Born into a circus family, circus arts has always been a part of Aerials life. She started performing at age 7 and was immediately in love with the stage. For nine years she trained at Xelias Aerial Arts, and performed all over the United States. She spent her summers touring with Circus Smirkus, the international award winning youth circus.
Aerial also trained and competed as a rhythmic gymnast, always most passionate about the hoop. Sick of competing, she decided to take the hoop to the circus stage, combining traditional hula hooping, dance and rhythmic gymnastics to create a unique hula hoop act.
She graduated in 2013 from École de Cirque de Québec, specializing in hula hoops and cyr wheel. Since graduation she has toured with the Midnight Circus, the GOP Varieté Theater in Germany and Broadways “Pippin the Musical” with the 7 Doigts de la Main.
I grew up in the circus. My Dad and Mom met as performers in the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. Dad, Sean Emery, is a clown and juggler, Mom, Meg Elias-Emery, an aerialist and trapeze artist who now runs an aerial arts studio. I was named Aerial after mom’s job. Dad likes to joke that I was lucky to be a girl. Otherwise, I might have been named Juggling Ball.
Funny story, Jeff Jenkins, the ring master and executive director of Midnight Circus credits my Dad with his decision to become a clown. I heard the story years before joining Midnight Circus. When Jeff was a little boy, he went to a Ringling Brothers show. He snuck backstage and was caught by a clown. The clown yelled, “Hey kid, what are you doing here?” Jeff was terrified. The clown then laughed and showed Jeff around. He took him back to Clown Alley, on the main floor and even brought Jeff down on too the arena floor to sit on the ring curb while my Dad performed his pre-show act. That clown was, of course, my Dad, Sean Emery. Jeff claims that is what inspired him to become a clown.
As a child, Mom and Dad put me in the show. I joke that they didn’t want to have to pay for a sitter. Around twelve, I discovered my own passion for the circus. I saw Elena Lev doing hula hoops in Cirque de Soleil and knew that was what I wanted to do. I broke a lot of vases around the house. Good thing I had understanding parents!
After graduating from high school, I was accepted to Ecole de Cirque de Quebec. I was absolutely miserable when I first got there. I love talking to and meeting people, but here, everyone, with the exception of one other student from the States, spoke French. I didn’t. The first couple months, I’d call home crying, wanting to give up. Ultimately, I just had to go for it and stumble through in French. Four years later, upon graduating, I made some amazing friends and, more or less, mastered French.
At the time I was there, the students came to the school mainly from Canada, France and Switzerland. There are 60-80 students. I majored in hula hoops and minored in cyr wheel. (I can’t do cyr wheel for Midnight Circus, because I need a wood floor for that.) We study our art plus classes on topics like circus history, injury prevention. In our fourth year, we start looking for jobs with the help of a career management class. That’s when I contacted Midnight Circus.
What really struck me that first year of being in Midnight Circus in the Parks, was being reminded that circus is my passion too, not just a job. I love being a part of a team. Plus, being able to impact communities and bring people together really reinvigorated me. Midnight Circus in the Parks is a family.
The artists stay together in a house for 4 months during the season. The entire cast comes to the Jenkin’s house for a ‘family’ dinner every Wednesday. It’s loud and crazy and fun. Literally, the best time!
Some of my favorite moments performing for Midnight Circus come when performers can totally be themselves. During one show at the closing number, I tossed my hula hoop up to do a front walkover, slipped fell on my back and caught the hoop while lying flat on my back. In other shows, I would have to try to mask that mistake and recover. Here, led by Julie Jenkins, the entire cast pointed at me belly laughing. With Midnight Circus, we’re allowed to laugh at ourselves. The fun is contagious.
I love watching Jeff and Julie with Max and Sam, their children. I get what we in the Midnight Circus troupe like to call ‘hot eyes’, whenever I see Jeff and Julie and Sam and Max arguing about doing makeup before a show. It reminds me of me and my Mom.
To me, Midnight Circus in the Parks is a great place for all families from all neighborhoods. Two hours under the blue and purple tent and everyone leaves happy. Honestly, there are not a lot of shows this quality that are this accessible to a family of four. Most other shows I perform in have much higher ticket prices.
My job means I travel a lot. When I’m not doing Midnight Circus, I do other gigs throughout the world. I done a number of theaters in Germany, Broadway’s Pippin the Musical, taught masters classes in New York and Evanston. Midnight Circus has made Chicago feel so much like home, though, that about a year ago, I moved to Chicago from Quebec.