If the aerial acrobatics in the video and slide show below seem like something you shouldn’t try at home, that would be a wise assumption. Yet, that’s just what Wheeling native Megan Wilson and her Londoner husband Andy Parrish did.
Well, not exactly at home. Their Duo Quintessence show — which makes its local debut Saturday, Feb. 15, at The Capitol Theatre as a fundraiser for Wheeling Symphony Orchestra — technically began in her uncle’s Triadelphia warehouse.
Wilson said the space was critical when the dance- and acrobatics-trained couple took more than a year off working as part of a larger troupe to develop the show they now perform all over the world via cruise ship contracts.
“If we could even have found a building in the area, we could not have afforded to rent a venue with the amount of ceiling height and structure we required,” Wilson said of how important Michael Baker’s warehouse was during show development.
“He is constantly having to arrange all of his construction equipment to accommodate us,” Wilson said. “Without his extreme generosity, there would be no show and no Duo Quintessence.”
[template_part type="video" title="DUO QUINTESSENCE" description="High-flying entertainment coming to Wheeling!" url="https://youtu.be/o2zw4qf3DqE "]
That kind of generosity, however, is what Wilson and Parrish have experienced on both sides of the pond. Wheeling and London serve as their home ports between the international cruises on which they perform.
Here, the duo stay in Megan’s family home, that of Dr. Daniel and Cheryl Wilson of the Elm Grove neighborhood. In London, they stay with Andy’s family.
And, here or there, family has worked its way into every element of their unconventional life and career. Megan’s sister Nicole did some of the choreography that will be on display locally. Even the name of their act has a family connection.
“My younger brother, Justin, was actually the one who came up with it,” Wilson said of Duo Quintessence. The name refers to a mystical fifth element that was thought to compose the heavenly bodies during medieval times and to a Middle English term for “‘the most perfect,’ which is what we aim to be in each and every performance.”
Add in an aunt — symphony advocate Julie Blust, who is co-chairing the performance with Betsy Delk as a fundraiser for that organization — and Wilson said it was only natural to dedicate the two local shows to their loved ones.
That also includes Megan’s maternal grandparents, Joe and Veneida Baker of Wheeling. “(They) have, hands down, been our No. 1 fans and biggest supporters throughout the entire process of becoming a headliner aerial act,” Wilson said. “They believed in us when even we … were ready to give up.”
Having that kind of home base has also proven critical to maintaining an emotional center of balance given their unusual career, Wilson noted.
“Being on a cruise ship for extended periods of time is kind of like living in a little bubble,” she said. “Being able to come back to Wheeling and having a support system of people there that we know we can count on no matter where we are in the world gives us a sense of stability and keeps us from remaining adrift, without any real sense of belonging.”
Wilson and Parrish met on a cruise ship in 2011 while performing together with a larger aerial act. Now married and working as a duo in the same type of venue, they keep Wheeling as their home port while traveling the world. Here they are at Trafalgar Square, London. The work is hard, Wilson said, but there are perks. On their off hours they’ve had such adventures as dog sledding on a glacier, hiking a volcano and scuba diving with sharks, and traveling to such places as ...
... Brugge, Belgium ...
... Geiranger, Norway ...
... and Old Town, Dubrovnick, Croatia.
HIGH FLYING, HARD WORKING
Of course, it has taken a bit more than emotional support to make Duo Quintessence work, Wilson acknowledged. The couple train constantly to remain strong and flexible enough to do what they do.
It is something they have done since early childhood. For Wilson, that meant starting at age 3 — training in jazz, tap, ballet and acrobatics with Charlotte Berisford and David Callihan at Dance Dimensions of Wheeling. That continued until she graduated from Wheeling Central Catholic High School in 2006.
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She also trained for several years with Joe Ashton of Ohio Valley Gymnastics in nearby Bridgeport, Ohio.
After signing with Royal Caribbean for her first tour as a dancer (leaving a forensics chemistry program at West Virginia University to do so), Wilson moved into aerial work almost by chance. She was hooked, as was Parrish.
They met while part of a larger aerial act, then opted to bill themselves as a duo.
“When we were creating our show, we went to train every day for six to eight hours, just like someone who has a regular 9-5 job,” Wilson said, noting that each day’s work also included a least an hour of warm-up and stretching. They worked especially hard to incorporate their dance training, an element she said helps them separate themselves from similar acts whose performers have a circus or athletics background.
During that stage in their career, evenings were also taken up with, “searching for music, cutting videos, taking photos, designing costumes and … scouring the internet for employment opportunities … to land that first official gig.”
Now represented by an agent and steadily employed for the last two years, there still isn’t much time to relax — even on a cruise ship.
“Most of our training on the ship happens really late at night, when the theater is free, and we are able to use the stage to rig our equipment,” Wilson said, noting their lives literally depend on safe installation and management of the same.
“We (also) spend several additional hours each morning in the gym doing some pretty intense interval training and stretching … It takes a very long time to build the skills and no time at all to lose them.”
There’s also the employment side.
“In the entertainment business, where there is so much talent and competition, the next job offer is never for certain,” Wilson said.
The hard work aside, Wilson said they pretty much love what they are doing. In addition to the obvious travel perks, she is happy to be living the performing artist’s dream.
“We consider ourselves extremely blessed to have what we imagine is one of the best jobs in the world and to be able to do it together.”
WANT TO SEE THEM?
Wilson’s aunt, Julie Blust, believes that togetherness adds an extra something special to the couple’s first Wheeling performance, which occurs during a weekend full of Valentine events at The Capitol Theatre.
“This is a hometown performance that they are donating to the symphony,” show co-chair Blust said, noting the symphony is not part of the aerial acrobatics performance.
She hopes the unusual nature of the show will bring out a good crowd. “We’re always looking for new fundraisers, ideally different things to appeal to a wide variety of audiences.”
Duo Quintessence will perform twice at The Capitol Theatre. The 1 p.m. matinee will be followed by a cookies-and-punch social. The 7:30 p.m. evening performance will be followed by a champagne and dessert reception. Both events include a meet-and-greet with the performers. Tickets are available online or in person at the box office, located at 1025 Main St., Suite 811, Wheeling.
Wheeling native Megan Wilson and her Londoner husband Andy Parrish will bring their aerial acrobatics act Duo Quintessence to The Capitol Theatre Feb. 15 as a fund-raiser for the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra. Wilson now performs internationally, but began her career in the arts on the very same stage, during a dance recital when she was a pre-schooler.
• A long-time journalist, Nora Edinger also blogs at noraedinger.com and Facebook and writes books. Her Christian chick lit and faith-related non-fiction are available on Amazon. She lives in Wheeling, where she is part of a three-generation, two-species household.