My Interview with Toronto Aerialist Emily Hughes ~
Q: How did you get started?
A: I started out going to circus camp at Harbourfront when I was about 8
years old. I fell in love instantly and we found out that the woman who
ran the camp, Marsha, also offered classes year round at a place called
Main Space School of Circus Arts, so I started going there. I continued
doing circus once a week, recreationally, at Main Space, which later
became Toronto School of Circus Arts (when ownership changed over) until
my high school years when I decided it was something I wanted to pursue
more seriously. I started taking a lot more classes and training really
hard and eventually I was asked to start teaching for the school and
performing with Cirque Sublime. Since then my career has evolved pretty
organically. I attended the Acting program at Ryerson Theatre School and
discovered that theatre and storytelling are an essential part of my love
affair with circus. Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of circus
companies and each has taught me something a little different about the
ways we can use circus as performers. About 3 years ago now I also
co-founded a company of my own, Hercinia Arts Collective, in order to
create work that could combine all of these philosophies and aesthetics.
Q: How long have you been training/performing?
A: Recreationally since about age 8 (so almost 20 years!), professionally
since I was 17 (10 years). I’ve also been teaching on and off since I was
Q: Do you perform/train on multiple apparatus’s and if so which is your
favorite? (If you have one?)
A: Yes, I perform and train on pretty much all of the aerial apparatuses, but
my specialties are silks and straps.
Q: Why do you love circus?
A: Circus is incredible because it combines a very elite level of athleticism
with art. This allows for a unique blend of the spectacular and a more
intimate connection. I also like that circus is an art form that doesn’t
necessarily need words and so is able to connect to a wider audience. For
me, all performance is about storytelling and so to be able to tell a
story without words, with another kind of language of movement, is a
really great way to communicate.
Aside from that, circus is addictive. Once you start, it gets in your
blood and it’s really hard to stop. It’s like a drug… but a healthy one.
Q: Did you have an athletic discipline prior to training circus
arts? (What was it? Do you do it now? Why or why not?)
A: I’ve been doing circus since I was a kid, so that’s really been my primary
athletic discipline through my life, but I was also involved in a number
of sports in high school. I especially liked swimming and track and field.
I still run, do yoga and rock climbing because I enjoy them and I think
they are useful cross trainers for circus arts.
Q: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
A: Hopefully still continuing to learn and grow as an artist and athlete. I
would love to explore the world doing my art.
Q: Any recommendations for new circus performers or trainers?
A: Do what you love and stick with it. You have to work hard, but the pay off
is worth it if you put your all into it. At the same time, know your own
limits. Be safe and take care of your body.
Q: Any other comments.
A: I feel so fortunate to have this be such a major part of my life. I often
think how lucky I am to have such a great job and be part of an industry
with so many other wonderful, incredible people. Circus arts have evolved
so much over the years with more and more people starting to become
involved. It’s really exciting to see the new directions it’s taking and I
can’t wait to see where it will go in the future.
When I tell people; “I work as a circus performer,” I always get: “So you’re a clown?” or “So you’ve run away and joined a circus now, have you?” For me, I haven’t physically “run away” (unless if you count Mississauga as far from North York, then I run away at least four times a week) but I have metaphorically run “into” a circus.
Through dance and school, circus came into my life and now I just can’t get enough. I have conducted these interviews to find out how some of the performers and artists of A2D2 ~ Aerial Dance Cirque Company, got started on their journey into the world of circus, why they do it, and what they recommend for new performers.
Thanks so much for reading!