Finding Your Free With Michelle Wuthrich
By Anna Robb
What do you do when you have one of the most coveted jobs in the world on the newest show in town. You have the money, the skills, the role that thousands of other performers would kill for and yet, you are standing in the spotlight and you realize that something is missing.
This happened to Michelle Wuthrich, a talented young acrobat when she was brought into the creation of Volta by Cirque du Soleil. Michelle, even at her young age has performed across the world with shows such as The House of Dancing Water, Cavalia, and Toruk. At the beginning of 2017, Michelle was flown to Montreal to participate in the latest creation of the new Cirque du Soleil production, Volta where ironically, the show’s intended message was “Find Your Free.”
But Volta was not Michelle’s kind of free.
I was able to catch up with Michelle over a Skype conversation between Germany and Hong Kong to discuss the changes in her life in the last few years and where her focus is now.
Through her performance career, Michelle has enjoyed the creation process and the challenges that come with creating new content and new tricks, but as soon as the show opened her schedule was on repeat, day in and day out, she felt unmotivated and unchallenged. This led to Michelle adopting a lifestyle that was not healthy and she was not happy. Michelle couldn’t figure out why? She told me her thoughts at the time:
“I was in this amazing place working in Macau, I had more money than I knew what to do with it. It was the high life. I could sit at the Hard Rock Hotel pool and drink cocktails, I could fly to any part of the world I desired. Why was I not happy? On a soul level, I was not happy.”
Michelle moved on from The House of Dancing Water to the Cavalia tour to see if things would improve. There, Michelle was taken under the wing of the Artistic Director. He saw that Michelle was a little lost and encouraged her to discover more about who she was and what she wanted. When Michelle left Cavalia, she returned home to Australia where she decided to undertake a psychology degree. When I questioned her motivation behind beginning such a degree by distance education, Michelle explained: “I wanted to understand myself better.”
Throughout the creation of Toruk, her next show, Michelle studied psychology. During our conversation, she reflected on being immersed in her computer backstage and lost in a world of education. When she would be called to the stage to create something and perform, she longed to get back to her computer and continue her work in the world that she had created for herself. Toruk opened and it was back to a repetitive daily schedule for Michelle, touring, performing, and covering herself in blue makeup every night. Michelle spent a year and two months on Toruk, before Cirque Du Soleil offered her a place on the latest creation of Volta. Normally, this would be a performers dream, to be offered a position on every new show that Cirque Du Soleil was creating. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance? Michelle, however, felt otherwise.
Cirque du Soleil had her costume measurements from Toruk and had already cast her as the “greys”, characters dressed all in grey, addicted to their cell phones, numb. The other group in the show were called the “free spirits,” colourful, fulfilled, and free. Michelle arrived in Montreal and in a few short weeks, she was standing on stage in her “grey” costume during the costume presentation for the creative team. The grey costume, a representation of something larger going on in Michelle life, more than simply an outfit for a show. Something was telling her “You don’t belong here. Do you really want to be here for two years?”
Michelle went home and called her Dad to get advice on what to do.
Michelle’s father said, “Just be honest”.
Michelle’s honesty was to ask to leave the show and find her own kind of free.
Michelle sent all her stuff back to Australia except her backpack and traveled to Guatemala. Michelle’s plan was to start there and for a year, go where the wind took her. But she never left Guatemala. Falling in love with the country, she plans to work on building an artist’s residency in the area. Inspired by a movement called Momentum Collective in Nicaragua, Michelle wants to elicit social change. She wants to work with kids. She wants to bring internationals and locals together in Guatemala.
Michelle knows she hasn’t figured it all out and isn’t beating herself up by not having an exact plan. Although she has the ability and talent, working in the professional performance world was not the path for her. She is happier and more fulfilled by following her intuition, participating in collective arts programs and sharing her skills with a local community. She is finding her free.
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