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Flexible schedule vital for local massage therapist who helps Cirque du Soleil performers

Sean Holt, of Bellefonte, is a licensed massage therapist who is working with Cirque du Soleil performers as they perform at the Bryce Jordan Center this week.
Sean Holt, of Bellefonte, is a licensed massage therapist who is working with Cirque du Soleil performers as they perform at the Bryce Jordan Center this week. CDT photo

Sean Holt never knows where Cirque du Soleil will have him set up.

It could be a suite. It could be a hallway, or a storage closet, or even a bathroom.

He just follows the signs to his temporary workspace.

As a massage therapist for Dragonfly Therapeutic Massage in Ferguson Township, Holt practices out of a normal office. But as an independent contractor for Cirque du Soleil for more than 100 shows, he has relaxed the muscles of performers and staff members in all sorts of odd locations.

Before Thursday’s performance, he found his designated site in the depths of the Bryce Jordan Center.

“I’ve been in some pretty funky places,” Holt said . “(This time) it was the illustrious restroom.”

Holt said he could work on about 20 performers for a show. He said his first client of the day, Jonathan Morin, performs a physically taxing cross-wheeled act for the show.

“Sean Holt is truly a valuable asset for our circus troupe,” Morin said via email. “The obvious popularity of his service among the whole company is a testimonial on the quality of his service.”

Holt said how he massages individual clients, such as Morin, is confidential.

“It all depends on what they do in the show,” Holt said. “An aerial performer will usually want the upper body, so they ask for shoulders, neck, back, and some dance-heavy people and tumblers like the lower back and legs. It also depends on what’s going on with them that day.”

Sometimes it’s a lot to fit into half-hour sessions.

“I’ve gotten used to the style of Cirque du Soleil,” Holt said. “I really had to work on my half-hour sessions to cover everything they wanted, because I’m trying to cover as much as I can, as effective as I can. It’s definitely made me raise the bar in my regular practice.”

Holt said he thought working for the show would be a one-time thing.

About seven years ago, he was a new massage therapist at Dragonfly when physiotherapists from the show called the spa. They were looking for a massage therapist. Holt, new to the company, had an open schedule and said he’d do it.

Then, at the show, he happened to be set up in the right place to hear they needed a masseuse for more shows.

“I overheard them saying they needed a therapist for their next city, and I asked where they were going,” Holt said. “They said Norfolk, Va., and my best friend lived in Richmond. I told them I’d do it and crash with my friend. They were blown away.”

Holt has worked shows as far away as Hawaii and has learned a lot in his travels — chief among them what music to play for performers.

“Music is key,” Holt said.

“I don’t play typical massage therapy music. You want something with a beat to it, because you don’t want to put them to sleep and then just send them out there to perform. It’s part of what helps them get ready.”

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