Episode 36 - “Behind the Scenes of Cirque du Soleil’s newest show, KOOZA” a conversation with cast member, Danielle Gatto
I have the great fortune of being able to get access to the “behind the scene’s” world of Cirque du Soleil’s newest traveling show, KOOZA because I am their San Francisco-based massage therapist! One woman I knew I just had to interview is Danielle Gatto. Danielle is one vibrant, powerhouse of a woman who offers us her insight and wisdom into how to live an empowered and balanced life as a professional performer, dance captain, and wife to Anthony Gatto, “The Greatest Juggler in the World.”
In this endearing interview, Danielle shares with us her perspective on:
- How to live a balance a healthy life on the road
- What’s at the core of women living their dreams
- How to maintain a “fresh” Partnership with her soul mate
Danielle is such a bright, honest, and centered woman – this is an interview you want to listen to if you are craving great words of wisdom from a woman who has much to say in support of women living their dreams!
Woman: This program is brought to you by PersonalLifeMedia.com.
Alissa Kriteman: Welcome to “Just for Women: Dating, Relationships, and Sex”. I'm your host, Alissa Kriteman. This show is dedicated to bringing you insights and perspectives from today’s most dynamic and empowered women to help you live the life of your dreams.
Today on the show I'm very excited to speak with Danielle Gatto, one of the cast members of Cirque du Soleil’s newest touring show, “Kooza”. I have the good fortune of speaking with Danielle because I have a massage therapist who does body work on the performers while they're here in San Francisco. So I'm very excited to talk with Danielle today. I feel like, “Oh, we have the inside scoop here.”
Why I want to talk to Danielle is because she has deep wisdom to offer around how to stay empowered while living an incredible life that includes being a professional performer with an internationally renowned company such as Cirque du Soleil, traveling from city to city every 6-8 weeks, being the dance captain for the show. And on top of all of that, she has an incredible relationship with none other than the number one ranked juggler in the world, Anthony Gatto.
Danielle Gatto: I have never thrown a ball or juggle or anything like that in my life so it was different for me that it took me a while to get used to it and feel comfortable doing the actual juggling assisting. I had been a magic assistant so I had knew about assisting someone and not taking too much of the focus away from them, just helping them be a stronger star.
Here it's really great because I've made some very dear friends. Some place, it’s very difficult and it's very hard as a woman, as an English speaker, as an American, whatever to find a way to merge with people from other cultures, and to communicate together to find common interests. So sometimes it is very difficult but I'm very fortunate here that there's so many people that I've connected with.
We strive to be the best that we possibly can at everything that we attempt in our lives whether it's personal, professional, whichever and that same goes for our life as well. We see maybe mistakes that have happened with our friend’s relationship, with our family’s relationships, and we always to continue to try to push to remain connected and to remain respectful. We're best friends, so whatever we can do to try to keep that, sometimes maybe me giving a little bit more or taking a little bit more or vice versa and that we find a really nice balance. We try to get along as much as possible which I'm amazed that we get along as well as we do, spending so much fun together.
Alissa Kriteman: Danielle, thank you, thank you for being on “Just for Women” today.
Danielle Gatto: Thank you very much for having me.
Alissa Kriteman: OK, cool. So we will get your relationship which I know a lot of the women are just dying to hear about, but I want to talk to you first about how did you get to Cirque du Soleil, that’s kind of a big deal out there in the world. So tell us a little bit about your background and how you got here.
Danielle Gatto: I have a lot of experience. I've been traveling all over the world doing all different types of things. I started out in a dance theater group and we just studied and we trained and we performed and we competed. Then gradually as time went on, I got more and more serious about it and I decided to become a professional dancer. So that led me to Branson, Missouri--of all places--and there is where I met my wonderful husband, Anthony. I saw him at a show one day at the cast of our show that I was in. We went to go and see his show, a magic show that he was performing in and I was just blown away right away from him. I was so impressed by his skill on stage.
