Sky’s The Limit
How do you keep your balance when rebounding onto a 4-inch wide bar? We find out from Naika Aymon about her mesmerising acrobatic skills and what life as a circus artist is really like
Naika Aymon was born in Haiti, but grew up in Switzerland when she was adopted at 18 months old. Aged three, her mother enrolled them into a parent-child circus class, and this is when her passion for circus began. Naika learnt her trade at one of the world’s best circus schools, and now aged 24, she tours around the world to perform her favourite disciplines including Chinese pole and Russian bar. For Naika, she loves the family aspect of a circus lifestyle and in addition to the support of her fellow artists, when she’s flying like a bird, she relies on the phrase, ‘fake it until you make it,’ and this is what gets her through her breathtaking acts.
Glorious: You trained at the National Circus School of Montreal. What was this experience like and tell us about the current circus community?
Naika Aymon: It was always my dream to attend the National Circus School in Montreal, as a lot of artists that I admire had studied there. It involved many hours of high level training. You specialise in one or two disciplines but in addition have classes in theatre, singing, dance, acrobatics, juggling, balancing etc etc. I benefited from a varied course, so today I have the opportunity to be a very versatile circus artist.
The circus community is a big family. Whilst studying, I had the chance to meet many people from all around the world, with whom I was able to grow and develop. You learn to discover yourselves as artists and get to know what you like. Four years of school in Montreal was one of the best experiences of my life, despite cold weather in winter!
Glorious: Who are the circus artists and people in your life that inspire you and why?
Naika Aymon: When I was a child, I trained with Estelle Borel. She is an artist who has had a big impact on my artistic and career choices and inspires me every day in the way she performs and thinks. Elia Aymon and I trained at the same circus school. She is very talented and a hard worker, so I have a lot of admiration for the career that she has carved for herself. Alex Royer is a Russian bar acrobat, who I discovered when she performed on France Got Talent. At that time I didn’t know much about this circus discipline, but when I saw Alex on the bar, she was so elegant and her movement was impressive. Her grace and beauty touched me and I knew immediately that this was the discipline I wanted to excel in; Carole Desmers is a former flyer from my partner group. I admire her because technically she is just incredible, and because of her I can say to myself that anything is possible. If I lose motivation I watch videos of Carole and it pushes me to surpass myself.
Glorious: Do you travel the world to perform with a band? Describe a typical week in your life.
Naika Aymon: This year I began a tour of Spain and every week we change cities and work in a new theatre. It’s great to be able to travel so much and discover a country and its people, as each city is very different. Monday we travel and discover our accommodation, Tuesday is a day off, Wednesday evening we start the light rehearsals and placements in the new theatre, Thursday morning is the press show, Thursday evening is the premiere and until Sunday we have 2 or 3 shows per day.
Glorious: What is your favourite signature act and the craziest thing you have done as an artist?
Naika Aymon: My favourite signature act is with the Chinese pole and a big white mannequin. It’s about intersectionality and is such a personal act. The craziest thing I’ve done is the triple back on the Russian bar. It’s one of my most difficult moves at the moment, although I’m sure there are more to come!
Glorious: Are you continually working on new routines to keep your performances fresh for live events and social media?
Naika Aymon: Unfortunately not at the moment, as we don’t have the time or space to train, but when we do, yes, we try to maintain the technique and appearance for new and interesting ideas.
Glorious: Your passion is the Chinese pole and Russian bar. Why do you prefer these two disciplines and what is required in terms of technique and personality to perform at the highest level?
Naika Aymon: Chinese pole is a discipline where I work alone, I can really explore my artistic side in-depth without having to think about my partners or anything else. I can develop my own ideas, my own sequences, and my own technique, then move as I want without any restrictions. I can also develop my upper body strength, which is good because when you work with the bar, you mainly use your legs. The Russian bar is a partner discipline, so we are all dependent on each other, which means less freedom and solitude. We support each other and my partners always try to push me beyond my limits. What I like about the Russian bar is being in the air, feeling the wind through my ears and hair, I fly like a bird. It’s a mixture of banquine, hand-to-hand, trampoline and beam – actually everything I like.
Glorious: Have you had any scary moments during training or at live events? How do you cope with fear, you must trust yourself and your fellow circus artists implicitly?
Naika Aymon: The first time I had to do the triple salto during training, my legs were shaking. I hadn’t slept all night and I could hardly breathe because I was so stressed. It’s a movement that requires a lot of technique and precision and I didn’t want to miss out and risk getting hurt. In those moments I just let my mind go blank, I don’t think about anything. I know that whatever happens, I’m ready to do this move even if I’m afraid. There’s one phrase that I always say to myself, ‘fake it until you make it,’ and it works for me. I realise that I am the only person who sets limits for myself and that sky’s the limit. It’s all in your head, for me the Russian bar is 40% physical and 60% mental.
Glorious: Aside from the circus, do you have other hobbies, have an interest in or play other sports?
Naika Aymon: When I was in Montreal I started to model for photographers and a makeup school. I love posing in front of the camera, I feel very comfortable. I also love urban dance, contemporary dance and heels. Dance has always been a part of my life and I love to integrate it into my circus acts. Recently I started street workout, it’s a hobby that is complementary to my circus practice and helps me to challenge myself physically and mentally. In winter I love to snowboard because I live in the Alps and there are great ski resorts just 10 minutes from my home.
Glorious: You’ve had a passion for the circus your whole life, and this seems usual for many artists, but what advice would you give to a young woman that is tempted to pursue a career in the circus, why do you recommend it?
Naika Aymon: Follow your dreams and work hard for what you really want. The secret is that there is no secret. In the circus you have to work hard, have discipline and be open-minded. The great thing about the circus is that there are so many ways to perform; in cabaret, traditional circus, cruising, contemporary circus, theatre, freelance, street. It’s so varied that there’s something for everyone. Through the circus I have learnt to discover myself and it is a way for me to express what I feel, think, and I can also convey messages with strong and impactful words.
Glorious: If you could invite four influential women to dinner, who would they be and why?
Naika Aymon: Rihanna, as she is a big artist, talented, super creative, a businesswoman – a definite role model for me; Circus artist Erika Lemay, who has created an inspirational empire and a brand; Oprah Winfrey, as she is a real Swiss army knife and a very committed woman who knew how to climb the ladder to get to the top; Serena Williams is a sportswoman that I admire, as she inspires respect and courage and has pushed the limits of her sport.