Carlos Márcio Moreira is the real deal. At 18 years old, he made the critical decision to drop his original plans of attending a more traditional university to become an engineer so he could pursue his passion for acting and circus arts. Carlos subsequently became a Cirque du Soleil performer and renowned actor. He's appeared in numerous theatre performances, TV shows, commercials and most recently a music video by Blasterjaxx. Carlos' story of how he came into his own is fascinating and inspiring. I could have kept the interview going for hours, there was so much to take in. In the Summer of 2015, Bring the Gym to Me hired Carlos to teach Circus Arts to kids at a camp in Roslyn, Long Island. The campers fell in love with Carlos, and Carlos describes his experience teaching at the camp as the highlight of his summer and the reason he stayed in New York.
I grew up in Resende. It’s a small town 2 hours from Rio.
What was that like? What’s it like over there?
It’s a small town in a valley - surrounded by mountains.
Did you always know that you wanted to be a Circus Arts Performer?
No. I wanted to become an engineer or something like that. Or possibly work at the bank. At a certain point I wanted to be a math teacher. But I had a passion for theatre and that was bigger than anything else.
So how did you get into acting?
Well while I was still in high school, every Wednesday I would take the bus to go to a theatre workshop in Rio. That's where people in Brazil go to get into acting - Rio or St. Paulo - it's like NY and LA. Those workshops were a big deal for me. So when I was 18 and had graduated high school, one week after the workshop I didn’t come back and I decided that’s what I wanted to do with my life. It was pne of the best schools in Rio, many famous actors came out of there.
How did you find out about the theatre workshops?
I was passing in front of the theatre one day that was in my neighborhoood and I saw a sign about it.
What did your parents think about you going to acting (and then later circus) school?
They supported me, but they were also very worried. My mother kept asking me to come home. They weren't so aware of what I was doing there. They agreed to pay for my school if I also got a job. So I worked at a McDonalds type of place.
What do they do for a living?
My father owns a neighborhood bar. My mother is a housewife.
Did you work at the bar?
Yes I worked there as a teenager like 14-17 years old. Mostly helped by getting stuff in the market.
Did you think about becoming an actor at that time?
I was thinking more about engineering or possibly administration but the acting was there deep down.
When did you first discover your passion for acting?
The first time I felt the love of acting was when I was 16 years old and there was a National Theatre Festival in my hometown and we had to go watch the plays in my school. I don’t remember the name of the play but it was an amazing production and I remember that moment when I was in the audience watching the show. It was basically my first time watching theatre. And I felt something that I couldn’t describe, but something happened at that moment when I left the theatre, something happened to me. It wasn’t clear. I wasn’t aware of what was going on. I still thought I had to go to university and go into engineering or something but I wasn’t excited about that. Only when I started going to Rio for the theatre workshops that I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
What was the hardest part about acting school?
Music. Because I’m a horrible singer and it was really hard for me to act and sing.
Do you have any siblings?
A brother and a sister. I’m the youngest. My brother works with my father in a bar and my sister is an Education Coordinator at a school. She’s very intelligent and a big inspiration to me.
Are you close to them?
I've been living far away from everyone for so many years, I kind of got used to it but we love each other very much.
What does your family think of your career now?
They are very proud of me. It’s a big deal - It changed my parents lives for me to become a Cirque de Soleil member. Since they live in a small town so everybody knows and is familiar with Cirque du Soleil. People go to the bar and always talk about me so it’s a big deal for them. They get very emotional about it. Just remembering it now I get very emotional.
So what happened after acting school? How did your career begin?
Well I hadn't even finished acting school... after just one year of acting school, I landed my first part as a professional actor in a theatre performance of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. And then I kept getting hired for more acting jobs. So that's how my acting career began. The last play I performed was the 3 Musketeers. I did a small role in a Tele Novella (spanish soap opera). Which was a big deal - in Brazil, Tele Novella’s are very well respected/watched internationally. They always win Emmy’s.
And then where did Circus Arts come in?
