Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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The girl who ran away to join the circus … And stayed

Tuedon Ariri’s amazing journey from Collingwood to École Nationale de Cirque

BY SOREN ELSAY

Tuedon Ariri practising contorsion straps

Tuedon Ariri practising contorsion straps at the Ecole. Photo by Mathieu Doyon

For most people, running away to join the circus is merely a pipe dream or an empty threat aimed at one’s parents. However, for one Collingwood resident, this fantasy has become a reality. Tuedon Ariri is currently attending École Nationale de Cirque in Montreal, one of the most prestigious circus schools in the world, where the 17 year old has just entered the first year of the Diploma of Collegial Studies in Circus Arts program.

Ariri got her start in gymnastics in the Collingwood area at a very young age. “When I was really young, about four or five [years old], my mom decided to put me in a [gymnastics] class in the Collingwood area just for fun,” Ariri recalls.

After a couple of years of participating on a recreational level with rhythmic gymnastics, Ariri was ready for a new challenge. In the years following her first competition at the age of seven, Ariri began dedicating herself to her new-found passion, training with former Olympic gold medalist Lori Fung.

“We would train 24 hours a week, every morning from six until 10, head to school and then occasionally train again after from four until eight at night,” explains Ariri. All of this hard work paid off as Ariri had success in tournaments on provincial, national and international levels all before her 16th birthday.

As part of her year-round training, Ariri would attend the École Nationale de Cirque summer camp in Montreal in the summers leading up to grades 8, 9 and 10. This is where Ariri’s life took a drastic turn.

“In my third year [the school] decided to hold auditions at the summer camp,” explains Ariri. “I decided to try out just for fun and to see what it was like in case I ever wanted to attend the school.” It turned out that Ariri passed the audition with flying colours and was offered an opportunity to finish the last three years of high school at the National Circus School on the opposite side of the country in Montreal.

With only four days to make a decision, Ariri faced a huge decision, on whether to give up rhythmic gymnastics and the life she knew in favour of joining the Circus. “It was a hard decision but in the end I decided to go because it was such a good opportunity and it’s also something that you could have a career in.”

Tuedon Ariri at the Ecole Nationale de Cirque in Montreal

Tuedon Ariri typically spends 12 hours a day training at the impressive facilities at the École Nationale de Cirque, including this three-storey gym seen in the background complete with cables and counterweights hanging from the ceiling and a trampoline built into the floor. Photo by Julie Cheng

Once enrolled at the school, Ariri’s high school experience became anything but normal. “It [consisted] of four hours of training a day, then five hours of regular school activities,” says Ariri.

After graduating from high school last spring, Ariri is now enrolled in the three-year post-graduate program offered by the school. She has chosen to specialize in contortion straps, where her gymnast background gives her a definite boost. Although her upper body strength is still improving, the creativity and freedom of it are what really drew Ariri to the contortion straps in the first place.

On a typical weekday, Ariri puts in about 12 hours of work. “On Wednesdays I start at 8:30 am but arrive around 8:00 to warm up and stretch, then an hour of hula-hoop class, an hour of straps which is my specialty, an hour of dance, an hour of acrobatics, after lunch I have an hour of juggling, then an hour of physical preparation (gym, weights ), two hours of acting, a break for dinner, and then two hours of English class,” Ariri explains.

Like most of the students, after graduation Ariri plans on pursuing a career in the circus. “There are many other circuses in Montreal that are very high quality and many over in Europe, but I would love to work for Cirque du Soleil personally.”

It is fair to say that Tuedon Ariri is not living your typical teenage life. While it may be a lot of long days full of hard work, Ariri is achieving a long-lost fantasy for many people, running off to join the circus, and loving every moment of it.

Soren Elsay is a second year student at the University of B.C. and an aspiring journalist.

Copyright (c) 2013 Renfrew-Collingwood Community News

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