Sisters perform circus acts that awe and amaze
By Bridgette M. Redman / Courtesy Photos
While some dream of running away to join the circus, the Baker sisters accomplished that dream without having to leave home — at least not for long.
Sixteen-year-old twins Brinkley and Brooklyn, along with 12-year-old Bixby Blue, are all members of Le PeTiT CiRqUe, a youth/prodigies production company that tours the world doing humanitarian work. They also perform in Concert Park to the delight of local residents near their home in Playa Vista.
The twins, who are now team captains with the youth circus company, first saw Cirque du Soleil when they were 2 years old and immediately knew it was what they wanted to do. After trying out a few places where they were taught how to juggle and ride unicycles, they landed at Le PeTiT CiRqUe six years ago and have been developing their aerial and other skills ever since.
“One of the reasons I like circus is that it is really fun,” Brooklyn says. “It makes me happy, but it also makes whoever is watching it happy. It also keeps you in shape. There are so many good things.”
They first joined the training facility and were then invited to join the performing troupe.
“They taught themselves for a while,” says their mother Brigitte. “They learned unicycle in Concert Park, going up and down stairs, walking in stilts around the park.”
Brinkley says she loves practicing with her sisters, at home and at the park.
“We can do many shows in the park for the people around the neighborhood,” Brinkley says. “I like performing with my sisters because we have more of a special bond.”
Le PeTiT CiRqUe recognizes that bond and often puts them together for performances.
“We do a lot of aerial acts like trapeze,” Brooklyn says. “We have one with the three of us where Brinkley and I throw Bixby back and forth. It’s called Triple Trap. We also have one act where Brinkley and I unicycle with a bar on our shoulders and Bixby does stuff on the bar.”
Bixby says the coaches typically create most of the act, but they get to contribute ideas and work on the final product.
“It’s a group effort,” Bixby says.
Their mother loves the team environment, which is why she prefers their involvement in circus over gymnastics. Rather than competing with each other for medals, they’re all performing together.
“As a mom, I love that there is no drama there, which is huge,” Brigitte says. “They all truly love each other so much and they can do really dangerous things. When you are flying in the air, you have to have incredible trust. You can’t have that level of trust in your teammates if you don’t really love and support each other. It has to be genuine.”
Studio trains prodigies from all over the globe
Le PeTiT CiRqUe has performed all over the world including such events as opening for the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway and for the Dalai Lama’s birthday. They focus on humanitarian work and in seven years have raised more than $6.3 million for international organizations.
They are North America’s first all-kid professional Cirque company with most performers between the ages of six and 14. They mix circus arts with child prodigies in music, martial arts, dance, skateboarding and singing.
The company was created by Nathalie Yves Gaulthier in Los Angeles. Hailing from Montreal, she spent 20 years as a talent agent for children and has launched the careers of Oscar, Emmy and Tony award winning or nominated artists.
Gaulthier understands what it is like to be a child prodigy, because she was one herself. She wrote her first play at age seven and was featured on Canadian radio as a young upcoming writer and director. By 10, she was fluent in French, Inuit and English. From age 10 to her mid-20s, she was a regular on television and on children’s records.
While landing lead roles in English films and guest starring on multiple U.S. television series, Gaulthier was also a competitive g ymnast, studied the circus arts and was winning public speaking contests — in her third language. At age 15, she started her first kids’ talent agency.
She moved to LA in 1997 and opened the studio in 2010.
Each year, Le PeTiT CiRqUe awards nine full college scholarships to such universities as U.C. Berkeley, University of Chicago, Humboldt, University of Philadelphia and Montreal. Other graduating seniors have won full scholarships because of their performing experience and the humanitarian work they do.
Other benefits include physical education credits at school, community service hours, international travel, circus exchanges, participation in circus festival and international competitions, film and television opportunities and professional performing opportunities.
Le PeTiT CiRqUe’s training facility in LA is two stories and 10,000 square feet. It contains a large dance studio, 26-foot ceilings, a large conference room and a 175-seat theatre.
The Baker sisters were due to join the troupe in performances in Portugal with The Foo Fighters, Black Eyed Peas, Post Malone and Camila Cabellos. They were set for a six-month stint in Dubai, Uganda, New Zealand and Canada and a 20-city U.S. tour launching off Broadway.
Then COVID-19 hit and everything was canceled. The 20-city tour was planned for last year and got canceled just a week before it was due to start.
The Baker sisters have been doing local gigs and got to spend a week in Orlando this past October. In March, they will be part of the cast of “Pippin” in Topanga. The sisters raved about the fun they had in Orlando. The shows were supposed to be indoors, but they ended up attracting more than 4,000 people so the performances were moved outdoors.
“We had two shows and for the rest of the time we were able to go to Universal and the pool and stuff,” Brooklyn says, adding that the shows themselves were also very memorable. “While we were doing the acrobatic act with five people, the fireworks started going off and it was this magic moment.”