Well 3 years into acting school, I heard someone talking about circus school and I always wanted to do something with my body because I had never done anything with my body before. I grew up kind of lazy. I was about to turn 21 and you could only get into the school if you were between the ages of 12-20 to get into the school. So I just made it. I did an audition and I got in. The training was very intense. It was 5 days a week for 4 years. That changed my life completely.
Did you have any prior experience with Circus Arts?
Nope. None. That was a big transformation in my life and in my body. And I was still doing acting on the side.
What is Circus School like? What kind of things do you learn?
Oh, everything. Tumbling, aerial arts, clowning, trapeze, hand balancing. They teach you all the techniques and then at the end you decide what you want to specialize in. I loved trapeze and hand balancing. It was very intense. But I loved it. It totally transformed me. I was paying attention to my body for the first time ever and doing things I would never guess I could do. Like hanging from my neck and hanging from my heels. The first day there were 40 students. Only 5 or 10 of those made it to graduation.
Did you ever do gymnastics as a kid?
No, I never did anything like that. I was really lazy. My high school really focused on sports but I was not into it at all. The only thing I did was this game - I don't know what it's called in english, but there's a pole in the middle and two people have to roll the ball to the middle. The ball was hanging by a rope on the top of the pole. I didn't like to play the game but I would be the one who would climb on the pole to put up the ball - so I guess that was my body was prepping for the circus.
Were most of the other students more advanced than you/more experienced with gymnastics
Yes. They were strong. It was very hard for me. I got a lot of pain. Especially back pain. I got health insurance!
Do they divide you up by body type?
Yea. Bigger people do more contortion. Tall and strong people are the "catchers". Small people (like me) are good for flying things like trapeze or anything else that's up in the air and involves people catching you.
Were you scared of heights or anything like that?
Yes, I was scared of heights. I still am, though not as much as I was before. But if I go to a balcony, I still feel something. There was a dream I had when I was 5-6 years old. A recurring dream. I was swinging on a swing and it was hanging from the clouds and when I got high enough, I would get goosebumps and I would wake up. And it’s so weird because then later I did trapeze. I love to be high - hanging from a trapeze but still I’m afraid.
How do you deal with your fear?
Repetition. Getting used to the thing that I fear. The first time I had to really deal with my fear was in the 3rd year of Circus school when I had to perform a certain show over and over again. The repetition helped me get over my fears. This allowed me to be freer with my movements. To act and be more artistic. I was able to incorporate my acting background into my trapeze.That's what made my trapeze act not typical.
Was there anyone in Circus school who got seriously hurt?
Yes. I remember when one of the girls in my school fell really badly. She fell during a performance. Some people from France were watching and she did a trapeze act and she put on the cable the wrong way and holding the ropes and she took her hands off the ropes like she was about to touch her feet but instead of touching her feet she was supposed to hold onto the bar but she missed the bar and fell to the floor. I had to leave. I can’t see things like that. I can’t see blood. I get very nervous. The ambulance came etc.
How high up was she?
She was maybe 28 feet up. It was crazy because the school didn’t want to do trapeze any more and that was the thing I was the best at and I talked to my coach and director and they made an exception for me and let me do my trapeze act and that’s what changed my life - that’s what Cirque de Soleil saw when they came in for auditions at the school (see below).
I have seen several really bad accidents and I don’t like it. This was one of the reasons I eventually wanted to leave Cirque du Soleil. Nothing I did was ever super dangerous, but still.. it's dangerous, especially when it's dark and you can't see much. I knew I was taking a risk every day and I didn't want to risk my career. It's funny, I'm a circus performer but I don't want to take risks. Maybe because I didn't grow up as a circus performer.
I would hang by my neck without warming up or stretching. And then when you hurt yourself you rethink how you think about it. I had marks on the back of my neck. I used to bleed.
How did you get to start working for Cirque du Soleil?
One month before graduation, Cirque du Soliel came in for auditions. And we all had to do a show for them and then a few people were selected (including me) to come back the next month for a show. I did a solo trapeze act.
