How did the circus change my life? In February 2012 I was a vaguely quiet 19 year old with few friends and even less confidence. I was in my early years of university at a neighbouring city to my home town and spent most of my time on sedentary internet-related pursuits and at a guess was at the upper end of the weight range for my height. I had never been one to dedicate myself to hobbies or extracurricular activities such as sport or music; infamous in my family and school for auditioning for every instrument going, becoming briefly obsessed and then immediately dropping it to return to doing nothing. Similar stories can be told for various sport related exploits. Basically I was a late teen’s person not known for really doing “particularly anything”, who had no sport or dance experience, who incidentally stumbled upon the circus.
The circus goes back many hundreds of years and at that point in my life (as with many other people even now) mention of it induced thoughts of clowns, elephants, lion tamers, jugglers and maybe the odd trapeze artist. I had never really seen nor heard of aerial acrobatics, or known the extent and variety of what it could include. Through a friend at university, I came across a local performance company running basic beginner workshops in aerial circus skills, what made me sign up? “Oh you guys are going? I’ll just come along as well then.” I tagged behind fitter and more confident and daring friends - thinking in the worst case I’m usually good enough at laughing at myself. We arrived wearing completely the wrong attire. An important lesson to learn early on is do not wear shorts in the early days of learning trapeze, rope, hoop and silks. Aside from blaming my bare legs for not wanting to try certain things, it became clear very quickly that this was yet another thing I had no natural flare for. Sometimes people try a new sporting venture and immediately everyone in the room quietly thinks “oh dear, this calamity really isn’t going to last here”. It happens. And yep, there I was.
My friends had fun but weren’t interested in going back, so why did I? Well maybe if I covered my legs I could give it a better shot next time… Before I could change my mind I had signed up for regular beginner classes, going along by myself. The thing you hear a lot of people say about aerial acrobatics is that, surprisingly enough, it really is for anyone and this is something I really firmly believe. Coming from the disaster who lacked strength, flexibility and coordination, and who spent month after month after month in the absolute beginner’s class; 5 years down the line I can honestly say persevering with a seemingly random and hopeless physical pursuit was the best decision I’ve ever made.
You won’t find more warm, welcoming and inclusive people than those hanging upside down at your local aerial school. Similarly you won’t find more supportive, understanding and non-judgemental fitness instructors than those who teach aerial - they often started at the bottom with this trying physical venture as well. Although tiny successes over vast periods of time and “getting better” kept me going at aerial, I think what really makes the circus is the people. I couldn’t swap the time spent with such inspiring performers and instructors, or the close friends I’ve made throughout the years for anything. From intense training sessions and moving up levels together to performances, nights out and training camps abroad; aerial has exposed me to only the most wonderful people and the most unique experiences while creating the best memories along the way.
Fast-forward 5 years, I am flexible and I am strong. I’m fit, healthier and have high stamina. I train 4 times a week and I’ve been a part of some amazing performances with the people I’ve met over the years. I’ve trained in the sun in various countries and learned so much from international professionals. Confidence is always something that requires continual work, but it’s definitely upped massively since discovering the circus. This was one brief obsession I’m glad I didn’t let go of, and that I have no plans to let go of in the near future. And it definitely changed my life. Aerial provides a unique focus and mind-set and although occasionally can be frustrating in itself, definitely helps alleviate the stresses of day to day life. It can quickly turn into the most fun and rewarding form of exercise, and again is definitely open to everyone and anyone wanting to give it a go.
They say the circus arrives without warning and in my case, it really did.
Sunday class is called Performance, where people pick equipment and work on a routine/act in preparation for the next showcase or professional show. But I like to just use it for open training, hence my video influx each week these days! Here are some rolls on the trapeze, an old favourite move of mine!