour we had audiences of up to 18,000 in the tent every night – I love that”, says the artist.

Back in Switzerland

His last show was on 2 September 2012 in Mexico. Philipp Siegrist came back to Switzerland and retrained as a fitness instructor. In February 2016 he received an e-mail asking if he would be interested in performing in a new show. “I had just started a new job in a fitness centre. Thank goodness my boss understood that I couldn’t miss out on this opportunity.”

A banana to calm the nerves

Before every performance, it’s important to build concentration: “I like to eat a banana at that point. That way, I know I have consumed enough carbohydrate and can complete my performance. Then I slip on the gymnastics gloves and dip my hands in the magnesium – and my heartbeat slows down a bit.” When he’s performing on the rings, then he forgets everything around him, he says. At the Cirque du Soleil safety is of primary importance, but safety equipment is rarely used during the shows. It takes the impact out of the show, says Philipp Siegrist. “If the training and the materials are right, then everything is OK.”

New York is like nowhere else

All the travel has also broadened his horizons, says Philipp Siegrist. Whilst in Montreal in 2011 he met Roger Federer, of whom he has now become a huge fan. Those sorts of moments are unforgettable. Which city impressed him the most? “New York. There you are on the stage in the empty Madison Square Garden imagining all the people who have stood on that stage before you. It’s in those unreal moments that I always think: what on earth is Philipp from Wettingen doing here?”

Philipp Siegrist

Philipp Siegrist

Philipp Siegrist will continue to report on his life as an artist on tour and on the new Cirque du Soleil show in the Helvetia Blog.

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