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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.

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.

I'm more flexible now than I have ever been!

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