Jenna Randall is a former professional synchronised swimmer who represented Team GB at two Olympic Games. During her pro career, Jenna won three Commonwealth Games silver medals before retiring as an athlete in 2013. Almost immediately she won a part in ‘O’, the water-themed stage production by Cirque Du Soleil, which runs permanently from the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas.
Here, Jenna gives us an insider look at what life as an aquatic performer entails…
A day in Vegas for me isn’t what people might expect to be typically ‘Vegas’. I perform two shows a night in the Cirque Du Soleil water show ‘O’. We have performances 5 days a week, sometimes 6 days a week, and we get a total of 4 weeks off in the year.
Morning (also known as midday)
My days are flipped upside down compared to my daily life as a professional athlete. Now, I don’t wake up until the middle of the day and don’t go to bed until after midnight. This took me a while to get used to because for so many years I was getting up at 6am to go to the pool and making sure I was in bed by 9pm to get a full night’s sleep. But I’m not going to lie, I much prefer this routine, never waking up to an alarm!
Because I have most of the day free before work, I’ll go swimming with Bill May (Mixed duet 2015 synchronised champion), a few other performers, triathlon athletes and Ironman champions, to keep my fitness up. It’s so inspiring to be around such talented people every day from all different backgrounds. Living here has really made me appreciate the opportunity synchro has created for me.
My ‘weekends’ are Monday and Tuesday and on those days I like to take advantage of the beautiful nature that surrounds the Vegas desert. People think of the casinos and bright lights when I say I live in Vegas, but outside of that entertainment scene there are beautiful mountains and lakes that have the most amazing hiking trails.
The great thing about Vegas is the weather. It’s almost always great! The sun shines every day and in the winter it doesn’t get too cold to still enjoy the outdoors. The summers are very hot, but with Lake Mead just around the corner we have lots of fun boat days to help keep us cool.
Lunch… at 4pm
I’ll normally eat a full lunch three hours before the show. This will include chicken, rice and salad. About an hour before the show starts I’ll have a little snack to get my energy levels up. In-between shows I’ll have either a protein cookie or a little bit of my dinner that I’ll continue to eat after the show when my night has finished.
Once I’m home I’ll sometimes have another snack or meal depending on how hungry I am.
I eat a lot to fuel my body and to train my metabolism to work quickly. I play around with how many carbohydrates I eat a day but I roughly stick to 270g carb, 120g protein and 70g of fat.
Show prep – warm-up, make-up, show time!
The show runs for just over 90 minutes with the first show starting at 7pm. We have to be at work an hour before the top of first show, but most of the time I’ll arrive two to three hours earlier to warm-up, have some physio treatment, and occasionally a costume fitting. I recently just went through some major hip surgery, so it takes me a little longer than normal to get my hips and body warmed up!
We have five acts and five cues that we do in the whole show. Our acts last from 2-7 minutes and our cues are very short, maybe 1-2 minutes long. The synchronised swimmers are always doing something, so our track is very hard. The acts we perform are a combination of cardio and explosive strength, so we need to be strong in all areas of the body, but most importantly our hips.
To stay above the water we egg-beat, which is a leg movement under the water. Because we’re constantly using our legs, our hips can become very fragile to labrum tears, so working out and doing strength training before shows is very important.
From synchro to Cirque Du Soleil
The atmosphere at our show is amazing! It’s like one big family backstage, with people from all over the world. Cirque Du Soleil really creates a great artistic playing field for all of us to take part in. I’ve recently learnt how to juggle and I’m slowly building my skills on land, mastering the handstand!
I was very fortunate with my audition process. Knowing Stephan Miermont (renowned aquatic and Cirque Du Soleil choreographer) made it a little easier for me to get in contact with Cirque. I emailed them a video of my 2013 [synchronised swimming] Tech Solo and was called to the ‘O’ stage just after I retired, in October 2013. I was then flown to Montreal for three months with two other girls, Michelle from the US and Mariko from Japan, to learn the show.
It was very overwhelming at first. When I got to the ‘O’ stage in January of 2014, there was so much to think about and learn. It was a totally different environment from a synchro competition. Doing a three-minute routine suddenly seemed fairly easy compared to learning a 90-minute show! But after performing over three years I could do the show with my eyes closed.
Learning the show make up-was probably the hardest thing to learn, surprisingly. At first it took me 3 hours to complete, but now after 4 years, it takes me 30 minutes… 15 if I need to be quick!