Zhang Qi joined an acrobatics troupe at the age where most children are struggling to pick up simple mathematics.
Twenty years later, she's still with the Anhui Acrobatic Troupe, who are the performers for the "Cirque D'Or" tour stopping in Peoria this Friday.
Zhang, who goes by Kiki, performs in a variety of different acts throughout the show, but her specialty is as an aerialist in the silk duet routine that finds her spinning and whirring while suspended in the air and clutched to a rope of silk.
Before her appearance in Peoria with "Cirque D'Or" we asked about her backstory and what goes into her performances.
Q: When did you know you had the skills to become an aerialist?
A: I joined the Anhui Acrobatic Troupe when I was 7 years old. I am now 27. When I joined the troupe, I began learning many new routines and I have been a silk aerialist now for 10 years.
Q: What is the most difficult aspect of the silk duet performance?
A: It has taken many years of practice to perfect this routine. It requires a lot of strength, discipline, focus and commitment. I enjoy performing this act each night for our audience!
Q: Do you have any superstitions or routines before performing?
A: No superstitions. All of us warm up before each show and this helps us keep our muscles and bodies ready for showtime.
Q: If you weren't an aerialist, what would you be?
A: I have been trained to do many acts in our show. Most of us can do several different routines because we have learned them all at such a young age. I am also featured in an act called "Diabolo" and this is a very fun routine with a Chinese yo-yo.
Q: Is physical strength the most important aspect of being an aerialist? Or is it something else like mental courage or balance?
A: All of the above! Our work requires extreme focus because it's very dangerous. We strive to do our best in each show and I believe everyone will think Silk Duet and all of our acts are very beautifully done. All of us are looking forward to performing in Peoria and I cannot wait to meet each of you.
Thomas Bruch can be reached at 686-3262 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasBruch.