Gymnast has aspirations to join circus

BY NICK GANS | MARCH 24, 2010 7:30 AM

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For some, finding a job after college is like a circus.

Iowa senior gymnast Reid Urbain hopes to join one.

After a career as one of the best collegiate gymnasts, he plans to take his talent from the gymnasium mat to the stadiums of Cirque du Soleil.

“Looking around for jobs and realizing that I don’t want to be done with gymnastics, I looked for a way to continue it,” Urbain said.

After seeing the Mystere show in Las Vegas, Urbain’s aspirations took a change.

“[Cirque du Soleil] did gymnastics. And I did gymnastics, so I put two and two together and thought it’d be fun,” the Fort Atkinson, Wis., native said. “I thought I’d give it a try.”

Helping Urbain prepare for Cirque du Soleil is a former Iowa women’s gymnast and member of a Cirque du Soleil act, Brandi Loffer.

Loffer’s firsthand knowledge has been priceless, Urbain said. With her help, he has a better understanding of why he could qualify.

Urbain ranks 15th nationally in the floor exercise and 34th in rings, and the physical requirements for those events will hopefully transfer over as an acrobatic gymnast for Cirque du Soleil, he said.

His floor exercise routine has taught him how to tumble and move in rhythm, just as acrobatic gymnasts do, while rings has developed the strength needed to throw other performers on stage.

The Cirque du Soleil cast includes musicians and singers, two of Urbain’s traits as well. He has sung numerous national anthems at Hawkeye sporting events, and he plays the violin, too.

“If I can sell the Cirque du Soleil at the point where I can do gymnastics, sing, and play violin, I think I have a great shot,” Urbain said.

He is not the only one who likes his chances.

“If you have good basics in [gymnastics], a good work ethic, and you love to perform, you have a shot,” Loffer said. “I think Reid has an excellent shot because of that.”

Iowa head coach Tom Dunn said, “Reid’s biggest strength is that he works hard. He doesn’t miss practice, and he’s always in good spirits no matter his performance. He will do well no matter his choice [of profession]”

Performing in front of an audience is something Urbain has done for more than 19 years, and as long as injuries don’t stop him, he doesn’t know when he will stop.

“As long as my body holds up, I’d love to do the Cirque du Soleil as long as possible. Not only is it a great opportunity and a lot of fun but the benefits are good.”

Even if Urbain doesn’t make the cut, he has other plans after college. He said he would love to sing professionally or coach gymnastics.

But more school may be in his future. He has long aspired to attend medical school and become a sports physician.

Either way, he would still have the support from his friends and family, who tease Urbain about joining the circus.

“My parents get a joke out of it,” he said. “They said they send me off to college for four years, and then I’m running off to join the circus. But they are super excited, and they know that I love to perform. They wouldn’t want me to stop because the program told me to stop. They want me to stop when I’m ready to.”

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