How Cirque du Soleil Used Body Composition Analysis to Change Their Training Approach
Cirque du Soleil is one of the most famous theater production companies in the world. The company began in 1984 with a small troupe of performers near Quebec City and quickly became renowned for its striking mix of circus arts (without animals) and street performance. Now in its third decade, Cirque du Soleil has 19 shows that perform around the world. Each brings a blend of imaginative costumes, lighting, music, and of course, gravity-defying performers. To ensure talented performers can withstand an incredible 476 shows per year on average, the Cirque du Soleil team needed a reliable way to incorporate body composition analysis to support performance. Head of Performance Science for Cirque du Soleil’s, Bryan Burnstein researched several options and ultimately decided on tracking body composition analysis using InBody because he felt it delivered the most value to his artists and operational teams. See how InBody helped some of the world’s most talented actors, singers, and artists become more durable performers by optimizing their body composition.
Cirque du Soleil’s Quest to Become More Data Informed
“Game-time” is literally every day–often multiple times per day–for most Cirque du Soleil performers. They put on an average of 476 shows per year and train for around 2 hours a day. That level of everyday training and performance can take a toll on Cirque du Soleil’s talented troupe of performers. In response, the Cirque du Soleil leadership team sought out ways to help their performers track and measure how their bodies were holding up. Head of Performance Science Bryan Burnstein decided on InBody body composition analysis trackers because of the data-driven insights his team could utilize and apply. Burnstein noted, “I was confident in InBody when I studied the literature behind the product.”The results of Cirque du Soleil’s body composition analysis efforts were impressive, to say the least.
How Body Composition Analysis Helped Support Performance
“Once I had the opportunity to try one out, I was quite satisfied with what we were getting.” -Bryan Burnstein, Head of Performance Science at Cirque du Soleil”Collecting body composition data from your employees can lead to many questions. The most common ones revolved around how their “data” were being used. Right from the get-go, Cirque du Soleil’s Performance Science team knew the importance of helping educate performers on how the senior management team would leverage the data from the InBody. They showed them the benefits of understanding their body composition makeup and how they could tap into this information to impact their performance and durability.
Burnstein noted: “All our efforts early on were to educate the artists about ‘What is body comp?’ ‘How are we going to use this information?’ And we needed to turn that into success stories for them early on.”
To better support the performers’ conditioning programs, they needed specific information that would help with goal-setting as well as show the results of the various training progras that were being implemented. The Performance Science team specifically looks at a performer’s body water fluctuations to monitor and see if they are in what is called a “well-hydrated/well-performing state” in-between shows, especially if the artists are losing too much sweat after a performance. Dehydration can affect test results, so tracking to see if a performer’s body water levels are in the right relationship with other measures of body composition such as skeletal muscle mass also ensures that the performers are getting their optimal numbers. Basal Metabolic Rate is also used to provide performers with better nutritional support. Using BMR along with a better understanding of the performers’ workload, the team can give the performers a better support package in how they can regulate their nutrition and conditioning levels. The third valuable piece of information is Segmental Lean Analysis. The data shows what change has happened when a performer undergoes an injury and helps them monitor the changes during the reintegration cycle to help build the body back. This data also allows Cirque du Soleil’s Performance Science team to help with identifying asymmetries/imbalances and investigating why these may exist. If these are present, the data is used to help adapt the conditioning programs that are in place if needed.
Burnstein noted the difference after they started using these data points: “Having an optimal body composition actually makes them more durable.”
Measuring body composition has, and will continue to be, valuable to the organization and their goal of support the availability, durability, and longevity of each of their performers. Perhaps most importantly, body composition analysis helped Bryan and his team change the conversation about what “healthy weight” means.
A New Definition of Success
“Change that conversation away from just the scale weight and… understand how the body is made up and how can we get you a conditioning program that optimizes you as a performer.” -Bryan Burnstein, Head of Performance Science at Cirque du Soleil
Like any organization that has been around for 30+ years, Cirque du Soleil has evolved significantly. Using old-fashioned scales as a measure of success is now a thing of the past. That’s not to say Cirque du Soleil doesn’t hold its performers to high standards. However, now the conversation revolves around optimal body composition instead of just weight. As an example, we’ve had aerialists who may have had a hard time sustaining a high level of performance, which sometimes has been attributed to not being able to maintain a specific target weight. Through body composition analysis, the Cirque du Soleil team has been able to help educate performers that the target body weight was actually too low. They worked on improving lean body mass–which actually meant increasing total weight–and the outcome was a stronger and more durable performer.
Burnstein recalled: “By bringing the target weight up a little higher and adding a bit of lean body mass we actually enhanced the performance.” Optimizing performers’ body composition helped them look beyond an arbitrary number on a scale and instead focus on performance-enhancing measures like skeletal mass and lean body mass.
Burnstein summed up the impact body composition analysis has had on Cirque du Soleil’s team of elite athletes: “Now we have engaging conversations about (body composition analysis) that lead us to positive outcomes.”