In 2017, Swiss aerialist Jason Brügger officially joined a circus – a life-long dream. But an inner-ear infection threatened to bring this dream to an abrupt end. However, the young artist refused to give up and kept reaching for the stars. The hearing aids he wears, made by Sonova brand Phonak, have helped him on this journey.
Jason Brügger seems almost weightless as he swoops through the circus tent. With the aid of broad straps, he soars and spins around his own axis high above the heads of his audience – with no safety net. He looks like an angel with his long, white-feathered wings attached to his arms. The crowd at the Swiss National Circus Knie watches with bated breath. Many already know him from his TV performances: it is this act, in which Brügger enacts the ancient tale of Icarus, that won him the fourth season of the casting show “Switzerland’s Got Talent” in 2016.
The straps, also known as “aerial silks” or ribbons, on which Jason relies as he glides back and forth, are fastened just below the roof of the tent. There are loops at the lower end of each strap into which the circus artist’s arms or legs are inserted. The precise height at which Jason floats is in the hands of someone else. A technician, who works extremely closely with him, operates a motor, which pulls the silks up. The technician is also responsible for bringing him safely back down to earth at the end of the act.
The audience is transfixed by his performance. No one says a word. Only once the routine is over does the tension break and give way to lengthy and enthusiastic applause. Glittering, multi-colored confetti swirls around the floodlights. Jason and his fellow artists – dancers, dressage riders and trampoline jumpers – take a bow and exit the tent, happy and relaxed after their performance. He beams. Jason loves captivating people with his acrobatic displays. “As an artist, you’re highly aware of the audience’s energy,” he explains. “You get so much from it, and I think it’s a real privilege to stand up in front of a packed house every day.”
Jason Brügger always dreamed of becoming a circus artist, and his parents supported him in his endeavors. As a young boy in Basel he appeared in a children’s circus, and straight after graduating from high school, he left for Canada to undergo further training at the renowned “National Circus School” in Montreal. But then came a severe infection of his right inner ear, accompanied by hearing loss, tinnitus, and bouts of vertigo; the same condition spread to his left ear soon after. “The doctors advised me against becoming a circus artist as I had real difficulties with my balance,” Jason recalls. “I didn’t even know if I would make it as a circus artist.”
The hearing aids from Sonova brand Phonak that he has been wearing since 2015 helped him to achieve his dream, however. “I can still remember putting on my hearing aids for the first time. A whole world opened up to me again,” he says. This experience was so overwhelming that he wept for joy. “My life has changed so much since then. I really enjoy life. I do things. I’m braver. I’m part of the world once more.”
It was after winning the TV casting show “Switzerland’s Got Talent” in 2016 that Jason got the call from Circus Knie. Founded over 200 years ago by Friedrich Knie, it is one of Europe’s oldest circus dynasties and is known far beyond Switzerland’s borders – not least for its fascinating horse acts. 56 artists from 11 countries were hired in 2017 for the tour program; Jason Brügger was among them.
Jason’s hearing aids help him not only in his everyday domestic life but also when he is flying high above the circus ring. He says he cannot imagine doing an aerial show without hearing aids today. “Now I can hear the music and the audience.” The young artist goes on to explain that he had previously missed all of that and had felt like he was in a pot with the lid on...
For Jason, daily life in the circus follows a set routine: he starts by brewing himself a cup of tea and sitting down to breakfast in his caravan. His little pug dog Bombo sets the tone, working through his own set of acrobatic exercises on the bed and the narrow, padded benches in the sitting area. No one else is up yet; it is still silent outside. Jason calls the dog over. “I love taking Bombo out for a walk first thing in the morning.” Today, Circus Knie is performing in Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva. A few wisps of mist still hang over the water, and the far side of the lake is flanked by majestic mountains. Jason heads for the water and soaks up the peaceful atmosphere.
“What do I like about the circus life? Pretty much everything!” says Jason. He can now hear and savor the sounds of this distinctive little world, too; he is particularly fond of the piping barrel organ that stands in one of the smaller tents. “The atmosphere before a show is always really nice. When you notice that things are about to get going. The people are coming. They’re looking forward to it. They’re excited,” Jason notes. He likes hanging out with the camels, zebras and horses in the circus’ own petting zoo: “You really get a lot from animals. Day-to-day life in the circus is often stressful. There’s always something going on. Whenever I’m with the animals, it calms me down – especially before a show. And it brings a bit of serenity into your day.”
Jason has plenty of ideas for the future as well – such as founding his own circus school to nurture the next generation of talented acrobats or creating his own show with friends and going on tour together: “Costumes, music, set – I’m brimming with ideas!” As an ambassador for Sonova’s hearing instrument brand Phonak, Jason Brügger will also be actively involved in a range of projects around the globe designed to support people with hearing loss – and a cause that is deeply personal for the talented circus artist. “I certainly hope that I can encourage other people to believe in themselves with my story. Even if you’ve been told something is beyond you for whatever reason, you should believe in yourself anyway, and fight for your dreams – there’s always a way to achieve what you want to do.”