In April 1998 they invited me to create an acrobatic character for a show in Orlando so I flew to Montreal to start the creation of the show. This took 6 months. And then we went to Orlando. I was a bit lost. I went from TV to doing Cirque de Soliel and I didn’t speak English or French very well. But eventually, about 2 weeks before the first performance, the first signs of my character started to appear - he was this guy who walked kind of funny, hung from doors. A little bit reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin. They named me "The Little Walker". He was a funny character. Kind of a clown.
So I was with Cirque du Soleil doing that same show for over 15 years. 10 shows a week. It drove me crazy because it’s too much to do the same thing all the time and I always had a desire to do something else/to do something new. It wasn’t easy to leave but I knew I really had to.
Did you travel a lot to perform?
There wasn't a lot of traveling. The show was a permanent show at Disney World. The only time I traveled with them was to do a performance on Good Morning America in honor of the 15th year anniversary of the show.
What did you want to do after Cirque du Soliel?
More acting, to be able to create new characters. To develop other sides of me. As an actor, I feel like I have to explore sides of me that I was not aware of.
So how did you finally get out?
Well, right before I left, I was invited to create 3 characters for Brazilian pop star Anitta for her first DVD in Brazil. So I flew out to Brazil and I did very different things than in Cirque de Soliel. So that was the start of branching out.
Do you have any specializations when it comes to Circus Arts?
Clowning, unicycle, trapeze, handbalancing and tumbling - those are all on my final certification.
Do you prefer doing more of the acrobatics or more clowning/acting?
I like combining them. I'm performing in an upcoming NY based web series called Home Cooked News. There's a clown scene where I’m hanging from a hook and saying my lines. There's a play in brazil where I had to do a fight that incorporated acrobatics. That’s when I feel completely actualized. 100% me. When I'm combining both skills.
Do you remember how you got connected to Bring the Gym to Me?
I was searching online for jobs to work as an acrobatic coach and a job came up - I don’t remember what. I didn't end up getting that one but I subscribed to the Bring the Gym to Me instructor mailings. After awhile, when I saw that there was nothing relevant for me coming up, I unsubscribed. And right after I did that, you sent me an email asking if I wasn't interested in the last job you had just posted about. I didn't even look at that email since I assumed I wouldn't be able to do it as I was just about to leave New York. Because of that job you mentioned, I ended up staying in New York
Oh yes, I remember that. It was really funny because I have quite a few Circus Arts instructors on my list but the reason why I thought of you is because you unsubscribed so your name came up in my inbox!
So funny. Meant to be!
So how was it working at that camp in Roslyn, NY?
Well I was really afraid when I found out how many kids there were going to be. I was like - I’m on my own and I don't know how to do this! As much as I wanted to plan, I felt like I couldn't plan too much because I need to get to know them. So it was more improvisation. So the first day I didn’t know what I was going to do so I just went in and got to know them and integrated all of experience and saw what happened. The fist day was the biggest challenge and then I figured out how it was going to work. They were different ages. So I wanted to make sure they could all do no matter how young or old they were I wanted all the kids to be able to participate, whether they were 5, or 9 or 12 years old.
I loved it though. You learn the most from your challenges. You learn from the kids as you are teaching them and then you keep growing as a coach from there. My goal was to plant seeds in their hearts so that when they grow up hopefully it will help them to choose a profession so that if they ever want to be a dancer, acrobat clown etc. they’d have some experience with it. It was very cool when the parents came to watch the presentation at the end. I didn’t know that was part of the program. So I was freaking out because I knew they would behave in a different way because the parents were watching and clapping for them. So that was a very rich experience and the relationships, the love, the hugs, their motivation. That smile on their faces, that’s what I look for as a coach.
What was something that you taught them that you were skeptical that they'd be able to do? Or that you were really inspired to see them accomplish?
The partner work. The first week, they could not do anything at all and then it was amazing to see how fast they were learning things and collaborating in partners. In the beginning i would spot them in handstands and then one day I told them that now they have to spot each other. And they did. That was cool. Seeing them spot one another in handstands. And working together in making pyramids. They didn’t know they were able and capable of doing that. They were surprised and I was surprised as well. Their relationship with each other helped them to succeed. When the parents came to perform I was not on stage. They were just spotting one another They were there by themselves.
