By MIKE CHAIKEN
Mustafa Danguir has been walking the high wire for over two decades.
But this performer for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey does not take any chances before he steps out into the arena with the other members of the Danguir Troupe- Anna Lebedeva, Achraf Elkati, and Mohamed Azzouz.
In a phone interview, Mustafa explained he and the troupe have a routine they follow each night to ensure that they get the act right and to ensure they are all safe.
The Danguir Troupe performs as part of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents “Circus Xtreme” at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport from Oct. 20 to 23.
Mustafa explained, before showtime, the troupe members practice on a low-wire, one-feet off the ground, backstage. The idea is to repeat the actions they intend to perform on the high wire, without tiring themselves out, until the motions become second nature for their muscles.
“Your body knows what to do,” said Mustafa.
The high wire also requires mental preparation before the performance, said Mustafa. While the troupe members are backstage working the physical motions of the performance, they also are honing their concentration so they are able to focus on their actions and not the distraction of thousands of people and the bright lights and noise.
In time, said Mustafa, “your mind and body come together” before the troupe is called out to the high wire.
Besides the pre-show preparations for the high wire performers, explained Mustafa, there are preparations that are crafted over time.
For instance, Mustafa said, the troupe members must build up trust for one another. Trust is key among the performers as they walk the high wire, clinging to each other, or leaping upon each other’s shoulders high above the crowd, said Mustafa. And this trust is built over many hours of practice.
Mustafa said a high wire performer has to learn not to think about him or herself but for their partners. “You have to trust your partner every second you’re up there,” said Mustafa.
There also is physical training that must be undertaken as a high wire performer, explained Mustafa. “You must keep in shape all the time. Think of the strength it takes to jump from shoulder to shoulder above the crowd, he said. “Day by day, week by week, month by month,” you work to get into physical shape, said Mustafa. That way you can “do something amazing without even thinking.”
Mustafa first entered the world of circuses when he was 14. At that age, he was invited to study at a circus school in Spain. As a performer, he said, he initially tried and performed in many different specialties such as acrobatics, juggling, and the trapeze.
But, when he first tried to walk the high wire, Mustafa said he realized that would be his skill.
Mustafa said the high wire was exciting. “It was really dangerous and that’s what I liked,” he said.
Plus, Mustafa said, “It’s about the excitement of doing something other people don’t,” said Mustafa.
The first time he ever stepped out on to the high wire before an audience, “I was so scared (beforehand),” said Mustafa.
“But when the lights go on,” said Mustafa, “you forget about being scared.”
“You enjoy yourself and you enjoy other people enjoying what you’re doing,” said Mustafa.
If a young person asked for advice on becoming a high wire performer such as himself, Mustafa said, “You have to go to school.”
Then, Mustafa said, he will stress the importance of practice. Mustafa said a budding performer shouldn’t expect to step up on the high wire within weeks of making the determination that this is a career for them.
“You need six years, minimum, of practice,” said Mustafa.
“I’ve been doing it for 26 years and I’m always learning,” said Mustafa. And practice is important—not only for the joy of the audience— because “you’re playing with your life and you’re playing with the lives of you’re your partners,”
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents “Circus Xtreme” comes to the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport Thursday, Oct. 20 at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 22 at 1 and 5 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 23 at 1 and 5 p.m.
Tickets start at $10.
For more information, call 1-800-745-3000 or go to Ticketmaster.com