So eventually down the line, we met each other and everything. Once I joined his act, then we began touring together, going everywhere you could possibly imagine. I created--along with the help of a Russian coach of mine and a lot of help from my husband and friends along the way--I created a [xx] act--which is like an aerial hoop ring--act, the solo act that I did for a while. I also created a hoo hoop [sp] act that I worked on for a while as well.
Along the way in my dance, being a professional dancer, I also did some choreography work, I was a company manager for a magic company that we did a show in Atlantic City at the Taj Majal and I helped coordinate a lot of things there. I also did a lot of choreography on the side here and there for dance competitions and I really enjoyed doing that. But to be with my husband on the road, it was difficult to do my own thing and not be with him side by side. So we found ways to bring the two together and--on a separate little note—I also studied to be a personal trainer so I'm also a certified professional trainer. I also finished getting my bachelor’s degree in Finance on the road as well, so I've been very busy.
Alissa Kriteman: This is why I wanted to talk to you. When I started to hear about the multitude of things that you're managing and juggling and you have the most incredible vibrant energy. So I thought I have to find out what's going on. I have to go back a minute. So as a dancer, you decided to join Anthony’s show.
Danielle Gatto: Actually, what happened was it was kind of funny. Anthony’s father and coach, Nick, had an act of his own. He was a performer in the vaudeville era and they had an acrobatic trio. His father was his coach and traveled on the road with him and was also his assistant on the stage. I was a dancer when we met and everything and when I relocated to be with Anthony in Las Vegas which is where we live, things didn’t work out very well.
OK, so how it all played out was Anthony’s father was assisting him in his act for many years. It just got to a point that OK his father was getting older and Anthony was getting older, just the look of things wasn't really necessarily what people were looking for. Especially in Vegas, they wanted the modern, the sex appeal, the new and fresh, and young and hip and all of that.
So it was funny because Anthony normally doesn’t do auditions. Normally people knew who he is and they’ll just call him when they want him to work, that’s how it usually goes. But this time, someone wanted to see the act they had never seen Anthony live. So we said, “Why not? OK, sure let's go in.” I just went in, just an observer. Anthony and his father were on stage and they were doing the act. The producer loved the act, was just amazed by it. But she just happens to see me standing over on the sideline and said, “Wouldn’t it be possible for your wife to be on the stage with you?” Anthony said, “Well, yes, because she has experience as a performer”. Yes, we'd actually talked about doing the before but never seriously enough to say “OK, we will do it, we will do the act together.”
So the decision was made for us and we needed the job at the time, times were a little bit tough. We just said, “OK, this is what we're going to do. This is the time.” So we just joined forces and we got together. Anthony’s father was a huge help instructing me how to do things. I had never thrown a ball or juggled or anything like that in my life so it was different for me. But I took me a while to get used to it and to feel comfortable doing the actual juggling assisting. I had been a magic assistant so I had knew about assisting someone and not taking too much of the focus away from them, just helping them be a stronger star. So I had a little experience in that, it took a while but it just ended up being that way. So it was meant to be.
Alissa Kriteman: Right, right. It's so adorable because I thought that you joined his act like he had this big troup of people and then you joined his troup and then you fell in love like “I want the romance.” So you got married before you joined and became a couple on stage.
Danielle Gatto: Yes, actually, we were married before. But not long after we were married when we relocated to Vegas and it was tough for me to find a job because I had certain standards of what I would and wouldn’t do as a dancer. I am only 5’4” and that only gets me so far in Vegas. So we had to make some decisions and we decided what a better way to come together, work together, travel together, and we'd still be able to do what we both know how to do which is entertain.
It was very romantic how we met and how it all played out, but as far as the working together thing, it was there and we had to make a decision and how to make a choice on the spot. If somebody didn’t say, “Hey, look, we need your wife in the act to be able to work here”, who knows what would happen? We might have waited much longer, it might never happen, who knows? It was just kind of funny how it just all worked out and how it's grown since then.
Alissa Kriteman: Yes, it's kind of organic, you know. Instead of like “I'm a performer, you're a performer, let's perform.” It's like, “No, we're actually in love.” “Oh, all right. We can perform.”