Yea I remember one girl - the first few times we had class, she was like “What’s this?”. She would scoff me. She didn’t help and was constantly complaining. Very negative and not excited to be there. And towards the end she changed completely. She was really proud of what she could do. She saw herself and her friends doing things and she completely changed. I remember her face clearly - she went from scoffing to smiling and saying my name and thanking me so that was a big deal.
Do you have a teacher who was very influential to you?
Yes, my trapeze teacher in circus school. She was very influential for me. During my Cirque du Soleil audition, I fell and she was holding me and everyone was like "Get down! Get down!" I was still hanging from the cable but I wanted to get back up. The casting people from Cirque de Soleil were watching and my teacher just looked at me and didn’t say a word but she knew that I wanted to do it again and we knew each other. I knew what went wrong the first time, so I did it again and it was fine. That communication between me and her was very important for me to achieve that. The trust. She is everything to me.
Who do you admire the most?
A brazilian actress named Malu Mader. She’s my idol. I became an actor because of her. I loved watching her on TV. She came to Cirque de Soleil once as a fan and we became friends. She’s a huge star in Brazil she is the artist that I admire the most.
What do you admire about her?
Everything. I love watching her act. I like how she looks. I don't know how to explain it. She’s going to be in a Tele Novella soon and it’s the only show I’ll watch every single episode of. She knows that she’s my idol. She was in the audience and I saw her and during the trapeze act I had a flower and I gave her a flower and I wrote her a note that said come see me after the show and she came and gave me all her contact info and and we stayed friends. She has over 30 years of experience.
Do you have a training regime that you follow?
I do Ashtanga Yoga. It's a very good way to stay in shape. Because of the breathing and the strength and the flexibility involved. Especially now that I’m not at Cirque, so I have to do it on my own. When I was in Cirque I had those 10 shows a week that's 2 shows per day. That keeps you in shape. I also run outside. And bars - I hang from bars.
Do you train every day?
I’m supposed to do 5 days a week at least. I don’t always but I should. When I was teaching at the camp I would come early and warm up a bit on my own so I was improving my handstands etc.. it's very good to train every day.
Favorite yoga pose?
Handstand! Oh and also Wheel - when you stand and drop back into a wheel pose. It stretches my whole stomach.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start learning Circus Arts?
They should go to Circus School. Any Circus School or Circus classes that they can to discover their body and be aware of what their body is able to do.
Is there an age limit?
It's much easier to start when you are younger because your body grows into the acrobatic work. That wasn’t my case I was already grown up. It's much harder if you start late. Almost everyone says that Circus performers have short lives. But I want to go against that. In my first year at Cirque du Soleil I developed chronic neck arthritis and after 5 years I had shoulder surgeries and then I came back and my neck was really bad because it’s all connected. Eventually I did a special treatment and now I don’t feel pain anymore but I also I don’t hang by my neck anymore. I left without any injuries. I felt great. Some people can't work anymore after a certain point. I found ashtanga yoga helped me to keep my body in shape and avoid injuries. That was my preparation for shows etc. I get breath and air in my body and conscious of the air I have to breathe and everything i need to do to be safe on stage. People say that circus life is short but there are exceptions. And I want to be an exception. There are performers out there who are 80 years old.
What do you do now?
Now I'm in LA. Picking up different jobs. Mostly acting and not as much circus. There's a circus school here and I know the owner but I need to get in touch with him. I’m going to be in a play on Sunday in a small theatre in Hollywood called The Dark Side of the Moon (it's a tribute to Pink Floyd). No lines. All expressive movements. I've done some comic theatre. My most recent project was a music was Music video that came out I play one of the reporters and George Bush. They are pretty famous it's a funny video.
To do a movie.
Any yoga pose you have a goal to do?
That pose where you put your feet behind your head. So you can be your own couch and watch TV like that! Very challenging!