Since age 3, Melody Yang’s life has always revolved around bubbles. And not the wimpy bubbles that are emitted from a tiny plastic wand that fits in your back pocket. Serious, record-breaking bubbles.
Bubbles run in her family’s blood: Along with her siblings, Yang is one of the stars of the Gazillion Bubble Show, which her father started more than 20 years ago. For every New York show, she uses about 30 gallons of her family’s secret bubble solution; for bigger international shows, she’ll use up to 60 gallons. While she wouldn’t reveal the solution’s ingredient list, Yang did impart some of her other secrets — like how she made the world’s largest bubble (170 feet long) and fit the most people ever inside a bubble (181; it was supposed to be 200, but the shorter kids weren’t counted).
Based in: New York, NY
Graduated from: I studied business management at a university in Toronto, but I was in and out all the time for my shows and never graduated.
Years in the bubble business: Since I was 3.
Have you had any job other than this? When I was 16, I worked a minimum wage job at a shoe store. After that, it was all about doing bubbles and pursuing an acting career.
Why bubbles? It began with my parents, who are both street performers and traveled across Europe doing juggling shows, magic shows, cabaret shows. My dad had always been fascinated by bubbles, so he slowly started building a routine with them and experimenting with different tricks. When I turned 3, my dad taught my brother and me his bubble routine. We’d work at galas and at circuses, and slowly built more tricks. We’ve had a show running in New York for 10 years now, and also do plenty of international shows.
Did you have to miss school as a kid? Yes, in elementary school and middle school. In high school, I slowed down a bit because of exams. I attended university for two years, but my real passion was in the entertainment business.
Some families have recipes that get passed down through the generations. Does your family have a special bubble formula? It’s a solution that was created by my father, and contains seven different ingredients — I can’t give complete details. We do use special types of glycerin, two different dishwashing soaps, corn syrup, mineralized water and two special concentrates. The type of water used is really important to make the bubbles last longer and be more colorful. It lasts a lot longer than the kind you can buy in stores.
It’s also about mixing the right formula for the right environment. Bubbles are like our bodies, which will need more water if we go somewhere hot. For example, If I want really large bubbles, I need to add cornstarch to make the solution thicker so it can stretch and expand.
Number of shows per year: This year, I did around 350, which includes shows overseas. It’s been increasing every year.
How much bubble solution do you use per show? For our New York show, which is in a 350-seat theater, we use about 30 gallons per show. In Australia, we were in theaters that held 2,000 people, so we needed to use about 60 gallons per show.
How you prepare for a show: I have to test liquids before any performance, since the air outside affects the bubbles inside. A rainy day is perfect, since there’s more moisture in the air. I also do some kind of meditation before I perform on stage. I can hide my nervousness quite well for the duration of the show, which can last from 70 to 85 minutes.
That’s a lot of time spent on just bubbles. Does the audience get bored? I do tricks, like manipulating bubbles into squares, creating bubbles inside bubbles, and making spinning bubbles, smoke bubbles, and helium bubbles. There’s also an element of audience participation, when we bring people on stage and put them inside bubbles. We also shine lasers against bubbles, which takes you into a different world; the light reflects and sparkles in the air. With enough of them, it becomes a dance routine with lasers.
We also have LED screens and projectors at large venues, even though it’s better to be in the front rows so you can pop or touch them. We also hide bubble machines throughout the theater so that the whole venue gets covered at some point in the show.
Sounds like a pretty serious bubble technique. I have to angle the tube in a certain direction for a square bubble; if it’s too low or has too much liquid, it will fall. If it’s angled too high, the bubble will be too dry and burst. I make my tricks small so I have better control.
What would people be surprised to learn about your job? Bubbles are so unique and misunderstood. People think bubbles are so simple, but they’re so complicated.
How so? A bubble can’t be forced or rushed. You have to let it be or it will burst. I always have to be calm and patient with a bubble; the environment has to be perfect. It won’t work if it’s too dry or too windy, or if the air contains certain radiations.
Does that limit the venues you can perform in? It has to be indoors, like in a theater.
I can imagine many theaters don’t want their stages covered in sticky, soapy bubble residue. People always worry about that, but it doesn’t get that slippery. We blast the entire venue with bubbles — they burst, turn into a mist and evaporate. The only time it’s a huge mess is when there’s a dipping plate.
Best part of your job: Being able to see how the things I create affect people in such a positive way. No matter someone’s age, people always stop and stare at bubbles, or try to touch them. It brings back memories of childhood and makes people feel young again. Lots of families come to the enjoy the show together, but we also have bachelor parties or segments when someone comes on stage and asks their boyfriend or girlfriend to marry them.
Most challenging part of your job: Working with people, especially kids. I’ve mastered bubbles, but with kids, it’s always something new. If I bring a kid on stage, he says whatever he wants or might start crying.
Are you getting sick of bubbles? I will never get tired of bubbles or performing bubbles. But I want to expand; I’m also acting.
What’s your next challenge? My father put elephants in balloons and won the Guinness World Record for the largest land mammal inside a bubble. I’d love to do something with pets and their owners — PETA went a little crazy with us, though. They were not a fan of the elephant inside the bubble. But the elephant loved it!
Do you hold any Guinness World Records yourself? The show in total has 17. I hold the record for most people inside a bubble — 150 — then I beat it again with 181 people. It was supposed to be 200, but they didn’t count the shorter kids as people. I also hold the record for world’s largest bubble, which was 170 feet long.
How do people react when you tell them about your job? They’re like, what?! No one’s imagination can stretch that far. It’s a lot of explaining to get people to understand, so sometimes, I just show a short video clip on my phone. Thank god for technology.
If you could trap anyone inside a bubble forever, it would be: Probably my dogs, so I could keep them forever. But trapping someone in a bubble can be a good thing or a bad thing!
All photos are courtesy of the Gazillion Bubble Show.