At the age of three I was already jumping on the bed doing back flips. I began formal gymnastics training when I was four and continued until I was 16. No one had to motivate me to do it— I just loved it. I don’t think I realised it at the time, but I loved the physical and mental challenges that the training presented me, and the confidence that grew in me, both in the gym and in my life outside.
At the age of seven, I once spent all my spare time in the gym for three months in order to get a certain skill on the uneven bars, and I will never forget the pure joy and elation when I FINALLY got it! It's hard to imagine a seven year old being so focused, but my passion for gymnastics meant that it never felt like a chore or a “job”.
Fast-forward 10 years when a serious ankle injury forced me to finally quit my gymnastics career - I gravitated towards my other interests (art and photography) and coached gymnastics on the side. I was interested in those other things, but they never fully gripped me the way that gymnastics did. However, I’d resigned myself to the belief that that chapter in my life was closed forever and I would have to find something else to do as a “proper” grown-up job. After all, gymnastics was only ever a hobby, right?
In 2005, I moved to London with the vague plan of finding work as a photographer. I worked various bar and temp reception jobs in order to pay my way. I wasn’t very happy, I felt quite unhealthy and pretty lost in the world. One afternoon as I scrolled through Facebook, I saw a picture of a girl doing aerial silks. I’d never seen anything like it before, and I thought it looked like a fun thing to do. After a bit of digging on the Internet, I found a circus school offering a full-time three-month professional course with auditions taking place THAT very weekend in Sheffield. I felt excited, nervous, scared, stupid...was it really a good idea to walk away from my life in London and run away to join the circus? I decided to take the plunge, did the audition and was accepted on the course.
I think I can say that that was the moment where my adult life dramatically shifted course. I LOVED becoming physical again, meeting new challenges and pushing my body to its limit - it was like a thirst that I didn’t even realised existed in me was finally being quenched. I was totally out of shape and within a few days EVERYTHING ached, but I was so happy - I felt like that kid doing back flips on the bed again.
At the end of the course, I was faced with what to do next. I realised that being an acrobat was my passion and had been all along. I applied for the BA course at the National Centre for Circus Arts and was accepted. It was at the NCCA that I discovered handbalancing and truly became hooked. There is something really addictive about learning a balancing skill. That perfect point of equilibrium seems so nebulous for so long, and then all of a sudden, you find it. Maybe just for a second, but you feel it and then you want to experience that feeling of weightlessness again and again. It’s like an out of body experience, as if you’re defying the rules of gravity…
Throughout my training as a circus artist, I continued coaching gymnastics and eventually became an instructor on the NCCA degree programme, training other aspiring young handbalancers. As I became a better handbalancer, my coaching skills grew. I started to realise that people were coming to my recreational classes because I was an “expert.” I became more interested in the why behind the mechanics of the skills and researched a lot in my spare time about other complementary fields - strength and flexibility training, anatomy, nutrition and training cycles. What sets me apart from other trainers/practitioners in my field is my curiosity and willingness to constantly learn and take on board other expert opinions and research.
As handbalancing has become more and more popular, I have received a lot of interest from recreational hanstanders who want help and advice on their technique. My coaching business has continued to grow, and I realised that I needed to expand it to online coaching in order to reach the needs of a wider and more international audience.
I have worked with many adults of varying skills, backgrounds, abilities and ages. I have helped them overcome fear and helped give them the confidence to feel strong and present in their bodies in order to unleash their very own “superheroes.”
Fun Fact: I am a World Record Holder for being a part of the aerial silk performance with the most aerialists!