Acrobatic wunderkind leaps at a chance to revisit her mentor

ASU gymnast shows off her ‘superhuman’ abilities.

SPECIAL REPORT BY M.V. MOORHEAD PHOTOGRAPHY BY BILLY HARDIMAN

‘THEY FLOAT THROUGH THE AIR WITH THE GREATEST OF EASE . . . The daring young women on the flying trapeze’

It can be difficult, watching a performance like this, to remember that the people up there are ordinary human beings with offstage lives.

Their acrobatic and athletic feats in the Cirque du Soleil franchise’s various shows seem so ridiculously superhuman that they can come across like some other, higher order of human, some Nietzschean upgrade to Homo sapiens.

The idea of these people having families and hometowns and teachers seems almost impertinent. Yet one of the cast members of Amaluna, the Cirque du Soleil show playing at State Farm Stadium through April 14, recently got to visit a mentor from earlier in her life, here in Tempe at ASU.

Alix Croop, who plays one of the acrobatic Amazons in this Cirque du Soleil spin on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, stopped by to check out the ASU Women’s Gymnastics team compete.

Croop was reunited with her former coach, Jessica Santos

She was also able to catch up with her former coach at Pitt, Jessica Santos, now the associate head coach of ASU’s gymnastics team.

“I was a gymnast since I was five,” recalls Croop. “I went to the University of Pittsburgh on a scholarship. I majored in Psychology.” She also was a top member of Pitt’s gymnastic team, partly under the tutelage of assistant coach Jessica Santos.

After Pitt, Croop went on to earn her Master’s in Sports and Exercise Psychology from Chatham University. She had also sent an audition video to Cirque du Soleil, and was both thrilled and disappointed when she heard back.

Alix Croop signs autographs for young admirers. 

“I had a really good internship,” says Croop. “And I’m one of those people who, if I start something, I really want to finish it. I had to sort of ask them, ‘can you not call me until August of 2011?’ I had them in my cell phone as ‘CIRQUE,’ and it was really exciting every time that came up.” The master’s degree duly obtained, Croop was at last able to run away and join the circus.

She accepted a position with “Cirque,” appearing in the (now closed) Las Vegas show Viva Elvis, and then in the touring company of Corteo.

Although working for the company has given Croop the opportunity to travel and perform all over the world, she seemed particularly delighted by her stop in the Valley, as it gave her the chance to reconnect with Santos.

Performers from Cirque du Soleil were on hand for gymnastics competition at ASU. 

“It’s so cool,” says Croop. “I’m so excited for her to see a show.”

It was also gratifying to learn that Croop had essentially the same response that I did to the daunting prospect of joining the cast of Cirque du Soleil; it looked superhuman to her too.

“The first time I saw it, I thought, how can I do something in that show?” she says.

“I think everybody has that reaction. But then you do the training, and you become one of those people.”

Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna plays through April 14 at State Farm Stadium, 1 Cardinals Drive in Glendale. Tickets start at $48. Go to cirquedusoleil.com or call 602-379- 0102 for tickets and details.

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