Acrobats left on shelves by partners make a show of their emotions

A trio of male acrobats who will perform at Circus Fest 2012 have based their act on their messy breakups with their girlfriends

The cure for the emotional hangover of the break-up of a relationship in your twenties is usually one part alcohol and two parts power ballad – delivered with a few cuddles from your mum or anyone else nice enough to listen to your warblings.

But what about if your partner was not only your partner in life, but your partner in work too? And what if that line of work was something as random as being a circus acrobat?

An unlikely story, sure, but that was the situation Swedish circus performer Matias Salamenaho found himself in. And even more unlikely was that he knew of two other men in exactly the same position.

“All the three of us had a career in hand-to-hand acrobatics, lifting partners and lifting people.


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“It was a hard time for all of us not knowing what to do,” says Salamenaho, who was with his partner for five years. “We could do some juggling maybe, but that’s kind of it. We could have got a new partner, but when you have a break up like that it is not the first thing that you think: ‘oh I’ll just get a new one’.

“Break-ups can always be difficult, but especially in this profession, when you are so physically together a lot of the time it is really hard.”

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Each of the trio of guys – Salamenaho and partners Peter Aberg and Mattias Andersson – were out of work.

They were brought together by a mutual friend who suggested that they put together a show about life as an Underman – the sturdier half of an acrobatic pair – and what happens when an Underman is left behind by his female flyer.

“We were all looking for something to do, something with meaning, so of course we said, ‘let’s do it’.”

The trio got together in the summer of 2010 to make their show titled Underman.

The show is about the end of their relationships and how all three of them are stepping out from the shadow of their flyers.

“We talk about what has happened and we tell the real story, there’s no faking.

“I wouldn’t even call it theatre because we play ourselves and tell what happened.” says Salamenaho.

In getting used to throwing each other around, rather than their lighter, nimbler partners, the Undermen had to train by throwing kettlebells around, something they include in their show.

“When we stopped working with a partner, the kettle bell is similar to what we did, so it was a good way to keep up the same exercise.

“We wanted to include it in the show to say: ‘we’re still doing what we’re doing- even without our partners’” says Salamenaho, who is 25 and has done circus since he was eight.

But the girlfriends haven’t been replaced with kettlebells, rather the three undermen have found that friendship with each other has taken them through their tough break ups from long-term relationships.

“I’m not really interested in getting a new flyer. I have two professional partners now and I am happy with them.” says Salamenaho.

The show is certainly unique, but the nature of it – the fact that the trio relive their break ups every night, means that it is on a strictly limited run.

“For sure it is difficult, We will see how long we want to keep on telling the story because in a way it is tough to do it every night, you tell the same story and you kind of go back into it.

“You relive it again and again and maybe we don’t want to do that forever.”

n Underman by Cirkus Cirkor is at CircusFest Roundhouse from April 10 to 14.

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