OK, so let's get back to you. You got to tell me how you keep it together and keep your attitude so high given that every 6-8 weeks you're packing up your stuff and traveling. What is that like? I have so many questions about diet and nutrition, so let's start there. How do you maintain your physique and your vibrance?
Danielle Gatto: It's very difficult, I will say, because as anyone who’s travel knows the airplane food, the food on the road, fast food, quick food, unbalanced food, eating at strange hours because that’s all the time you can squeeze in and everybody understands that, it is very difficult. I'll be honest, I have been very active all my life so I have quite a high metabolism so that is a blessing for now. I'm 31, so who knows in another 20 years, maybe a little tougher for me but it's very tough, I just have to find a way to remind myself, “Hey, wait, I haven’t had enough fruits and vegetables today. I haven’t had enough protein today. Watch the saturated fat.”
I just have to remind myself that even though a big, juicy burger might sound good or something like that or a big bag of fries or something and it seems more convenient, maybe I should opt out and try to do the salad. Usually in the end, if I go with what I know I should be eating, I felt much better about myself anyways rather than if I splurge and I go for that big, juicy whatever fat fried something or other, usually I feel really guilty afterwards so it wasn't worth it for me. And knowing that I have every night to go on stage and be in front of thousands of people, it’s motivation to make me skip those fattening things but not all the time. I am human and I do splurge and I love macaroni and cheese and I love pizza and I love ice cream.
Alissa Kriteman: So you'd never know it. Do you have time to cook at home?
Danielle Gatto: I love to cook. I love to cook. Italian food is my favorite. Anthony, his family background is Italian, they come from Sicily. So I've been very much influenced by his family, eating is very important to his family. When we first met, I could not cook anything. I actually didn’t eat much myself. Being a dancer, I was into a very, very thin physique. But now that we're together, I said, “Hey, I want to learn how to cook.” Now, that I've learned, I create my own sauces, I create my own dishes, and I put different flairs on things. I love to cook so that helps when you enjoy it but I don’t have a lot of time to do it, I do it on the days off. Especially with Cirque, I'm here for such long hours and they do offer very good quality food here as well at there kitchen here, so there's not really too much need for me to cook. I do a little something after the show and then a lot of times, I'll cook on our day off.
Alissa Kriteman: That’s good to know. It's good to know that there's good healthy food here for you.
OK, we're going to take a break. When we come back, I want to delve deeper into what it's like having your love thrive on the road.
You're listening to “Just for Women: Dating, Relationships, and Sex”. I'm your host, Alissa Kriteman. We're speaking with Danielle Gatto--am I saying that correctly?--wife, choreographer, cast member of Cirque du Soleil’s touring show “Kooza” and we'll be right back.
Alissa Kriteman: Welcome back to “Just for Women: Dating, Relationships, and Sex”. I'm your host, Alissa Kriteman. We're talking with Danielle Gatto, woman extraordinaire, performer with Cirque du Soleil’s newest traveling show “Kooza”. Before the break, we were talking about how Danielle got to Cirque du Soleil, what it's been like on the road, maintaining her energy, her nutrition. What do you do to keep yourself connected with women? Do you have a lot of women friends here? I would imagine living with your husband in such closed quarters, sometimes you need some space. So how do you get women time and then how do you get alone time?
Danielle Gatto: That’s a challenge, alone time especially. I don’t have children right now but that is something that we eventually would like to have. But we do have a dog, so for right now that’s our little baby so I do spend a lot of time walking him, playing with him, and such. Women time, it's really hard to say because before joining Cirque du Soleil, we were on tour with other shows.
We've been all over and a lot of times, there are new cast members. Even though English is spoken mostly worldwide, still sometimes the language is very broken so communication is very difficult with other people. I have a very close relationship with my mother and with my sisters so we talk a lot on the phone. We email each other, we text each other, any way to touch base and try to keep in contact. Also, Anthony’s family, I'm very close with as well. So family is very important to me.
I have a lot of good girlfriends here, thank goodness. We have a nice tight little group that we do a lot of things with. We go to Niagara Falls, we go camping, we do little getaways, we're [xx] to go to wine country pretty soon and get a little cottage. So we like to do a lot of little getaway stuff, shopping, wine night and stuff like that. Here, it's really great because I've made some very dear friends.
Some places, it's very difficult and it's very hard as a woman, as an English speaker, as an American, whatever to find a way to merge with people from other cultures and to communicate with each other to find common interests. So sometimes it's very difficult but I'm very fortunate here that there's so many people that I've connected with, especially women, the women in the show as well.
Alissa Kriteman: Nice. All right, let's get into it. Talk to me.
So how do you find the time to keep you're relationship fresh? You're coming home it's like midnight, one in the morning, next day, he's practicing, you're practicing. How do you find the time to keep it fresh?
Danielle Gatto: Yes, that, I struggle with that. Honestly, I do, we both do. Our career is very important to us and Anthony does train a lot and for the level of skill that he has, it requires a lot of training. I try to take care of a lot of things to keep his mind off of other things like the bills. I do all the finances, shopping. I take care of the dog a lot, just those type of things. So it's very hard to find time for us.
Since we work together and a lot of times in certain places we go train together. I'll help him train or I'll be training doing something as well, and living together. It's very difficult to find time and to separate being partners in the business aspect from being married and being in love and separating that. It's a challenge and we just take it day by day. When we can find time to go something especial together, we like to go out to eat. We like to watch movies, we like to spend time with our dog together. So we try to find any little sliver of time that we can to get away and to spend time together.
It's a very special relationship that I have with my husband. It's very deep relationship, we are so connected that we don’t have to necessarily have all of that physical aspects as often as maybe others may. It's just we have such an amazing connection. We knew each other for three weeks before he proposed to me. It was really one of those things such as we blew each other’s mind away and we’ve such an amazing connection. I could not see him all day because he's training and he's going this way and I'm going that way and everything. We'll just come together and it’ll be like just a magnetic force. It's incredible what we have.
So we take pleasure in the little small things, you know. Like every morning we’ll wake up and we always give each other a kiss in the morning before we do anything else and just say, “How did you sleep?” and ask each other few sweet questions like that. That’s our way of bonding and connecting with all the hustle and bustle of our lives.
Alissa Kriteman: I love it! This is what I want. Three weeks, that’s incredible! Do you think it's because you're so lit up about what you're doing like your life is your art, your life is your expression. It's not like you go to work to a job that you don’t like. Do you think that has something to do with it?
Danielle Gatto: I do. I do. I think Anthony and I are very much alike in the respect that we’re very passionate about what we do. We strive to be the best that we possibly can at everything that we attempt in our lives whether it's personal, professional, whichever and the same goes for our life as well. We see maybe mistakes that have happened with our friend’s relationship, with our family’s relationships and we always continue to try to push to remain connected and to remain respectful.
We're best friends, so whatever we can do to try to keep that sometimes maybe it's me giving a little bit more or taking a little bit more or vice versa but we find a really nice balance. We try to get along as much as possible which I'm amaze that we get along as well as we do spending so much time together. I am just so, honestly, so blessed to have a soul mate and that I met him so young in my life and that we've found each other, and a small little town in Missouri, who would have thought? It's taken us all over the world together and all these amazing places, the people that we've met and then here we are in Cirque du Soleil.
Alissa Kriteman: Yes, it's pretty amazing. Did you have big dreams? Did you have a dream, “I want to work with Cirque du Soleil. I want to meet my soul mate and have it look like this.” Did this just sort of unfold?
Danielle Gatto: Honestly, I didn’t know that life is going to turn out the way it did, I didn’t. I always knew from the very beginning I've been very independent. I've been very headstrong about I want to make something of my life. I want to do something with my life and I want to take care of myself. I think that’s what has made me attracted to Anthony and Anthony attracted to me because we're very independent thinkers. We're very motivated but yet we find a way to balance it. It's difficult but we find a way to balance it, keeping the family and keeping our relationship in order, but at the same time finding time for ourselves and finding time for our goals and what we need as individuals, me as Danielle and Anthony as Anthony.
