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Circus rigging springs up in Greater Victoria backyard

Oak Bay couple self-proclaimed ‘Cirque de So Aged’
Claire Handley erected aerial circus apparatus in her Oak Bay yard this summer. She admits it’s a ‘crazy hobby’ but loves the fitness and thrill. (Alana Norie photo)

A select few neighbours scored tickets to a private circus this summer as a temporary rig sprung up in Oak Bay.

Claire Handley – who erected aerial apparatus that peeked above the fence of her backyard – admits it’s a bit of a crazy hobby, but there’s no replacing the thrill of the first drop. A drop is a trick where the athlete, wound in silk, does a controlled fall into a new position.

“Once you get to a certain level it’s super hard and it can be super scary but there’s such a feeling of accomplishment,” she said.

The wow factor of showing friends a video of yourself performing never gets old. That love of the hobby led to the backyard rig this summer. But it was a long road to get there.

READ ALSO: Greater Victoria group thankful for one-of-a-kind hobby

“Apparently I always wanted to run away and join the circus,” she said with a laugh.

As a young gymnast with a bar in the backyard for practising, she remembers herself as strong but not flexible, and it was a sport that didn’t stick. As an adult, she discovered flying trapeze while on vacation. Later she introduced that sport to her now-husband Christopher Devlin and both found a passion.

A part of the appeal of the sport is it’s open to athletes of all shapes and sizes.

“You need to be strong but you don’t need to be skinny… you can be whatever you are,” Handley said.

About four years ago, the love of trapeze led them to sign up for an aerial basics course at The Rising, Victoria Centre for Circus Arts in Langford – where they dabbled in hoop (lyra), still trapeze and silks.

READ ALSO: Victoria man makes a hobby of reuniting owners with lost rings

Now in their 50s, the couple is among the older students at the school and they still attend courses.

This summer, Handley’s dad showed her a newspaper article about a Cirque performer who had an apparatus in her Vancouver yard – poking his daughter a bit about why she didn’t have one yet.

In July, Handley and Devlin raised their temporary rigging.

Their age affords the benefit of a strong understanding of risks and the need for safeguards, Handley said.

“We were super careful making sure everything was secure,” she said.

“Now we’ve nicknamed ourselves Cirque de So Aged.”

While the rig came down ahead of fall rain and wind warnings, if a window of clear weather opens, it’ll go back up.

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Christopher Devlin practises silks on the aerial circus apparatus in his Oak Bay yard. (Alana Norie photo)
Christopher Devlin practises silks on the aerial circus apparatus in his Oak Bay yard. (Alana Norie photo)
Christopher Devlin practises silks on the aerial circus apparatus in his Oak Bay yard. (Alana Norie photo)
(Alana Norie photo)
(Alana Norie photo)

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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