Cirque du Soleil acrobat Yann Arnaud’s fatal fall has cast a shadow over the world of circus on its 250th anniversary. Is audience demand for bigger thrills in the big top driving performers to ever greater risks?
Ten days ago, Yann Arnaud, a French acrobat based in Florida, posted a photo to Instagram in which his right hand grips the nylon strap he would later swing from during a show by the Canadian circus group Cirque du Soleil. For weeks, he had been perfecting an act alongside fellow artist Pawel Walczewski, and they were ready to reveal it to a live audience in Tampa. “After so much work and training and staging, our straps duo act is finally in the show tonight,” Arnaud wrote below the photo. “It’s time to go for it.”
Hours later, Arnaud, 38, appeared to lose his grip. Video shot by a spectator showed him falling several metres on to the stage. Crew members rushed to his side while the audience gasped. “There were children there and they were freaking out,” another spectator told a Florida TV station. Arnaud, who had two young daughters, died in hospital later that night.