Trajectory of a Firefly

December 19, 2012


By Meg Russell

One month ago I packed my material life into a suitcase and ran away to join the circus. By that, I mean I started a two-year program at a circus school in Turin, Italy.

I’ve been involved in circus arts for the last three years. The first year was spent training 12-18 hours per week and picking up a gig here or there, and for the last two I have been teaching basic aerial arts and performing professionally with various companies. Now that I am a full-time student of circus arts, I am training 35+ hours per week as well as doing street performing on the side. Here in Turin, the most consistent way for foreign circus students to earn some Euros is to perform a brief routine in crosswalks during red lights, and pass their hat to cars in the lanes. It’s not glamorous, but it can pay the bills.

Not only is this new adventure physically challenging both in frequency and intensity of the training, but it is also a constant mental challenge. When I arrived here one month ago, the only thing I could really say in Italian was “ciao”, and only a few people at my school speak English. Class instructions have been a combination of guessing games and loose translations, and conversations between most of my peers and myself have been limited to basics. Considering how social I am, this has been a tough adjustment. The emotional shock of moving to a foreign country is pretty intense. And going through courses for higher education can be challenging even in a native language, so in a language that is brand new to me is especially difficult. I think it will all be worth it, though– for the experience of doing something crazy in the name of following a dream if nothing else.

As for the performance scene in Turin, it seems quite active though I am just getting my bearings. I have been to multiple circus shows and cabarets in the last month, and the caliber of performance appears high. There are some really neat events coming up that I know about, as well. Every year for Christmas there is a big festival in the center of Turin in which all kinds of performers get together and put on a spectacle to celebrate the season – sort of a live action Advent calendar. There are performances of all kinds, from jugglers and acrobats to funambulists and aerialists. I have been approached to perform at it, doing contortion on a hoop 30 feet in the air. Talk about big changes!

You can follow that adventure and many more on my blog, Trajectory of a Firefly at


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