3 Lessons I Learnt from Circus
Before I dedicated myself to making pretty fashion things, I spent almost 5 years living and working as a freelance circus performer. I stumbled across circus just as I was finishing my uni degree and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was a time of self discovery, I got to see parts of the world and meet people I never otherwise would have. I performed for a few years before I came to the conclusion that stage life was not for me. I was better suited to working behind the scenes, making costumes and dressing others to shine onstage. While I am happy with this transition, I sometimes look back and wish I could have taken my career a little further. With the benefit of hindsight, I see that the only thing standing in my way was… me. The way that I see it, what I do now with fashion is a continuation of my creative path, it’s all creative expression, it’s just in a different form. I feel lucky to have had this experience and to be able to draw on lessons which are just as relevant today as they were back then.
Lesson 1: The comparison game cannot be won. Be your own competition.
Life as a freelance circus performer was all about getting gigs, and competition was rife! It was hard not to compare yourself to others, when the people who were in essence your competition were also your friends and acquaintances. We would often be at the same auditions, quoting for the same contracts and rehearsing in the same spaces. There simply was no getting away from it. At the end of the day, there will always be someone stronger, bouncier, bendier than you are. But, you will always be the best combination of all the things that make you… you. Not only that, but everyone is at different stages of development and experience. Looking back at this time I see that I spent too much energy trying to be like everyone else. Instead it would have served me better to focus on what makes me unique and only competing against myself with the aim of never-ending improvement.
Lesson 2: Go with the flow, allow things to change but be true to yourself.
A beautiful thing about circus is that there is a place in it for anyone and everyone. Whether your thing is acrobatics, trapeze, hula hooping, or clowning, in time you will find your place… and your people. The trick is to be open minded enough to give everything a go until you find your happy place. I did try a bit of everything, and I was quite bad at a lot of things, and that’s ok. But, I did find a deep love for aerials, with aerial hoop being my apparatus of choice. It’s where I found my fullest expression. It was exactly the place I was meant to be… for that moment in time. When I first started performing, the energy I felt was exhilarating, but towards the end it felt more like anxiety. That’s when I knew it was time to move away from it. I knew I wanted to do something creative and I allowed my nature lead me to the next thing. It led me to costume and eventually to fashion. And while it hasn’t been easy starting from scratch in my mid 30s, it’s feels like everything I have done has paved a path that led me to where I am supposed to be… right now.
Lesson 3: We are creators. Tap into it.
Circus was the first time that I experienced making something from nothing. For me, the process begun with a spark of inspiration, and then I’d steadily work at it, adding music, costume, tricks and transitions to create something experiential that could be shared with an audience. It’s a magical process. And such a powerful feeling to know that I could create something, beginning with nothing but a thought in my mind. I had never really done this before, not purposefully anyway. I grew up thinking that to have a creative career was a whimsical fantasy. That’s why I went to university and completed a very respectable Behavioural Science degree. The problem was my heart wasn’t in it. It didn’t take me long to realise I would not ever be a Doctor, Scientist, Executive or any other “respectable” occupation. But it still took all my years of circus and meeting many amazing, talented women to understand that for me, to best serve my community is by wholeheartedly tapping into my creativity and sharing it with my people.