I was from a small town in the Midwest and I had friends and everything but I knew that there was something else out there for me. So as soon as I graduated high school, I was out there. I was out there, I wanted to go do things, meet people, see things. I wanted to travel. I knew that there was something in the bigger picture a place for me. So I didn’t know Cirque du Soleil. I didn’t know maybe that I would marry the greatest juggler in the world or anything like that. I just knew that I had big dreams and I had big goals and I knew that if I just kept my eye on the price, that life would just work its way out.
I think I'm a very positive person, I'm a very energetic person and I always try to find something positive in everything and I think that’s one thing that makes Anthony and I work so well together as well. He needs the positive reinforcement as well because what he does is very physical and it takes a lot mentally, physically, everything else. I feel like sometimes I'm trying to be that force behind both of us to keep pushing and to keep fighting and to keep thinking bigger and going further and trying new things and just continuing on.
Alissa Kriteman: I love it. Well, don’t they say behind every powerful man is one of us. It's just like, “Come on, babe! You can do it!”
Danielle Gatto: Absolutely.
Alissa Kriteman: Definitely in the background. One thing I want to say about what you were saying about your relationship is that Alison Armstrong who’s a pioneer in educating women about men and women and relationships, talks about the kinds of relationships that people can have. It sounds like you, guys, have a relationship. I think it's called “spirit-centered”. There's legacy where you have children and that’s where your relationship is about. It's like what is the focus of the relationship? It sounds like for you both it's your career, it's your family, it's what is it in your spirit that needs to be expressed and you both get behind each other and deliver that.
Danielle Gatto: Yes, and I have to say that for so many years, I have been his juggling assistant on the road with him, supporting him on the stage for nearly eight years. Coming to Cirque du Soleil, there's a lot of other opportunities for me as well. They see potential in me and I believe that’s why they asked me to be dance captain and they’ve asked me to do additional things on the show the voiceover at the very beginning, no smoking and such, no photos, all of these. I think that they see potential in me and they see something especial on me so that’s given me a little extra spark and motivation to continue on to not get lost and to lost my own identity.
I am so thankful that Anthony he is known how supportive I've been of him for period of time and not necessarily put my life on hold. But I have maybe put more priority for his success and to help motivate him and support him that now he's seeing opportunities for me as well. So he's become very supportive and he's been pushing me. He's really happy to see how things are working out for me. So in a way, I struggled with it from time to time thinking, “Where’s my place? What am I, Danielle Gatto? What am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to be? What about me? Then I would feel, “That’s selfish. Why am I thinking about myself?”
So then I would revert back but in the long run, I did what I thought was best for our relationship, for both of us. Now, it's kind of coming to the forefront now that there's an opportunity for me here and to be my own person as well and to think about my own career. So that means a lot to me and it another fire of me that I felt like, “I don’t know what's going to happen with me.” So maybe I just had to sacrifice a little bit and then wait for the right moment and then it appeared and now, go for it.
Alissa Kriteman: Wow. This is what I love about you, such words of wisdom. But that’s a true maturity of being in a partnership, knowing to when maybe take a little bit of a backseat, but knowing in your heart fully well, “I'm here for a purpose. There's something big here for me but right now, I'm going to support my husband.” It's exactly that kind of spirit-centered relationship like you said.
Thank you for sharing that. It's just beautiful to hear that you're humble enough and strong enough. I think sometimes we feel like, “Oh, we have to muscle through and compete like the men and get out there.” But that’s the feminine grace of power where you just sense and you're using your intuition and your guidance as a woman to “You know what? I'm going to put him first and then see where this goes but I'm not going to forget my dreams.” And look, it's all happening.
Danielle Gatto: Exactly, and that’s so true. I know sometimes it was a struggle for Anthony as well because sometimes I would go, “You don’t know what my point is. What am I here to do? What about me?” and things like that, and he’d go, “Oh, boy, here we go.” But then, he knew what I was giving of myself for us and I knew that he was going to work everyday working his tail off to make things better for us as well. So I know he was doing this for me and everything I was doing was for him as well. So now, it's just come in full circle, and now he knew the potential that I have as my own individual as well.
