Running Away with the Circus by Mez Galaria

Illustration by Esther Gooch

Illustration by Esther Gooch

It’s dark, Missy Eliot is playing on the stereo and five dancers are imitating the ‘Lose Control’ video in a big blue Jeep. Driving along a long country road, suddenly we are all apprehensive as we catch the first glimpse of a circus big top in the middle of a darkened field.

Two weeks earlier I was living just outside Saltaire, occasionally working at the Boathouse, teaching and street dance training with the KK Crew. My agent tells me things are quiet right now. Then one morning I see in an advert that The Bollywood Circus is about to commence a UK tour. I’m intrigued as I’ve always fantasised about running away with the circus but do I really have the nerve? The circus? What if it’s nothing like my childhood dream? Admittedly, no matter how much I love Saltaire I don’t have enough work. But then I do have good friends, a lovely flat and things – I have a lot of things – here.

My agent responds speedily: she thinks it is a good idea and wants details ASAP. Then I discuss the idea with my mum and, rather than give the answer I expect her to give, she says “why not? You can’t just wait around here”. My friends think it sounds amazing – I want to say to them “well then you go, you leave your life, friends and home to join the circus”. I’m getting nervous but the emails and calls between the circus and myself become more and more frequent. Before I know it they send over a contract for me to sign. It’s a good bit of paid work, doing something I’ve trained hard to do. I didn’t go to dance school and slog my guts out all day and work all night in various bars and restaurants to not perform.

My friends’ words echo in my head: “only drowning fish go with the flow”. I don’t want to drown but do I want to join the circus? Since leaving Acting School North my work has all been Yorkshire based: Bollywood Jane at The West Yorkshire Playhouse, Carnival Messiah at Harewood House, Emmerdale and just recently I’ve been doing theatre again, with Slung Low, Chol and Theatre in the Mill. It’s all been wonderful but this is a chance to grow, take a risk, test my skills.

It’s the day before I leave: all my ‘things’ have been sold on eBay, I’ve handed in my notice on my lovely flat, and my neighbours are helping me clear out the last odds and ends. I’m left with my stereo playing Kanye West’s ‘The College Dropout’ as I pack two small bags and a sleeping bag. I have a sneaky suspicion I really am going to get taken back to school on this circus adventure.

t’s the end of Missy’s Lose Control, the engine turns off, the dancers pile out of the car. We are greeted by the head of Circus Vegas and I’m directed to a long haul truck with curtained windows – my living quarters for the next couple of months. Let the adventure begin.

Edited by Michael Metcalfe

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