Published on: 1/7/2006
Masha Terentieva , an 18-year old, first-year student at the National Circus School of Canada , practises at the Zero Gravity Circus space.
But for Masha Terentieva , running away from home would have meant leaving the circus, something she’d never dream of.
“Circus is like a drug, once you’re in it, you’re never out,” said the 18-year-old, who’s following in her father’s rather large footsteps.
“Circus is not a hobby, it’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle,” said the budding contortionist, bending her body backward and wrapping her hands around her calves.
Being the daughter of an accomplished Russian clown, who was once part of St. Petersburg’s popular mime group Litsedei and is now a member of the clown troupe Slava’s Snowshow, it’s a lifestyle she knows well. So much so that between the ages of 13 and 16, the big top was her home as she travelled around the world with her dad, who was then performing with Cirque du Soleil’s show Alegria.
She wasn’t performing while travelling with her dad, but she’s grown up with a backstage pass to the circus and is intimately aware of the highs associated with life on the road: Touring, meeting new people and seeing new places, or, as she puts it, “living the life of a rock star.” But she’s also familiar with the lows: Being homesick, gruelling practices that transform you into a “physical machine” and an already short career that can be cut even further by injury.
While Terentieva has long been drawn to life on the stage, it wasn’t until September, when she started classes at the National Circus School in Montreal, that she knew with certainty she’d found her calling.
“There’s so much you can do in circus, dancing, acting, singing, acrobatics and music can be combined, it’s the ultimate art form,” Terentieva said this week during a visit home to Toronto for the holidays.
When considering the amount of one-on-one attention that students get a staff of 40 trainers, teachers and lecturers oversees a student body of 115, it’s no surprise that Terentieva can find the daily grind “exhausting.”
But it’s worth it, she says, pointing out that with each passing day, she can feel her body already sculpted from years of training as a gymnast growing stronger and more limber.
“Being at school has taught me that I can go much farther than I thought, and I can take very tough training,” said Terentieva , who’s no stranger to rigorous exercise drills having spent her childhood studying rock ‘n’ roll acrobatics in Russia.
And she’s in it for the long haul, long after her final curtain call as a contortionist or an aerial hoop artist.