Most husbands don’t spend their days throwing knives at their wives, but Alfredo and Anna Silva are not your average couple. The masterminds behind the knife-throwing performance Deadly Games, they have audiences and judges too nervous to watch their act – it says something when even the hardened Simon Cowell is too anxious to watch.
But performing under stress is what Alfredo Silva knows best. Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil and raised “everywhere”, he is the sixth generation of a circus family.
“I grew up in the circus, watching my father, grandfather and whole family performing, and they were my heroes, I always wanted to be like them,” he says in a Skype interview from Las Vegas.
From the age of four, he started mimicking the performers around him, laying the foundations for his life’s trajectory.
“I started to be the juggler, the knife thrower, I performed the whip act, on the trampoline, the flying trapeze, the Globe of Death…I tried it all, but I always had a passion for the dangerous ones,” remembers Alfredo.
Globe of Death – where stunt riders ride motorcycles inside a mesh sphere ball looping vertically as well as horizontally at speeds in excess of 80 km/h – has been a special talent in the family, with his grandfather performing the death-defying act until the age of 64.
“I started to perform Globe of Death at the age of nine. I was riding two motorbikes inside the globe with my grandfather.
“I was brainwashed to be attracted to danger,” Alfredo jokes, “watching my father and grandfather do it, I wanted to do the same, I wanted to look cool. I’m also a person who likes to be in control, and in those situations you don’t have control and that turns me on, it’s like an adrenaline rush.”
The deal was sealed at a young age.
In 2002, at the age of 20, Silva took the Globe of Death act to a circus troupe in Europe, travelling far and wide, but it was also the year he suffered a potentially fatal accident in Denmark.
“I crashed and the other bike fell on my head. I was rushed to the hospital and it was bad. But the very next day I was back performing. Psychologically it’s important, because if you develop any kind of fear it can affect you for the rest of your life.
“You have to have the mindset that you are in control. You have to learn everything you can from every experience, good or bad, take what you need and let go of what you don’t. Don’t get attached to bad things, it can haunt you.”
Mastering his mind and overcoming fear would prove to be even more valuable skills when Alfredo met his future wife, and woman he would eventually spend his days throwing knives at. Alfredo and Anna met in Germany when she was the new dancer in the show. Russian Anna started dancing at the age of four and is a professional ballerina and choreographer.
“Because of her stage presence, she was chosen to be my partner in the magic show, which was based on illusion, big tricks, making her disappear, folding her into a little box, stabbing knives into the box. It was a very Las Vegas style magic act and was very well received.”
Anna and Alfredo went from a professional couple to one in real life too, and in 2008 they took their magic act and Globe of Death to the Great Moscow Circus in Australia.
“When we did the Globe of Death, Anna would stand in the middle and we would ride two motorbikes around her and she loved it. She felt very comfortable around danger, she sensed the same thrill I do.”
And another adrenaline junkie was born.
“My grandfather taught me to throw knives as a kid and when I asked Anna, ‘How about I throw knives at you?’ she said ‘ok’ and it was that easy. We trained the knife act for two years, that’s how long it took to refine the skills, music, costumes, choreography, and style”.
Practicing involves throwing knives at a board, endless times.
“I have to get 100 precise consecutive throws, otherwise I go back to the beginning. This can happen 20 times if needed, but only when I get them all where I want them do I put Anna on the board. I start by throwing the knives very far away from her and move them closer and closer.”
“You have to block everything around you out, the audience, the music, whatever is around. It’s just me, Anna, the knife and the board. When I throw the knife I kind of see it in slow motion, I open my hand and let it go, I see the knife flying and I know where it is going to hit before it lands. Before I open my hand, I know if I did a good throw or a bad one.”
And there have been bad throws.
“We had been practicing and she was holding the little balloon with her mouth against the board. We didn’t have much experience at the time, I threw the knife, it hit the board, touched the balloon but didn’t pop it. I threw another knife and the same thing happened. On the third try the knife hit the other one and changed it’s course, hitting Ana on the nose. The blood gushed from her and I was very scared. It was not a good day at the office for us.”
With three kids, two from Alfredo’s previous relationship, and a two-year-old daughter together, the couple face a lot of juggling, both on and off stage.
“Being a parent has made me brave in some things and scared in others. It has given me the drive to focus on getting to where I want to be able to give them a good life. So instead of saying ‘I’m going to go party with my friends tonight,’ I say, ‘I’m going to go get a good night’s sleep because tomorrow I have to go train’.”
In 2015, an email brought an offer too good to refuse.
“I received an offer to perform with Franco Dragone and it was a dream to get the chance to work with him. I got an email inviting me to work in a show in Macau and at that stage Macau wasn’t even on the map for me.”
The show was Taboo at City of Dreams, and it was a great opportunity to return to the more playful performance acts Alfredo did as a child.
“I did a juggling/clowning reprise, where I get inside a giant balloon, and it was a good chance for me to use other skills and I was happy that Franco let me use my creativity. He gave me freedom and it was great to be given that trust.”
The couple remember their year in Macau with the greatest fondness.
“We absolutely loved Macau, the security of the place, you can walk on the streets day and night and no one will touch you. We worked in a beautiful hotel, all clean and tidy, compared to the circus, which is full of mud and messy with no aircon or heating. Macau was like a yearlong holiday for us, it was amazing. And we are definitely looking forward to going back one day, if we got an offer, no matter for how long, we wouldn’t hesitate.”
With the end of the Taboo show in March 2015, another opportunity to work with Franco Dragone arose in a show being designed for Dubai. La Perle is slated for February 2017 with a budget of US$354 million.
“Globe of Death will be part of the show and I think there will be a character role for me too, the show is still in creation. I think they will use our knife-throwing act and take advantage of the media focus on us right now.”
The media focus Alfredo is referring to comes courtesy of America’s Got Talent, a reality television series that features singers, dancers, magicians, comedians, and other performers of all ages competing for the top prize of one million dollars and viewed by about 11 million people. The current season 11 is being judged by the infamous Simon Cowell.
But deciding to take part in the show took a bit of consideration. If one of the judges were to give them a bad review for any reason, their reputation would be in tatters and after so many years of building up just that, the gamble was a big one.
“There isn’t really a lot of money involved, what they offer is exposure, but I’m at a level where people already know who I am and what I do, so I had to weigh the pro’s and con’s.”
“I see myself as the best knife act at the moment and I am very confident in what I do, but I cannot control a singer or actor sitting in the judge’s seat, I was very worried about that. But I am confident in what I can do, if I weren’t, I wouldn’t throw knives at my wife.”
Anna felt they could pull it off, so they accepted the offer. And the reviews from the judges have been nothing short of show stopping. Last month the pair successfully made it through to the semi-finals.
“My God, sometimes I think I’m dreaming! I’m a big fan of Simon Cowell, I think he’s a big asshole, but he knows what is good and that this can change people’s lives. For me this is business, this is the destiny of my children.”
“We created Deadly Games together, it’s our baby. We live and breath this act. Anna is the one always pushing the danger factor. The stage is amazing and a drug, you become addicted to it. This act has always been about Anna, she’s the one moving and teasing me, she dares me. When she blindfolds me, she’s the one pushing the boundaries. I don’t want to do it, but she pushes the act.”