Now, it's just very beautiful how it's worked out that I just remained focus that I did want something from my own personal career and he knew that as well. As long as I just stayed focus on that even though I had to be a little patient for the moment and realized, “OK, maybe it's not going to happen right now, maybe it's not going to happen tomorrow, maybe its not next year but things will sort themselves out and when the opportunity rises, to go for it. Not just to say, “Oh, there's the opportunity. Oh, there it goes”, you know, to really go for it. Not be scared and just go for it when it's there or otherwise, you'll never know when the next one could roll around.
Alissa Kriteman: Words of wisdom from Danielle Gatto. I love it. Thank you so much for being with us today and really imparting your honesty and your truth and really, your keys to having a relationship that actually works. I've seen you, guys, together individually and really you are special, special people. So thank you, thanks for taking the time to talk to me and help women understand how to have their relationships work.
Danielle Gatto: Thanks, Alissa. I'm hopeful that somebody hear something of what I've said and maybe they're going through one of those points that I was little down and out, thinking what's going to happen with me. They can just remain patient, remain loving and remain centered as much as possible and just know that things will look up and they will have their shining moments. Just to continue and stay with it and stay focused and just love yourself.
Alissa Kriteman: It sounds so easy, doesn’t it?
Danielle Gatto: Yes, it does, believe me. It's a challenge, I had moments that I get pretty down and out and I get bumped out and I'm just like, “Oh, gosh”. I can't always be the little cheerleader on the sidelines and the passive one who always comes to work with a smile on her face and I'm always there to try to listen to people and to try to lift the spirit of everyone up.
Sometimes I can’t be that either, but I think that’s just was built in me, I'm a very positive person anyways. But I find that being a positive person mixed with really working hard and seeing what you want in life whether it's just a successful marriage, whether it's a healthy body, a healthy spirit, whether it's a career, whether it's children, and whatever it is to remain focus on that and be patient with yourself. Love yourself and just be positive and think positive. If you go through a tough time in life, just let it take its course but then get right back on track.
Alissa Kriteman: I really like what you said about staying focused on what really feels good to us. It's like you trusted that from a very young age and your soul mate showed up and in three weeks you were together. So I definitely agree, I think it doesn’t have to be as hard as we want to make it out to be but we're not necessarily practiced in really honoring our deepest truths.
So thank you for being another echo and a beacon for that for women as well. So how can women find you? Where do we find you if women want to contact you, learn more about you, see your beautiful pictures on the Internet?
Danielle Gatto: Well, you can see my beautiful pictures--actually, Anthony and I, we have a website that’s we're joined together--Anthony loves to design websites and stuff--so he wanted to put a link, a page entitled “Danielle” on his website. So if you go to www.AnthonyGatto.com and you can click on my page, Danielle. You can email me, you could just see a little more about my story and put a face with the voice and all of that. I'd love to hear if I touched anyone or if there's anything that I could do to just help anyone out there. I know that sometimes we just need someone to listen and we need just advice and advice with no intentions behind it. I'm not trying to sell anything, I'm not trying to get anything from anyone, so just to be there because everybody needs a positive influence and something positive to hear that they can carry on with them.
Alissa Kriteman: Exactly, and I'm not even going to say blog because you have so many things going on but I'm like, “Blog! Blog!”. Maybe we'll have you blog on my blog.
OK, and also, I guess people could go to CirqueduSoleil.com and find out the show schedules, see “Kooza”, see you.
Danielle Gatto: Absolutely. There's not too much about me per se on Cirque du Soleil’s website, but Cirque has information about everything about “Kooza”, where we're going, how long we'll be there, how to get tickets. They have a list of all the different acts and photos to connect with each act, so there's a lot of information on their website as well.
Alissa Kriteman: OK, awesome, and that’s “Kooza” and that is the newest tour from Cirque du Soleil.
Danielle, thank you so much. I could talk to her all day but that brings us to the end of this show. Thank you so much, listeners, for listening.
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