April 13, 2014

Human cannonball always dreamed of being a circus performer

Who can blame a human cannonball for having a blast to close every circus performance?

Who can blame a human cannonball for having a blast to close every circus performance?

Cole Bros. “Circus of the Stars” 130th anniversary tour will pitch its big top on Monday for shows at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. daily through Wednesday on the east side of Oak Street, across from Myrtle Beach Convention Center, near 21st Avenue North.

The cast includes Dale Thomsen, in his second year among the aerial artists, but his first as the human cannonball. Speaking by phone last month during tour rehearsals at Cole Bros.’ home base in DeLand, Fla., the 28-year-old spoke about how his career has hit new heights.

Thomsen wasn’t born into the field, for he’s the first generation in his family to entertain in a circus. He remembered his entry, from his news reporting days, taking a backstage circus tour and thinking, “This is amazing,” then taking a circus class one day a week, and increasing that frequency to several days weekly.

He said he joined the trapeze troupe after the “lead flier” was expecting her baby, then he sprung into a new job for 2014 after the previous cannonballer had a family addition on the way.

“So I really owe my career in the bunch of pregnancies,” Thomsen said.

Question | What fitness regimen do you follow?

Answer | Just circus training. I mean, really, nutrition is very big to me, and my amounts of sleep are good. But I do something kind of odd: I like to take ice baths and ice showers; I’m kind of like a Russian. I haven’t been to a gym in 10 years.

Q. | What fueled this specialized art that you exhibit?

A. I Growing up, I did 10 years of dance, and then I was a competitive cheerleader; I learned acrobatics that way. The circus was a dream of mine, and I had been training to work in a circus for three years.

Q. | What was your first daredevil act that you bookmarked as the event where your career really took off?

A. | You could consider flying trapezes pretty daredevil. This is my first daredevil act. I grew up always terrifying my mother, putting her almost into cardiac arrest. By the time I was doing cannonball training, she didn’t flinch. ...

Last season ... when the circus was traveling through Minnesota, where I’m from originally ... it was my niece’s first time seeing a circus, and her uncle was in the trapeze act.

Q. | Growing up, were you a fan of the late Evil Knievel and other stunt stars?

A. | Yes, I was. But the day I started taking circus classes, I never imagined I would be doing something like the human cannonball.

Q. | Have you ever considered skydiving?

A. | Here in DeLand, Fla., it’s a big hub for skydiving, I just recently checked that out. We have a spot where you can eat lunch and watch the divers come down. I don’t know if I’ll ever do it.

Q. | What films through the years have impressed you the most with artistry in stunts? Any particular James Bond movie or 007 actor’s stand-ins?

A. | Actually, when I watching “Skyfall” and seeing all the stunt work in that, my friend told me, “You would make a very good stunt person for cinema.” That has entered my mind; maybe after my circus side to my career, I would like to go into movies. In the circus, this is what I love to do, and where I belong. When I’m away from the big top, I miss my family.

Q. | How much time is spent touring?

A. | About nine months. This is my family, besides my biological, real family, but there is nothing like a circus family; everyone has their different little quirks, but we all come together for the same reason. ...

I love taking strolls through the big top at night, when no one’s here.

Q. | Do you ever meet youth who ask for tips on what to pursue in carving out a career in cannonballing, and what do you tell them?

A. | I would say, “Never underestimate yourself, and never think that anything is impossible.” ...

It all comes down to inspiration; you also need motivation, ambition and discipline, and that it requires a lot of commitment to be in the circus: taking care of your body, your mind and your soul.

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