She may only be 19, but Cirque Du Soleil contortionist Odka Byambadorj is a seasoned pro. The Mongolia-born performer has been globetrotting with the world-renowned entertainment group since she was 14, and will be performing in Cirque Du Soleil's KOOZA in Columbus. I had a ton of questions, seeing as how Byambadorj quite literally "ran off and joined the circus" at a young age - something I always threatened my parents with, but obviously never followed through on. Between stretching and practicing her routine, I chatted with the young performer about her experience travelling, life at the circus and how loud American audiences tend to be.

She may only be 19, but Cirque Du Soleil contortionist Odka Byambadorj is a seasoned pro. The Mongolia-born performer has been globetrotting with the world-renowned entertainment group since she was 14, and will be performing in Cirque Du Soleil’s KOOZA in Columbus. I had a ton of questions, seeing as how Byambadorj quite literally “ran off and joined the circus” at a young age — something I always threatened my parents with, but obviously never followed through on. Between stretching and practicing her routine, I chatted with the young performer about her experience travelling, life at the circus and how loud American audiences tend to be.

“Everyone who does [a circus-inspired act] has the goal of being in Cirque Du Soleil. I started doing contortion when I was eight years old. My grandparents put me in the program because they thought I would like it. My [contortion] coach was working with the show, so I auditioned. It was always my dream goal. I went on tour with my coach, so my parents wouldn’t worry. I was also studying the whole time and I got to come home every three months, so it wasn’t so bad. I’m never homesick though; I love to travel and see new cities every month while I’m working.

I’m less nervous with an audience. It’s better to have people watching you perform than practicing alone. One of my first performances was in Tokyo. The crowd claps for you there, but very quietly. They show appreciation by bringing the performers flowers after the show. Right after our time in Japan, we came to America. I remember doing my routine and thinking about how loud the audience was. Americans are very loud at our shows.

I’m never scared. I’ve done this act thousands of times. We practice two and a half hours a day, six days a week. Then we train with all the staging for 30 minutes. I’m only nervous when I come back from an injury — I am apprehensive about trying the trick [I was performing when I got injured] for the first time, but that’s it.

KOOZA runs through July 5 at the former Cooper Stadium site at 1155 W. Mount St. The two-hour performance includes a live band, moving sets, acrobats, gymnasts, hoopers, jugglers and the “Wheel of Death.”