“I never would have dreamt when I graduated from the circus school, years later I would move back to Newfoundland and open an aerial school,” said Anahareo Doelle, the owner of IFly Aerial Arts, a local aerialist school that she founded back in 2012.

Doelle was on an exchange program in Jamaica, using the time off from studying kinesiology at Memorial University to think about what she wanted from her future.

“My big dream was really to go to Montreal and do the circus school there. So when I came back from that seven months with Canada World Youth, I decided I was going to pursue that dream of mine.” She auditioned for a spot at the National Circus School of Montreal and got in, which lead to a career spanning over a decade in Europe.

When Doelle came back home to St. John’s five years ago, she started renting space from a ballet school to teach aerial classes and quickly found there was a local interest. She now works out of The S.P.A.C.E. and has hired two other instructors and teaches 18 classes a week.

She’s had students from as young as 5 to as old as 67. Whenever she’s heard people say they’re too old or it’s too late to learn, Doelle is firm, “It’s never too late, you can always surprise yourself.”

Taking these classes gives people confidence, she explained, especially for women. “They get strong, all of a sudden they’re able to do a move they didn’t think they could do and they just feel super empowered by that. So I think that’s really beautiful.

“Muscles end up being cool, you know what I mean. It’s not just about being … beautiful. You have to be strong to be able to do this.”

In just a few years, IFly has seen a lot of changes. “It’s just expanding. It has wings of its own,” she said. There are classes teaching skills like silks, hoop, hammock, and the trapeze. IFly also hosts birthday and bachelorette parties, along with group performances.

“Sometimes I have to sit back and go, ‘I’m living the dream,’ to have an aerial school in Newfoundland.”

Big Aspirations for the Big Top

This past summer Doelle took a group of students to Montreal for an aerial intensive camp she’d curated, which included a tour of the Cirque du Soleil. The visit coincided with Montréal Complètement Cirque, a circus festival in the city. “So they really got immersed in circus culture, because Montreal is really like the melting pot of circuses in North America,” she said.

While many students take IFly classes for fun, there are a number of students who are interested in becoming professional aerialists.

This November, representatives from the National Circus School of Montreal will be in town for pre-selection tryouts. Aerialists, high level gymnasts and dancers will able to audition in the comfort of their hometown, without the extra stress of travelling outside of the province. Doelle also noted students will have a better chance of being seen here, where only about 15 will try out, rather than a hundred.