Born To Fly, Not To Walk

Erin Clark is a firecracker – powerful, brilliant and also daring. No nonsense, sexy to the core and innovative. She says she isn’t “nice” but nice is overrated.

10450940_10154257663950321_6647025642845808967_nAs a rope specialist, it is inevitable that Clark is jacked with broad and beautiful shoulders. The trademark of an aerialist. When dangling in the air, her agile movements are also athletic and strong. But the physics the average-Joe aerialist plays with do not apply to Clark. A rare pairing of recessive genes, resulted in waist down partial paralysis from birth. In the air, she is an illusionist, a master of momentum so you can’t see where she generates her movement from. Her legs look like they move.

Clark’s aerial repertoire is diverse, including a lift into a looped neck-hang (think in the style of a hangman’s noose) that should require Herculean strength. She wraps, drops, rolls, turns, twists but everything comes from a unique understanding of the apparatus. Standard tricks must all be translated through her imagination so that Clark can apply the rules of her body.

As tough as rope seems, it moves around her. The ground on the other hand, does not. Nor does her wheelchair. But think about it. When we climb into the air, we need an apparatus to support us as we defy gravity. Clark has an apparatus to navigate the ground.

In the air, Clark sees more of an even playing field. By a twist of fate, Clark ended up being exposed to aerial arts. Immediately, she felt like her body was designed to do this.  While most people question if it is possible to climb 20 feet of rope, Clark finds it easy. Aerial arts are not the hardest thing she has done, after all she lived in Kenya for 6 years  and New York City which have different challenges for accessibility.

Maybe her dangling future was foreshadowed by her elementary school principal calling home to say she was hanging from monkey bars. Once it was established that Clark wasn’t hurt, her Mom was confused to why the principal was calling. “One day, someone’s going to have to tell that girl she’s disabled” he responded. Oh really? There are assumptions of what can and can’t be done and circus is a venue where limitations are worked with, instead of fought again.

Clark feels that she is designed to do this and that it is important. Visually identified as disabled, she participates outside of the normal visual experience. But isn’t this what circus was originally about?  The American circus tradition embraced marginalized populations. The bearded lady, the elephant man, fire eaters, sword swallowers. Contemporary circus has moved away from the razzle-dazzle tradition but at the heart it still celebrates characteristics that are considered outside of the norm.

Aerial work is also a venue where Clark can display her true self. For anyone who has ever met her, it is immediately apparent that she is sensual to the core and knows it. Self-proclaimed sex icon, it radiates in everything she does. Be it her selfies, aerial work or the way she speaks and presents herself, she’s just remarkably sexy. Disabled people are desexualized so Clark comes from a place where her sexuality, while fluid and powerful, is also very safe.

Photo credit: Kirk Bixby

Photo credit: Kirk Bixby

Her commanding personality and aerial work removes focus from her wheelchair. And both demonstrate her power: aerial work for the power of her body and power of her mind and autonomy through her sex icon status. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but icon status gives her the power. Her strength, grace and agility are not just physical feats but mental ones as well.

Clark is now exploring new opportunities within her life and aerial arts. With her propensity for adventure, expect her next step to be aligned with the impossible. If you want to follow her, check out #erinunleashes on Instagram or Flaming Mermaid Broken Star on Facebook.

Aerial arts has been a source of creativity and empowerment for Clark. Share with us any stories you may have how circus arts changed the way you overcome challenges. Email or leave a comment below.

Mary-Margaret Circus

hckygrlphoto by Ramo M

Mary-Margaret Scrimger - A writer by trade, Mary-Margaret has worked in a variety of sectors such as finance, technology and publishing. In addition, she is a circus performer who has trained in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto. Currently finishing a certificate in public relations, Mary-Margaret hopes to meld her education with her creativity and financial knowledge. 

© 2014 Mary-Margaret Scrimger 


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