Circus keeps sisters fit and healthy
Performing the jaw-dropping tricks they do for circus requires all three sisters to stay in excellent shape. They engage in a heavy-duty conditioning program, watch their diet, exercise often and see a physical therapist on a regular basis.
“We all work out and stretch before everything we do,” Bixby says. “Before class starts, we warm up, stretch, tumble and condition so we get strong. You also have to eat well and exercise as much as possible.”
Brooklyn adds that a lot of people in the troupe are vegetarian, as are all three sisters.
“It’s kind of better for your health in a lot of ways,” Brooklyn says. “We don’t get high cholesterol.”
Brinkley says that pull-ups are an important part of their routine because on the trapeze you have to pull your own weight dozens of times within one routine. She consistently does 10 pull-ups every day to start her morning.
“The other day, we did a pullup challenge,” Brinkley says. “You do 10, then nine, eight, seven, except when we got to one, we did 11 at the end for a total of 65 pull-ups. With my morning ones, I did a total of 75 pull-ups that day.”
They train for five hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays and then seven hours on Saturdays. The twins also coach the team, which adds additional hours of workout. It does often cut into their sleep.
“It’s kind of hard because we spend so many hours in rehearsal and training and on top of that we have school and homework,” Brinkley says. “But we still find some time to hang out with our friends. A lot of our friends are at circus, so the good part is that we get to see them during training and rehearsals.”
“They’re up until 2 a.m. doing homework,” Brigitte says. “It’s a lot between training and school.”
However, they all feel that circus has helped them build stronger, healthier and more flexible bodies. The youngest sister points out having that strength and flexibility helps you recover more quickly or even avoid injuries from everyday accidents.
“It’s very good for the body,” Bixby says. “You have to stretch in different ways. Stretching and conditioning every day helps you in everyday situations like an accident or if you fall or twist your knee. It helps you build up a strength in your muscles and bones.”
Training and conditioning also, she says, is a boon to mental health.
“It helps you focus and it builds up your spirit and helps with anxiety and things,” Bixby says.
Brinkley agrees that circus helps with both the body and mind.
“It allows you to express yourself and everyone I know who does it is very passionate about it,” Brinkley says.
Playa Vista nurtures girls’ dreams
The sisters grew up in Playa Vista where they’ve had a supportive community cheering them on since they were little.
“The neighbors often gather to watch them practice in the parks,” Brigitte says. “They get applause at the pool or from diners sitting outside eating. Even people in the dog park ask them to do tricks.”
And it isn’t just the adults watching them. They’ve inspired the dreams of younger children in Playa Vista who see them perform and go on to sign up for Le PeTiT CiRqUe’s recreational program.
During the pandemic, the sisters did several shows for the “Concerts in Your Car” events. They want to set up a stage in the Pet Space parking lot and have people watch in their car like a drive-in movie. Circus also provides them a community within the community.
“I really like circus because you perform and act and feel things, but I also love all the people there — all of our couches and all of friends and the owner,” Bixby says.
They left the first studio they joined in part because everyone always seemed to be in a bad mood all the time and they felt that circus was supposed to be fun and make people happy. It’s why they have been so thrilled to have found and become a part of Le PeTiT CiRqUe.
“It feels like a big second family,” Brinkley says. “Everyone is really nice and I like to make people happy with performance.”
Brigitte says she’s watched as all of the teammates support each other and applaud each other’s milestones. It is a place where they feel they can succeed together.
As part of the circus troupe, they’ve also done a fair amount of humanitarian performances and volunteer work.
“We’ve performed at children’s hospitals (for terminally ill kids),” Brinkley says. “It was really nice to see we brought them joy. We’ve also done a show for Glenwood Housing, which is in Laguna Beach. They house young adults with Down Syndrome. Every year, we perform at their annual gala.”
They also do such things as go to dog shelters and donate supplies to homeless dogs.
Brooklyn shares that one time they helped raise money for a 4-month-old boy named PJ who was born with a facial deformity that kept him from hearing.
“We did a show to raise money for a special kind of hearing aid,” Brooklyn says. “We raised $40,000. He got the hearing aid and then we got to watch him when he heard for the first time. It was really cool.”
Performers follow their passions
The twins are juniors in high school and both hope to go to college somewhere nearby so they can continue to train with Le PeTiT CiRqUe until they age out at 21. Once they finish college, they want to be professional circus performers with an organization like Cirque du Soleil.
None of them are interested in having cell phones and Brigitte says they don’t have time for social media. They only have an Instagram account because it is required by the studio and they post pictures of their acts there.
All three girls are determined to pursue circus because it is what they love. They encourage others to follow their passions.
“Don’t be afraid to do what you love,” Brooklyn says. “A lot of time people are too worried about succeeding or want to make money with their job. I say do what you love instead, because it is way more important.”
“Don’t be afraid to fail,” Bixby adds. “If you do it and you don’t fail, you’ll never regret it.”
Le PeTiT CiRqUe