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Real stories: Running away with the circus

Meet Elle.  At the age of 27, she gave up her full-time desk job to pursue a career in the circus. Three years on she now works full-time teaching and performing aerials and still finds time for ice skating, running a face painting business and watching a lot of TV.

What was your first circus arts experience like?

I went along to an aerial silks class with a friend in 2013 as a way to get back into fitness after a car accident a couple of years before.

My first experience was tough.  I wanted to be able to do what everyone else was doing, but it felt like it was taking me forever to learn the basics. I also had little strength from not having exercised for a while.

However, I had booked onto a 4 week course and as I persevered, I started to be rewarded for my efforts.  I'm now able to use my own experiences to better understand and help the people I teach.

How did you decide to pursue circus full time?

It wasn't an overnight thing.  As time went on, I wanted to do more and more aerials.  Eventually, it was taking over all my spare time.  As I got more involved, I started to be offered performing roles, but I had to turn them down as they conflicted with my day job.

I did a performance at one of the places I trained and it reminded me how much I love the physical and theatrical aspects.  I wanted to see if I could do aerials full time, and it felt like now or never. I would have looked back and regretted it if I hadn't tried.

Did you have a plan once you had decided to do aerials full time?

No, not really.  I applied for a one-year Circomedia course in Bristol with nothing to lose and not really expecting to get in. I had a days interview there with workshops, a solo performance and face to face interviews. It was exhausting but really fun.  They accepted me and so I quit my job and used the house deposit I had saved up to attend the course.

Circomedia was brilliant and you got to try everything.  At the end of it, I felt as though I wanted to specialise and did a three-month aerials course at My Aerial Home specialising in rope.

After that, I got a job teaching aerials part-time and juggled that with a regular job. As time went on, I picked up more teaching and performances and am able to do it full time.  I am currently working on doing more performing and have been developing a partner acrobatics act with my other half.

What would you say was a typical day for you?

I'm not sure I have a typical day, it can be very variable.  Sometimes I will teach 14 hours in a day and others it could just be 2 hours.  Generally, there are lots of evenings involved.

I do have the ability to set my own timetable now though.  In March I even got to go to Columbia to train and yesterday I spent the day at Bloomsbury ballroom performing and doing child aerial and acrobatic workshops for cancer research.  The children didn't think they would be able to join in because of their conditions, but when they realised they could have a go, it was magical to see the delight on their faces when they hung upside down for the first time.

After that, I got a job teaching aerials part-time and juggled that with a regular job. As time went on, I picked up more teaching and performances and am able to do it full time.  I am currently working on doing more performing and have been developing a partner acrobatics act with my other half.

What's your favourite aerial apparatus?

Rope.  Some other aerials you spend lots of time building up to a drop, but rope is much more straightforward.  It is just one rope and you.

Do you have any words of wisdom to share with budding aerialists?

When I started, I wish I knew it would be possible to do something with aerials as a job and I wasn't too old!  You are never going to be any younger, so just go for it!  You can always work towards teaching part-time in the evenings to dip your toe in the water.

What about for all the beginners out there?

Don't worry about not being strong or flexible enough, these are skills you acquire as you practice and you can do things in between class to help.  I'm more flexible now than I have ever been!

Also, don't compare yourself to other people as they may have done other complementary sports and everyone learns different things at a different pace.  I always thought I learned very slowly compared to everyone else, but if anything, I think that has meant I now have a much better understanding of the basics and use that in my teaching.

Where can we see you perform next?

I'm at the Barefoot festival in Leicester on 27th July doing partner acrobatics and rope.

Contacting Elle: eleanorjarvis@hotmail.co.uk

 

Woman hanging upside down on aerial silks on a sky background

Circus arts aren’t just for the professionals

Circus arts are available to everyone. These days it isn't restricted to professional performers who have trained from a young age. There are hundreds of classes and events around the country and they just keep increasing.

Why?

Well firstly, who is able to look at the photo above and not think "wow, that's so cool..."?!  There are so many benefits to practising circus arts and we have heard so many stories about how it is changed people's lives for the better.

Here are just some of the benefits

1. Fitness and health - the benefits of doing exercise are well documented and the NHS even cites it as a miracle cure!  Plus you will be super strong and toned too (we love the satisfaction of being the person in the house who has to open all the jars!).

2. Challenge - Beat the boredom of your gym routine and shake it up with circus arts.  There are so many different challenges with heaps of different sports and moves to try, there is always something you can learn.

3. Meeting people - Classes are social and the circus arts people are a super friendly bunch.  You'll make some fab friends in no time and wonder what you ever did before you met them!

4. Mental health - research shows that exercise boosts self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

5. Fun! - (come on... we don't need to explain this one...)

Maybe you think you won't be able to do any of it because you aren't fit, strong, flexible, skinny, young, able-bodied [add your own excuse in here...], well we have come to tell you that you are wrong. 

Yes, wrong.

Circus arts can be performed by anyone and even adapted for your own abilities.  No two people are the same and the best thing is that you will get stronger in every class.  No one starts off being super strong and you'll find yourself celebrating with your new friends as you achieve each challenge.  Don't believe us?  Take a look at our Founder's real-life story.

Just get up and have a go, you might surprise yourself.

Circus Everyday team

P.S. We take no responsibility for circus arts taking over your life.

Image copyright: https://www.123rf.com/profile_tommasolizzul'>tommasolizzul / 123RF Stock Photo

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Real stories: Our Founder

Woman hanging upside with blue sky and red silks hanging down.


Circus arts are not restrictive and do not discriminate against you because you are old, young, weak, inflexible or disabled.  You only need to look at the Paralympics and the amazing things the athletes achieve to start realising this.

This is our founder's real story of her own personal battles and how she fell in love with circus arts.

As a child, I loved sports and used to do gymnastics for an hour a week for fun for a few years.  When I was 16 I was hit by a car and broke my arm so bad that it had a metal plate was inserted to keep the bone together.  I was told I wouldn't be able to do gymnastics again.

After that I lost interest in sports, believing I couldn't do it. 

After about 10 years I thought I should get back into some sort of exercise and I went to join my local gym.  I didn't find the gym particularly inspiring and I was scared that I could feel twinges in my arm when lifting the smallest weights.  I really missed gymnastics but tried to put it out of my mind.

Then 2012 happened and it all changed.

I was lucky enough to get tickets for the Paralympics in London.  As I sat there watching the impressive athletes I thought "this race is amazing, this woman has one arm and no legs, but she's swimming way faster than I could manage."

Then I started thinking, "well if she can do it, surely I have a chance?".

I plucked up the courage to go to my nearest adult gymnastics class, thinking that there was a good chance I would be able to do nothing because of my arm and my dream would be over, with the thought in my mind that there was a chance I wouldn't be able to do anything and I would just have to live with that.

Amazingly I spent almost two hours doing handstands and cartwheels and my arm felt great. Yes, I ached horribly the next day (actually for quite a few days...), but it felt good!

I hadn't been going too long before someone suggested I might like aerial silks. I tried a class they recommended and instantly loved it.  Everything just escalated from there and I like to try as many circus arts as I can fit into my busy schedule.

As I tried more aerials and heard other people's amazing stories, I realised that circus arts are really open to everyone.  I haven't thought about my arm for years and don't even think of it as a disadvantage.  I've been stronger and more flexible in my 30's than I ever have been in my whole life.

Circus Everyday founder X

Featured image attribution: Matt Greensmith