“Cindy, what do you do in your free time?”
This question used to be easy to answer. Read. Sketch. Go shopping with friends. Cook and bake (fortunately, this one still holds true).
Throughout high school, I committed every conscious moment to competitive figure skating, whether it be daydreaming about ice dance test days, stretching at home, or scrutinizing the routines of my favourite athletes. When I wasn’t in the science lab, I was gliding, stumbling, and twirling at the ice rink next door, or working as a skating instructor. Starting university in a different province, and leaving my skates in the storage room back home, undoubtedly left a hole in my heart.
Revisiting the rink, my home away from home, for the first time after 2.5 years away
Without skating, my days felt free, yet empty. An alarm clock no longer woke me up at 6:00 AM for morning ice time, I didn’t need to discreetly create skating lesson plans during class, and I didn’t have to lug my skate bag, full of children’s report cards, to and from the rink. At the same time, I missed the commitment, the community, my coach, the thrill of competition, and most importantly, the sense of accomplishment that would surge through me after each successful landing.
My first year of university consisted of sporadic dabbling in various activities: Zumba, Pilates, yoga, even ballet. On a side note, shoutout to the University of Waterloo’s fitness and recreation program for the impressive variety of student budget-friendly activities! First of all, I probably astounded fitness instructors with my dancing skills (nonexistent) and spectacular ability to dance (three beats behind). Zumba took my breath away, literally, in three songs, and I didn’t feel challenged by Pilates or yoga.
I received a yoga teacher training certification that year, in a beautiful Waterloo studio, a 200-hour commitment over the course of ten months. I received my training in Ashtanga yoga, and have since led gentle seated yoga at the local retirement home, and explored yoga-inspired movement with children on the spectrum at KidsAbility. Thanks to my anatomy and physiology courses in Kinesiology, I became more and more confident in teaching scientifically-backed exercises and referring to anatomical terminology for advanced students. I also spent a year with the University of Waterloo’s Acro Yoga club, where people partnered up to perform circus/dance partner acrobatics.
At the same time that I was beginning to experience restlessness, I was saved by a pole dance studio. Last May, a Kitchener pole dancer and businesswoman opened a brand-new pole studio in Waterloo – and she installed aerial rigs. Complete with hoops, a few trapezes, and plenty of silks and hammocks, Brass Butterflies became a new home. The sense of community in the circus world was incredible, and I cannot even begin to name the talented, creative, kind, encouraging, and hilarious people I’ve met, both at Brass Butterflies and Cirque-ability, the Toronto studio where I trained during my co-op term.
While aerials have certainly given me the opportunity to develop strength, coordination, grace, and balance, the most important thing I’ve gleaned from joining the circus was confidence. Courage. I am no longer self-conscious about making mistakes that offer the possibility of looking silly in front of others. I’ve also developed a newfound sense of appreciation for the master circus artists, like the superhuman athletes at Cirque du Soleil.
Up until recently, you have to be born into a circus family, or attend professional circus school, to learn to fly. Now, to the delight of many normal people, recreational circus classes are popping up in most cities for adventurous workout seekers. Perhaps most people try recreational circus classes for a fun workout, but circus has truly become a home, a mentality, a way of life. Plus, it’s always fun to take a break from studying by dropping my schoolwork on the ground, literally. Note that aerials are not a workout that can be DIY-ed, even for former dancers or gymnasts, and safety should always be emphasized. A few weeks ago, paramedics were called to the studio when my classmate broke her wrist after a fall from the silks. Another time, one woman slipped out of the hoop, and later discovered at the Grand River Hospital that she had broken three bones in her neck.
Regardless, for a year, I have been completely infatuated by circus, experimenting with aerial silks, hoop, Spanish web, corde lisse, and even contortion. Understandably, starting aerials in my late teens, my chances of performing professionally are virtually next to zero. My goal, however, is to continue living my dream at dizzying new heights – by becoming a sports medicine physician for Cirque du Soleil, or perhaps Disney on Ice, another lifelong dream.
I’d love to end with this – if you have any questions about skating, yoga or yoga teacher training, or aerial arts, please don’t hesitate to shoot me a Facebook message, or an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, if you have any circus connections, sports medicine connections, or something that you think might give me a hand, well, you know what to do.