Flexible family time

Weekend Glitz | Trista Yeung 14 Jul 2017

If you were to meet acrobat Daniel Sierralta, his wife Corina and their eight- year-old daughter Ainara, you would instantly know they are no ordinary family.

Since 2009, the couple have been doing gymnastic performances together for art and corporate events worldwide. They both had a very peculiar path to acrobatics. Daniel started off rather late at college and Corina was originally a contemporary dancer.

"Since I was young, I have been interested in how our body and muscles can be used efficiently," Daniel said.

"I studied sports science and physical education in college. After watching an acrobatic performance by local circus artists, I was blown away and decided to train myself."

In 2007, he was invited to stay at the Wuqiao Acrobatic Art School in China's Hebei province, where he specialized in aerial ropes. He met his soulmate, Corina Sucre, in their birthplace, Venezuela. She had just finished her diploma in contemporary dance at Caracas Dance School Foundation.

Sharing the same passion for movement and acrobatics, they decided to create their own choreography.

Ainara was born, and she inherited their talent. Now, they frequently perform as a trio and strive to create new acts.

"We did not deliberately train Ainara to be a gymnast," Corina said. "When she was a baby, we liked to throw her up in the air or flip forward with her at the back. She naturally acquired a sense of balance. She is a natural flyer. We are so glad that she enjoys the spotlight in every performance."

Daily training is a must and sometimes lasts for up to five hours.

Daniel said it is their job to perform acrobatic tricks that appear effortless, even if it means practicing thousands of times.

"Our workouts are very technique- specific," he said. "The exercises that we do are very controlled and deliberate. We learned a long time ago that working with the correct technique, and most importantly the correct posture is key to sustaining and maintaining good health, fitness and well-being.

"We keep a healthy diet, no smoking, no drinking and no fast food. Rest and recovery are just as important to us as our workouts. We will make sure we stretch and massage well after each and every workout. In fact this is something that we do throughout the day."

Corina added that their exercise followed the Alexander technique, a process discovered by Australian Frederick Matthias Alexander around the 1900s, that attempts to avoid unnecessary muscular tension.

"We rarely suffer from serious injury. If you learn how the muscles are placed under pressure, it reduces the risk of injury from overstraining on the stage, when the muscles become more fatigued."

Currently working as yoga instructors in Hong Kong, Daniel and Corina find there is a similarity with gymnastics.

"Breathing is the foundation of yoga and we find it very helpful to our acrobatic acts," Corina said. "It can clear your mind to focus on body movement. You will be surprised how it helps to overcome physical limitations."

The acrobatic family is preparing for shows at the Standard Chartered Charity Family Run Carnival on July 23 at Tamar Park. The charity event - to raise funds for Orbis, Hong Kong Paralympic Committee & Sports Association for the Physically Disabled and Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society - is packed with family-centered activities.

There will be live music, drum jamming, an outdoor maze, acrobatics, a face-painting workshop and family portrait shooting.

"It is a meaningful opportunity for us. It is a family event and we hope to inspire the audience with our teamwork," Corina said.

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