The daring double trapeze act, which is circus artist Hoang An’s lifelong passion, has turned him and his co-performer Thu Hiep into husband and wife.
Hoang An, 27, and Thu Hiep, 21, artists in the Ho Chi Minh City Circus, instantly fell in love when they began performing the exhilarating double trapeze act, called ‘Head-to-head swing’, three years ago.
They tied the knot last year.
Unlike other couples who tenderly cuddle each other, An and Hiep choose to express their love through breathtaking, forceful yet graceful trapeze moves, performed ten meters from the ground.
Their love story has garnered international accolades including the Silver Elephant at the International Young Circus Artist Festival in Russia, the Golden Horse at the Almaty International Circus Festival in Kazakhstan in 2012, and the silver medal at the Figueres International Circus Festival in Spain last month.
The duo is also Vietnam’s sole representative at the two-week international circus event currently being held in Mongolia.
Destiny and devotion
The head-to-head trapeze act seems predestined for An. As a student at the Vietnam Circus and Variety School, An was chosen to perform the act with one of his male classmates in 2003.
When he began working with the HCMC Circus Troupe, he performed it with a female colleague, which pocketed a bronze at the 2009 Indochinese Young Artists contest, before practicing it with Hiep.
Hiep, her elder sister, Thu Hien, and their youngest brother all carve out a successful career in circus performing.
Their father, who is a seafood trader and also a great circus fanatic, trained Hien and Hiep in the basics of acrobatics, contortion and rope walking by merely watching TV shows when the girls were only seven and four.
In her second year at the Vietnam Circus and Variety School, Hiep broke her arms twice while practicing an acrobatic maneuver. She quit school but was eventually encouraged by her teacher to resume her studies.
The most technically challenging part of the act is when An performs the handstand on the trapeze while holding Hiep below with one hand with no lifeline at all.
It’s a high-risk move as An’s head could easily slide out of the swing and plunge straight into the ground.
During the recent festival in Spain, when An and Hiep’s swing rope got stuck in another team’s, An’s head slid out of the swing. If he had not quickly grabbed onto the rope, the accident may have been fatal.
“It takes courage, agility and devotion to pursue this career,” An stressed.
Hiep, who is near-sighted, confided though she is in fact terrified of heights, she feels reassured in her husband’s hands.
An added that practicing between husband and wife is convenient, as they can freely debate and practice anytime, even during meals.
Since their double trapeze act, which is performed less frequently than single acts, won international acclaim, their financial conditions have improved. They are now hoping to buy their own house.
They are also looking to have a baby soon. As Hiep suffers from a curved spine due to the practice, she would have much difficulty conceiving when she grows older.
An, who also has problems with his cervical (neck), confided that applause from audiences and encouragement from their bosses have kept them loyal to the medically damaging ‘head-to-head’ trapeze act.