Dreaming of a better life than the one offered in his native country (Colombia, South America) Miguel Caceres joined the circus when he was just a boy. He met his wife, Luz, while touring throughout Colombia with many different circuses. They came to the United States of America on a contract for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in the 1970′s. Miguel worked with Ringling Bros. for many years before forming The Flying Caceres for the 112th Edition of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1982. Already an accomplished trapeze artist, Miguel achieved a great feat while touring with The Greatest Show On Earth®. Once considered impossible he caught the legendary “triple somersault” as well as the “triple and one-half somersault” consecutively in each performance during the duration of the entire tour. He is now known as one of the world’s greatest flying trapeze artist of the 20th century and is highly respected within the circus community. From small town to big top, we ask Miguel about his struggles and successes as a world renowned flying trapeze artist.
Circus Girl Magazine: What made you decide to join the circus?
Miguel Caceres: Well, I was hungry! [he laughs] No, but seriously… I was very young, about 13 years old. I’m from a small town in Colombia. The highest education available at the time was third grade. So, there weren’t many opportunities there. It was either be a farmer or a miner… and I wanted neither! [laughs again] So, when the circus came to town, I ran away with it.
CGM: How did you like it?
Miguel: I fell in love with it! I loved the lifestyle, the people, the traveling, meeting different people everywhere you go, learning new languages… I was getting an education in a different way.
CGM: Why did you want to fly on the trapeze, what attracted you to it?
Miguel: The truth, the very first time I saw a circus there were these people in white tights flying so gracefully through the air and I just knew… I had to do this.
CGM: Wow! Love at first sight, huh?
Miguel: Yes. Definitely. [he smiles] When I joined the circus they didn’t have a flying trapeze. It was too small to have one. So, it took me a year to see a flying trapeze again. Then I joined a circus that had one. The troupe asked me one day if I could help them take care of their rig. Setting up, tearing down, things like that. So, I said YES!
CGM: That must have been exciting!
Miguel: Of course! I wanted to be close to them. Learn as much as I can from them. I was so happy that I even hugged the net [when it was all rolled up] and gave it a kiss! And I said to myself, “This is it! I’m close! I’m close to what I want to do!”
CGM: So, when did you first fly?
Miguel: After a couple of months of working with [that troupe] they asked me if I wanted to come up and swing. My heart almost jumped out of my chest, I was so happy! They let me swing and swing… that was my dream. It was very beautiful. All of my friends congratulated me and said, “You are going to be a great flying trapeze artist!” So, I continued practicing.
CGM: What was your first trick to the catcher?
Miguel: It was a layout somersault. Six months later, I was catching doubles.
CGM: And you just kept going!
Miguel: Yes. People started offering me work in different countries but I was always happiest in Colombia. Then the owner of the troupe passed away in a car accident. So, I had to go in another direction. I had to go back to what I did before and stop flying until I found another troupe.
CGM: You mean other acts in the circus?
Miguel: Yes, I used to perform many different acts in the circus. Bars, double trapeze, single [static] trapeze, high wire, hand balancing, statues, clowning… not very funny but… [he laughs] I also worked with animals. I just helped the trainers take care of the animals, really.
CGM: But you didn’t really like those other acts as much, did you?
Miguel: No, no. Flying was my passion. It took me about 3 years to buy all of the equipment I needed to make my own flying trapeze rig.
CGM: You made it all by yourself?
Miguel: Yes, I even made the net by hand. When I completed my rig, my biggest challenge was finding people to fly with me. Colombia didn’t have many flying trapeze acts back then and I was touring all of the small towns. All of the circuses that did have a flying trapeze toured big cities so, it was hard for people to understand what I was talking about. Most people did not know what a flying trapeze was!
CGM: That’s impressive. Equally as impressive, if not more, is what you’re famous for. How difficult was it for you to not only master the legendary “triple somersault” but to also master the “triple and one-half somersault”?
Miguel: Very difficult. It took a lot of practice. In that time there wasn’t much technique so we had to invent our own technique. It’s very difficult to be a pioneer and I was one of them. Flying trapeze is not only about tricks but about how you make them look. The elegance, grace, keeping form. Even though you have a hard time with a trick you still have to make it look good. That’s the art of flying trapeze.
CGM: What drove you to accomplish such a trick?
Miguel: In those days everyone thought it was impossible to do a “triple” and a “triple and a half” somersault, one right after the other, because it was too hard to control. Many flying trapeze artists believed that if they did a “layout” they couldn’t do a “one and a half” because they would lose their layout. So they thought it was impossible but I knew I had the control. I knew I could do it. When they were telling me I cannot do both, I was already doing it. I was secretly practicing. I was finding my own way to fly to make it happen. It was very difficult because no one believed I could do it, but, luckily, the only one who did believe in me was Mr. Kenneth Feld. He gave me a chance to prove myself and, on top of it all, at The Greatest Show On Earth®!
CGM: It looks like your son is the same way. Do you think he takes after you in thinking the impossible is possible?
Miguel: Yes, he was taught that way. He grew up watching ME! [he laughs] But it’s true, it’s a fact. Look at what he’s doing today! He not only works hard but he is innovating flying trapeze. He’s changing the way people see flying trapeze. He’s moving towards the future in the art of flying trapeze. He did something that everyone thought was inpossible and made it possible. He now has the only portable “double-stack” flying trapeze in the world (the original design being in Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba in Orlando, FL). Everyone told my son that the flying trapeze rig could not be moved out of the Cirque facility in Orlando, that it was impossible without hydraulics and that there can’t be any hard tricks bar-to-bar. So, he made it possible. He made a portable version of it and made the act even better [adding] much harder tricks. He [has been] performing with Ringling Bros. for the past 4 years now and has signed to do another 4 years with them. I am very proud of my boy.
CGM: I bet! You began training your son, George, when he was only 4 years old. How did it make you feel to see your son want to be like you at such a young age? Weren’t you scared?
Miguel: To tell you the truth, in the beginning I was scared. But then, watching him carefully and training him carefully, I saw that he was a natural flyer. He knew what he was doing through my instruction and that gave me confidence. I started feeling better about it the older he got. I was always so proud of him. Really, what gave me more confidence to continue his training was the audience. Thanks to the public and their reaction to his flying, he became the great flyer he is today. Everyone loves to watch him. I had to keep training him because I knew he belonged in the air.
CGM: Got any tips for aspiring flying trapeze artists?
Miguel: Come to me and I’ll teach you! [he chuckles] If you really want to be a professional flying trapeze artist you have to work hard. You have to take care of yourself. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t party. Practice at least 4 hours a day, 6 days a week. That’s what I did!
CGM: Tell us, what are you up to these days?
Miguel: Well, I have stopped flying due to an illness called ulcerative colitis. So, now I teach! I help my son when he needs me and help my daughter when she needs me with her new troupe called Coquette. I also teach at the Circus Warehouse in Long Island City, NY.
CGM: Thank you very much for your time! It was an honor and a pleasure to interview you.
Miguel: You are very welcome, anytime [he smiles].
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