It took 20 years: How Vietnam’s circus brothers wowed the world with daredevil stunt

By Staff reporters   April 30, 2018 | 04:41 pm PT
It took 20 years: How Vietnam’s circus brothers wowed the world with daredevil stunt
Giang Quoc Co and Giang Quoc Nghiep at an interview with VnExpress on April 27, 2018. Photo by Maison de Bil
To perform an internationally recognized act, the Giang brothers had to overcome challenges that at times seemed unbearable.

The audience and judges of Britain’s Got Talent exploded with applause when the Vietnamese Giang brothers finished their gravity-defying head-to-head balancing stunt broadcast worldwide on April 21.

The act was considered “honestly amazing” by Simon Cowell, the famously hard to please British judge. A similar performance brought Giang Quoc Co, 33, and Giang Quoc Nghiep, 28, the Guinness World Record in 2016 and international recognition for Vietnamese circus artists.

This “incredible” walk up and down a staircase in the head to head position is the result of rigorous training for six to eight hours everyday for almost 20 years, the brothers said.

“We are passionate about circus,” said Nghiep who balances on the top, and his older brother, Co, in an interview with VnExpress. Coming from a family with a circus tradition, the brothers started training when Nghiep was just 11.

It was their father, a circus artist himself, who inspired them to follow this path. But he didn’t make it easy for his sons. He made them study and train for most of the day, leaving no time for outings with friends. But the brothers appreciate their father’s strict routine, which helped them bond and establish complete trust, which is vital in life-death performances.

“We are lucky to have a father like him,” Nghiep said.

For Co, the tough training schedule didn’t seem to be enough at times, as he occasionally slept with his head on the floor and feet against the wall. “We think about the act even in our sleep,” the older brother said.

That didn’t, however, prevent life and death situations from happening. The thrilling act has cost Nghiep three serious injuries. In 2009, when the duo were performing in Taiwan, Co missed a step and fell, causing his brother balancing on top to hit the floor in front of an audience of thousands. Co panicked as his brother lied there motionless. Nghiep’s spine was heavily damaged and he was hospitalized for two weeks, but the brothers had to continue their performance as they could not afford to break the contract.

“The most painful thing is that I was the one who caused the accident to my brother,” Co said. There were times when he doubted himself and almost gave up the life-threatening career.

The accidents are painful memories but Nghiep considers them an inevitable part of the job, and there is no success without difficulties. “I've never ever thought of blaming my brother,” he said.

“As I balance atop his head, I worry of nothing and trust him with my life,” Nghiep said.

Being a circus artist is a demanding job that requires the duo to travel globally. Co was not around when his son was born as he was in Spain performing the Guinness act. “I felt very regretful,” he said.

But the brothers are also happy because their wives are very understanding of their career. Nghiep said that because his wife trusts him, he can totally concentrate on his work. “Our wives are the gifts God has given us,” they said.

The Giang brothers said they earn a good income, contrary to common belief of many Vietnamese that it’s a low paying job with a small audience. The brothers believe that when performers have good acts, they can make good money.

Wearing the traditional dress ao dai with a pin of the Vietnamese flag, the duo hoped to promote their motherland’s culture on Britain’s Got Talent. When the stunt was well received by the global audience, they knew they had succeeded.

“We want to show that Vietnamese circus is no less than the world’s,” they said.

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