Having tried gymnastics briefly as a teenager and loved it, Genevieve Melaugh was keen to find an adult gym class but struggled – some classes just weren’t for her and others she found just plain boring.
She attended her first circus skills workshop ten years ago aged 50, encouraged by a circus artist she met in her pilates class.
“The whole experience was absolutely fantastic – it’s a very positive thing to do and it has a great energy,” she enthuses.
From the start, she adored the idea of swinging and she had her heart set on learning the trapeze, but she had to wait for two years to get into a trapeze class.
“When I first started trapeze, the biggest shock to me was the effort it took to climb up the rope to get on to the trapeze!” says Genevieve, who is now 60 years old and has mastered doing a hand stand to push herself up to the equipment.
Genevieve now practises her trapeze skills at the National Centre for Circus Arts every Saturday. Performing as part of the circus company ‘Airealism’, Genevieve is one of the oldest members of this 20-person strong collective.
“The whole of my life has improved since starting circus skills, my body is stronger, I feel happier, I have made such great friends,” she says, “and it’s such an inspiring and creative process to create a routine and perform to music.”
Genevieve has even had a scaffold tower installed in her back garden. Disguised in part by climbing plants, the tower comes into its own when Genevieve’s husband helps rig the set-up for her to practice trapeze and rope work.
She has since learnt a series of simple moves and built up to creating entire routines and performing in public to music. “It’s storytelling to music with fluid movement…it’s a bit like ballet dancing but it also feels quite theatrical.”
Requiring great strength and technique, circus skills are superb for fitness and core stability but they also offer much more than a regular workout. “The gym is so boring and circus is so exciting so I find it completely addictive. It’s exhilarating – the more I do it, to more I want to learn more about it,” explains Genevieve.
“It is such an amazing achievement too – if I have a goal and I don’t think I can accomplish it, everyone else in my team encourages me. It is very liberating to realise that anything is possible with a little training and motivation. And even though I’ve been practising for quite a few years now, there are always new levels to progress to.”
Genevieve says that circus training has also given her huge confidence. She recently performed a show of double trapeze as The Avengers: “We had so much fun creating our routine and choosing the costumes. I also performed Björk’s Oh So Quiet on trapeze as a solo routine which I thoroughly enjoyed.”
For Genevieve, circus offers a chance to totally switch off: “Any problems or worries you have get left at the door – it is so creative and absorbing you simply can’t think about anything else.” Genevieve is keen to share her enthusiasm for circus and encourage others to try it, no matter what their age: “It’s a question of spirit – if it captures your imagination you should give it a go. It’s wonderful.”