Balancing act

Nik Wal­l­enda will ap­pear at the Trop­ic­ana Casino & Re­sort this Sunday through Sept. 22.

— High wire en­ter­tain­er Nik Wal­l­enda has been aw­ing audi­ences his en­tire life. His next high-rise stop is At­lantic City.


High wire en­ter­tain­er Nik Wal­l­enda has been per­form­ing with his fam­ily since the age of 2, now be­long­ing to the sev­enth gen­er­a­tion of the fam­ily also known as The Fly­ing Wal­l­en­das.

“I began walk­ing the wire at the age of four, but was nev­er pushed in­to it by my par­ents,” said the 33-year-old Wal­l­enda, set for a long ap­pear­ance at the Trop­ic­ana Casino & Re­sort in At­lantic City, be­gin­ning this Sunday and run­ning through Sept. 22. “In fact, when I first star­ted per­form­ing pro­fes­sion­ally, I was the one who had to con­vince my par­ents to let me do it.”

They agreed, and Wal­l­enda went on to be­come one of the best known per­formers in his fam­ily. He re­cently broke all kinds of re­cords by walk­ing a wire strung across Niagara Falls. The June 15 walk was watched on TV by an es­tim­ated 1 bil­lion people, and made Wal­l­enda the only per­son in the world to achieve the walk.

“I was ful­filling a dream by do­ing that,” Wal­l­enda said. “Ever since my par­ents took us to the Falls when I was about six years old, I thought how cool and thrill­ing it would be to walk across the Falls, so it was something I al­ways pur­sued as a pos­sib­il­ity.”

The whole Wal­l­enda fam­ily his­tory has al­ways been one of cre­at­ing thrills and chills, one that began when the Wal­l­en­das first came to Amer­ica in 1928 at the be­hest of John Ringling.

Le­gend goes their net was lost in ship­ping so they worked without a net 55 feet high in Madis­on Square Garden. After the act, they heard yelling. The Wal­l­en­das thought they would be fired on the spot. In­stead, they were giv­en a 15-minute stand­ing ova­tion.

“And we’ve nev­er used a net from then on,” said Wal­l­enda, un­til he was forced to wear a har­ness for pro­tec­tion dur­ing his Niagara Falls walk. “You know, deal­ing with law­yers is my biggest chal­lenge in do­ing my job. They are al­ways wor­ried about li­ab­il­ity. So I had to wear something this time, but I nev­er want to do it again.”

Work­ing without a net caused the death of great-grand­fath­er Karl Wal­l­enda who, un­for­tu­nately, lost his bal­ance walk­ing between two build­ings in Pu­erto Rico.

“I even­tu­ally de­cided to re­cre­ate that stunt,” the young Wal­l­enda said. “I saw the video of my great-grand­fath­er fall­ing hun­dreds of times, so I men­tally pre­pared my­self to do it my­self. It worked.”

Since then, there have been many oth­er stunts this Wal­l­enda, who holds sev­en world re­cords, has achieved. And, hope­fully, he said, there will be many, many more.

“I train as an ath­lete,” he ex­plained. “When I’m not in the gym five days a week, I’m train­ing four to five hours a day, some­times six days a week. For the Niagara Falls walk, I trained in fifty-mile-an-hour winds in heavy mist on the same cable with the same ten­sion just so I could get used to and face all kinds of forces out there. I re­spect the fact that what I do presents many dangers, and that’s why I train so hard.”

Dur­ing his At­lantic City ap­pear­ance, Wal­l­enda and his wife, Erendira, climb two tower­ing steel spires known as sway-poles, com­bin­ing strength, bal­ance and dar­ing in an ar­ray of ac­ro­bat­ics at dizzy heights, as well as an icon­ic Wal­l­enda fam­ily stunt — a two-tiered, three-per­son pyr­am­id us­ing a chair and two bi­cycles. The show also in­cludes oth­er artists from around the world.

The fath­er of three, Wal­l­enda says he neither en­cour­ages nor dis­cour­ages his chil­dren to join in the “fam­ily busi­ness. My wife and I just en­cour­age them to study and fo­cus on their edu­ca­tion. They have my bless­ing to do whatever they choose to do as a ca­reer. They have an amaz­ing leg­acy, but we leave it up to them to fol­low any path they choose.”

As for Nik Wal­l­enda, he’s do­ing ex­actly what he wants to do.

“I get paid to make people happy, in­spire them and put a smile on their faces. For me, that makes everything I do worth­while,” he said. “My grand­fath­er once said, ‘Life is be­ing on the wire; everything else is just wait­ing.’ To me, I’m alive when I’m on the wire.” ••

For times and tick­et in­form­a­tion, call 1-800-736-1420.

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