WANT TO GO?
"All Grown Up: A Benefit Concert"
WHERE: Keith-Albee Theater, 925 Fourth Ave., Huntington
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
TICKETS: Adults $15, students and seniors $10 through Ticketmaster
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There are several ways to gauge how tough and determined Mary Wolfe-Nielsen is.
You might consider how the 26-year-old Huntington native keeps her body strength up by routinely pulling herself up and down ropes just by her arms -- while her legs are held straight out to the side.
Or how she taught herself high-flying aerial silk acrobatics, a la Cirque du Soleil, via YouTube videos. Or maybe it's how she began flinging herself off high fake cliffs in order to get a job in an indoor "cliff-diving show" in Utah.
But maybe the truest picture of her grit is how she quickly got her life back on track after nearly destroying her right foot when she missed a stunt dive and landed on pavement in July 2010.
"I had surgery in Huntington. I think it was eight hours," she said in a phone interview in advance of a homecoming performance Saturday at the Keith-Albee Theater.
Surgeons, including Zack Tankersley at the Marshall University of Medicine, rebuilt her foot with a jigsaw puzzle of screws and pins. Twenty days later, on crutches, she boarded a plane to return to her job as a cliff diver at a Mayan Adventure show in Sandy, Utah.
The trouble was, though, that her foot injury meant diving was out of the question.
"I just managed and directed the cliff-diving show in Utah. I still needed to perform, so that's when I started training to do all the aerial stuff. We added aerial at the cliff-diving show."
If you've seen a Cirque du Soleil show, you've seen the relatively new art of aerial silk acrobatics. Performers wrap hanging folds of colorful silk strands hung from ceiling rigging around themselves, then climb, soar, glide, tumble down and hang by various body parts.
Aerial silk gave Wolfe-Nielsen back her performing career. But she warns against learning the art in the fashion she learned it, from online videos with friends spotting her when she tried out moves. She took the precaution of training over water.
"So I could hook myself up to a beam that was like 40 feet above me and there would be water below me," she said.
She is now confident enough in her skill to perform over hard surfaces, but only if she is dead certain she knows the moves, she said. "I don't do anything over the ground if I haven't done it hundreds of times before."