'It's a family thing:' Shrine Circus performers, in Flint area for the week, talk about a life spent under the big top
Members of the Elf Khurafeh Shrine Circus set up on Jan. 15 at the Perani Arena for their upcoming shows. The showtimes will begin on Jan. 16 and run until Jan. 21. Sammy Jo Hester | Flint Journal.com
By Scott Atkinson
January 16, 2013
BURTON, MI -- It's against her nature, but for the moment, 24 hours before her first performance for the Shrine Circus in Burton, Marilyn Espana was sitting still.
Like the rest of her family, the 26-year-old aerialist moves around a lot. She'll be in Genesee County for a week, dangling, swinging and flying through the air inside Perani Arena. Then China. Then somewhere else.
It's a busy life, but like her parents -- and grandparents, and great-grandparents -- Espana has grown up on the road and, at least for now, won't have it any other way.
"It's a family thing," she said, sitting in the front row of the arena while her cousin, uncle, and others who aren't related but who she's grown up with set up the three rings for the upcoming show, taking place Wednesday, Jan. 16, trough Jan. 21.
Most of the people there, she said, are like her: The circus is their life. Espana grew up with the circus, never attending school, learning the family trade of flying from her parents.
"When I was 4, that was the first time," she remembers of being in the spotlight. "My parents would bring me out for the finale in my little costume and I would wave. I felt like I was already working. I loved it. I guess just watching them every single day, it was just normal for me. It was like, someday I’ll do that. Someday I’ll do that."
Four years later, at 8 years old, she performed for the first time. She's been working ever since.
She describes her job as an aerialist as someone who simply never touches the ground. Her acts include flying trapeze, performing from hanging rings, and dangling from streams of silk. For the Shrine Circus, she's contracted to perform on a trapeze dangling from a motorcycle on a tightrope. Her brother will be driving.
Like her fellow performers, she's at her Orlando, Fla., home for only about a month and a half out of the year. While it's nice to relax, it also isn't easy.