Cirque du Soleil rope-jumper brings 'super spectacular' moves to PNC Arena

astewart@newsobserver.comJuly 4, 2013 

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    Want to go?

    When: July 10-14

    Where: PNC Arena, 1400 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh

    Cost: $27.30-$95

    Details: 1-800-745-3000; thepncarena.com

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    To see some of Adrienn Banhegyi’s mad hops, visit the online version of this story at newsobserver.com

Like hopscotch and hula hoops, jump rope is a staple of primary school entertainment. For Adrienn Banhegyi, that childhood pastime became a career.

Banhegyi, 29, is a performer touring the U.S. with Cirque du Soleil: Quidam, which comes to Raleigh’s PNC Arena July 10-14. As a “jump rope specialist,” Banhegyi is trained to perform dance and acrobatics while jumping rope to a steady rhythm.

Originally from Szombathely, Hungary, Banhegyi began skipping rope when she was 8 or 9 at the encouragement of her father. She quickly picked up the skills and won three World Championships and five European Championships. She also has two world records.

“The first big motivation for me was when we attended a competition, and there was an American team doing a performance, and they were doing all kinds of crazy stuff with the rope, and that’s when I had the feeling that this is something that I want to do in the future,” Banhegyi said in a slight accent. “After three or four years [of training], we were selected to be part of the Hungarian national team.”

After 15 years of competing and performing, Banhegyi joined the Cirque team in 2010.

Banhegyi, a soloist, is one of 45 performers in “Quidam,” a show about a girl who feels ignored by her parents and creates a make-believe world to seek entertainment. The cast is a hodgepodge of aerialists, hand balancers, jugglers and more from 19 different countries.

Everyone on the road is in charge of her own training, Banhegyi said. Primarily focusing on cardiovascular training, Banhegyi mostly exercises on the treadmill and elliptical machine, though she dabbles in the workouts of the other performers to mix things up.

“Most of us work out every day after the shows,” she said of her training regimen. “We save the energy for the performance and after the show we burn whatever is left.”

Cirque coaches give performers the freedom to add to or change the choreographed routine, which keeps it interesting for the performers and the audience, Banhegyi said. Right now, she is working on a new trick where she jumps rope while dribbling a soccer ball. Even this isn’t her most impressive stunt, though.

“My most impressive [trick] is all the releases where I let the handle go, spin the rope around and catch it again,” she said. “It requires concentration and very good timing.”

In addition to performing, Banhegyi is personal trainer and holds jump rope fitness workshops worldwide. She went to college in Hungary and holds degrees in physical education and English and American literature.

On YouTube, fans can view dozens of videos of Banhegyi skipping rope in bizarre and entertaining ways from completing three rope revolutions in a single hop (“consecutive triple unders”) to jumping rope while lying on her stomach.

With no set plans to retire, Banhegyi predicts she will perform with Cirque for another five or six years. After that, she said she would like to stay on as a coach and choreograph routines.

“When I kept practicing at college, nobody ever thought it was going to be possible to make a living out of skipping,” she said. “Once the people see it and once they realize it’s not the playground level anymore, it’s really professional, it’s super spectacular on stage, and then they change their opinion. It took me a long time to prove that.”

Stewart: 919-829-4568

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