Not everyone would see teen gymnastics as a career path, but for Tacoma performer Laura Himes it’s worked out pretty well. The 22-year-old who made it to nationals with Puyallup’s Puget Sound School of Gymnastics (PSSG) and went on to compete for Stadium High School in cheer and diving has tumbled her way into a career in circus and stunts. She will be performing this weekend and next with renowned Seattle company The Cabiri in “Ezid” at the Seattle Center.
Watching Himes rehearse, it’s obvious she’s doing what she loves. As she plays the part of a villager defending her turf against enormous giants in a plot based on ancient mythology (like all Cabiri shows), she whirls and flips around the Air Trak floor with grace and energy, working with three other gymnasts to create a finale for the show that’s as much dance and theater as gymnastics. And while she’s not so much involved with the other parts of “Ezid” — aerial circus, fire performance, stilts and the two huge giant puppets manipulated on trolleys — she’s been working with the group since last August, when she trained with them during a four-week course at the International Stunt School at the University of Washington.
Now Himes, who still lives in Tacoma, balances her time between The Cabiri, coaching at Auburn Gymnastics and doing a lot of personal training. She spoke to The News Tribune about how her passion for tumbling landed her a circus gig, and where she hopes her love of stunt work will take her.
Q: When did you start gymnastics?
A: When I was 3. I was always climbing and doing flips at home, and my mom knew she had to get me into a program. I did gymnastics with PSSG until my freshman year, when I made it to nationals at Level Nine. Then the club changed and I got into cheer and dive.
Q: So how did you get the idea to get into stunt work?
A: One of my role models at PSSG is now a big stunt double working in (Los Angeles). I saw her and what she was doing on social media, and I realized that everything she’d done, I could do too. I thought I’d have to move to L.A. to train, but actually it’s right here in my own backyard, at the University of Washington. So I took a three-week utility course, followed by one week of aerial, last July and August.
Q: What do you actually learn at the International Stunt School?
A: Martial arts, weapon fighting, car stuff, rappelling on a wire, and I got lit on fire a lot. And high falls, I like that the best. We’d work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, with two days off per week. On the second day of the aerial week it was acrobatics on aerial equipment and The Cabiri came to teach it: rope, silk, hoop. There was a brief instruction of everything, then we’d get right into it.
Q: Is that what led to you joining The Cabiri?
A: The Cabiri had auditions the next Monday, and I got in. I’ve done two shows with them: “Ghost Game” at Halloween, and “Carpathian Dawn,” where I did bungee and trapeze — that was a lot of fun. We have another Halloween show coming up.
Q: Has anything in the circus been radically new for you, physically?
A: Tumbling-wise, no. But my dance has gotten way better with this, and the stuff on silks and hoop — we even learned a whole 10-minute routine.
Q: How much do you train to stay in shape for this?
A: The Cabiri rehearses every Sunday and Monday night, and then we have the shows. I also coach at Auburn Gymnastics, so I work on my own stuff there, and I go to the gym and Crossfit a lot — I’m trying to build arm strength. It’s a full-time effort … but it’s worth it. My favorite thing is the exposure to performance, the whole team aspect.
Q: What do you want for the future?
A: I want to do more with stunt work in movies and TV, move to L.A.