Strong men, lion tamers, and bearded ladies are only a part of the magic in a circus, but it’s the death-defying acrobats that steal the show.
“There was a local circus called the Great All American Youth Circus,” said Stasia Acrobats coach Aric Nelson. “When I was six years old I started training back home to be a circus performer.”
Nelson spent more than 15 years in the circus, performing at Super Bowl halftimes, The Oscars, and all over the world; but Nelson’s life wasn’t always glamorous.
“It went dark for a while and I quit doing circus for a couple years around age twelve and that’s when I started getting in a lot of trouble,” Nelson said. “When I was about 15 a couple trainers and people I performed with got me back in the circus, and when they got me there they kept me there. Because of it I never joined a gang, stopped short of doing any drugs. It saved my life. It literally saved my life.”
Aside from his circus career, he spent 7 years in the U.S. Army. In 2003 he was wounded and told he would never walk again. With dedication he beat the diagnosis. Though his circus career may be over he now passes on his legacy to new acrobats.
“It’s the fact that I get to do something different than everyone else out there,” said troupe captain, Alyxandra Rhead. “It’s a very dangerous sport so to have trust in each other is really important. It’s important to not give up on each other. You want to be there. You don’t want to let your family fall, it’s the same as letting yourself fall.”
The troupe has learned that even if they fall they can always pick each other up.
“I came from a really rough family and a really rough background and when I came here it’s kind of like I had another family,” said troupe member Aeriel Jenkinson. “I had scars all over my legs and no one here judged me and I thought they were going to. Over the years I’ve gotten so much stronger both mentally and physically.”
“Hope- I want to give them hope,” Nelson said. “I’ve seen the most amazing things in the worst of circumstances and that’s where hope comes in and happiness. I just want them to find their way, find their voice in this life and go for it.