Sunday, December 5

A new beginning after 60: ‘I became an aerialist at 65’ | Life and Style

When Nikki Kenward was 30 years old, she thought it was time to stop dancing. As a single parent, the performance schedules were relentless. And furthermore, that was the age at which dancers tended to retire. Now, at 67, he has dedicated himself to the circus.

The circus performer Katy kartwheel he lived near Buckinghamshire. “I saw on Facebook that he was offering classes. I thought, ‘Antenna classes in Marlow! That sounds like fun. ‘ So I emailed him and said, ‘Would you take a 60-year-old woman?’ She said, ‘Great! Come along!'”

Kartwheel’s trapezoids hung at three heights. “The first time I tried to get on, she had to push my butt up,” says Kenward. The trapeze “does not spare the flesh. You hug the bar at the back of your knees and then release it with your hands. It looks beautiful, but the equipment is brutal. After my first lesson, it looked like a car had crashed into my legs, ”he laughs.

He was 65 when he put on his first show with Kartwheel, on the Marlow Circus School’s aerial network, for 150 spectators. He dismounted by pulling the net back with his toes, “a beautiful slow back somersault … and he landed gracefully, on one leg.” He must have felt completely free moving through the air like that.

“Anything goes and anything is possible,” he says.

Although Kenward feels that he has “always” loved the circus, his earliest memories do not go back to childhood but to 30, when he took his two children with him. She remembers an act at Cirque du Soleil: five trapeze artists hidden in the ceiling, finished in blue silks. “We didn’t see them climbing. And they just fell off, all of them – fff … ffff … fff – he says, mimicking the sound of silks unwinding. “And he stopped”. Held for a moment in perfect balance, in the air, nothing below them, but safe on the silk, turning risk into grace. “It took my breath away.”

Instead of the circus, Kenwood danced as a child. “I was always dancing, creating little performances and subjecting my parents to them.” She was the only daughter at home, and the way she recounts these performances makes her sound like a sideshow in her own world.

“My childhood was very troubled,” he says. “There was a lot of anger. There was some violence … The dance was what moved me.

'As I get older, I certainly don't intend to become invisible'… Kenward.
‘As I get older, I certainly don’t intend to become invisible’… Kenward. Photography: Tom Pilston

“For much of my adult life, I felt like I had a lot of fun and joy to catch up on. They always led me to feel that I was not okay and to feel ashamed. But if I enter the circus world with crazy ideas and say my age and ‘Can I try?’, The answer is always ‘Yes’. “

Kenward says she is “not a thrill seeker” but is clearly a lifelong adventurer and rethinker. She obtained her first degree, against her mother’s wishes, in contemporary dance, and after retiring from her various dance jobs – teaching in the community, performing, giving talks on the history of dance – at age 40 she retrained as cranial osteopath. Now 67, he is in the middle of a master’s degree in circus conducting with Bristol Circomedia, with the intention of creating diverse and inclusive performances.

“As women, entering our 50s, 60s, 70s, we can become quite invisible. And I certainly don’t intend to become invisible, ”he says.

“The energy is abundant. And the will to be adventurous and daring is huge because you realize that your life won’t last forever, so you have to go ahead and have fun. “

Next, wait to work with a rope. “When you see people wrapping them, circling, climbing, hanging, I would love to give it a try. I want to see if I can have another 20-year career, acting and directing circus. “

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