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Stunts and Circuses


By Wendy Soderburg '82, Photos by Hugh Hamilton

Published Jan 1, 2010 8:00 AM

Life After College

Because there are no professional gymnastics leagues, stunt work is a gymnast's professional world, says Valorie Kondos Field '87, the legendary head coach of UCLA's perennial championship-contending women's gymnastics team. She jokes that with all the calls she receives from production companies looking for gymnasts, she could have made a lot of money as an agent by now.

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"Even if you never had aspirations to go into this type of work, you've trained your body for all these years and you're able to do things that the average person — even [other] athletes — can't do," she says. "How much fun is that to go on a set and do stunt work, even if you don't want to be a stunt person? It pays really well, it's fun and it's not something that you're going to be able to do forever."

Tasha Schwikert, 25, and her sister Jordan, 23, have taken that advice to heart.

Both former members of the U.S. national team, the sisters figured that when they finished their four years of UCLA eligibility in 2008, they would be done with gymnastics.

Then the pilot for Make It or Break It came along, and Tasha and Jordan got swept back into gymnastics. Tasha plays a background gymnast in gym scenes, and Jordan doubles for actress Ayla Kell ("Payson Keeler").

"I was ready to close the book on gymnastics, and six months later, it opens again," Jordan says. "I was like, hold on! I was cool with not putting on my grips anymore. Especially a leotard! But being on the show is fun, and it kind of replaces that adrenaline rush you get as an athlete. Nothing compares with actually competing, but shooting a scene feels good, and it's nice to get those little moments back."


Karin Silvestri-Coye displays the agility that has gotten her stunt jobs on countless films and TV shows.

Tasha agrees that being on the show is a great experience, but she hasn't veered from her original plans to go into sports journalism. "I've always wanted to be a sports reporter, and I still see myself there," she says. "I'm just working toward that."

Ariana Berlin, 22, enjoys her work as a stunt double on Make It or Break It, but dancing remains her true love. A professional break dancer with World Famous Crew, Berlin finished her gymnastics eligibility in April 2009 and will graduate from UCLA in June with a degree in world arts and cultures.

She's been able to squeeze stunt work on the show between professional gigs with her dance crew and jobs that her agent finds for her. Recently she shot a commercial for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, her first.

"I really want to be a director and an editor, but dancing doesn't last forever, and the paycheck-by-paycheck lifestyle kind of scares me," Berlin says. "I don't know how much better directing and editing is, but it's a major passion of mine and I figure if I'm happy doing what I'm doing, then it's OK."

Kondos Field thinks it's healthy for the girls to take on stunt gigs while they're pursuing other careers. "You can always go back to school, but you can't always dance," she says. "That's how I feel about them when they graduate. You go do Cirque, because you're not always going to be able to do that. There's nothing in this world that can take the place of performing, so if you really want to do that and that's in your soul, go do it."