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TENSION THERAPY: Cirque Éloize brings circus fun to Wilson Center

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Vanessa Aviles performing Tension Tissu for ‘Nezha; The Pirate Child.’ Photo by Luis Luque




When circus performer Vanessa Aviles is in front of a crowd, she doesn’t feel fear. There are nerves, but above all Aviles is comforted.

“It’s definitely a therapy of mine,” Aviles says. “To perform on stage is very grounding to me, and it can reset my mind and my body. It’s very rewarding to see how people react when you perform onstage. It’s beautiful to have that connection, to be able to speak with what you’re doing, and to know it can or cannot be affecting people in the audience.”

Aviles is a performer for Cirque Éloize, a Montreal-based troupe that has been traveling the world since 1993. Cirque Éloize will perform one of its newest shows, “Hotel,” at the Wilson Center on March 18. The production is presented by Cape Fear Community College’s Humanities & Fine Arts Center.

“Hotel” combines the glitz and glam of a five-star hotel experience with live folk music and acrobatics. It’s appropriate for all ages.

Aviles discovered acrobatics at a mere 4 years old when her parents enrolled her in acrobatics classes. “I grew up in Las Vegas . . . seeing a lot of Cirque du Soleil shows,” Aviles says. “I also never really considered it to be a part of my future, so I fell in love with gymnastics. Then the circus fell into my life right after I graduated high school. I fell in love with the circus after that.”

After graduation Aviles was accepted into the National Circus School of Montreal, also known as École Nationale de Cirque (ENC), after a recommendation from her mentor and Cirque du Soleil performer Stephan Choiniere. While there, Aviles and her coaches came together to create an aerial silk technique called “Tension Tissu,” where four strands of tissue are anchored to the ground in the shape of a square. They are fixed to the ceiling to create both a pyramid of tissue and the titular “tension.”



Attending ENC put Aviles on the radar of companies like Cirque Éloize and Cirque du Soleil. When Cirque Éloize needed someone with an aptitude for aerial silks, Aviles’ specialty, she sent them her video. Today, she wows the audience with strength and grace, maneuvering the silk fabrics with every twirl, flip and drop. Her agility and finesse come through with every choreographed move.

“Personally, I definitely go for grace,” Aviles says, “and then the strength—from gymnastics. I think that gave me a good base with my strength, for my body and for my physical awareness. It’s also my personality to be graceful, so that part came more naturally to me.”

In Wilmington Aviles will perform her “Tension Tissu” technique, using four other performers’ bodies to anchor the silk strands to the ground. She also utilizes hula hoops and dances, performing with Éloize’s associate choreographer Caroline Torti. Plus, the multi-talented Aviles will play the trombone—something she learned especially for this show.

“In middle school, I played the flute, but that was my only experience with a musical instrument,” she details. “When I first tried the trombone, it was also my first brass instrument. . . . I really enjoyed the challenge, and I practiced a lot in the beginning.”

“Hotel” is Aviles’ second production as an official member of Cirque Éloize; her first was in “Nezha: The Pirate Child.” during the summer of 2019. This is her debut performance with Éloize in the U.S. and her first trip to the American Southeast.

“I’m very happy to be with Éloize working on this show,” Aviles says. “It’s pushing my artistic talent, and I’m very thankful for that growth. We have a great cast and we really get along with each other, which is fun because, when you’re on tour, you’re one big family. I’m just grateful to be experiencing what I’m experiencing in the show and just having this lifestyle for the first time.”

Cirque Éloize: Hotel
Rescheduled to April 15, 2021, 7:30 p.m.
The Wilson Center, 703 N. 3rd St.
Tickets: $34.44–$66.74
(910) 362-7999

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