Imagine giving up your job to do something so out of the ordinary that you have a conversation starter for life.
That’s what Erin Shredder did seven years ago when she left her stable world to run away with the circus.
A warm and somewhat mysterious character, Shredder creates a presence for herself with her thoughtful demeanor and attention-grabbing outfits. While many of her online photos show her glammed up in circus-appropriate makeup, Shredder has a natural beauty of her own that shines through in her smile. As we spoke, she told me with passion of the amazing things she has experienced and is still experiencing in life. We greeted each other with a handshake, but grew so friendly in our hour together that we parted with a hug.
Photo Erica Ward
How much time do you spend training [for the circus]?
It’s about…it’s like four to five hours a day, maybe three to five days [a week].
Do you train with your group, or do you train by yourself?
Both. Yeah, uh, I like to train with my group, and it creates a really nice fusion on stage […].
So what did you do before you joined the circus?
I did firefighting for six years. […] So that was fun too. I guess I liked helping people and I like adrenaline. […]
Do you expect to be in the circus for a long time?
It’s hard to predict such a thing, but I know that my heart loves to preform.
What drew you to the circus in the first place?
[…] I was at Burning Man, and I saw this girl hula hooping, and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s so beautiful.’ […] I [was] so moved by it that I [wanted to] do that. […] So then I learned how to do it, I got really addicted, and then it just became hard to put down. […] And so, of course, we started lighting things on fire. [laughs] […] And then, um, I had broken up with a long-term boyfriend, and so these people in my small town, they said, ‘We’re gonna go, we’re gonna go on tour with this circus, and they need a showgirl. Do you wanna do it?’ And I was like, ‘I’m not a showgirl, I’m a hula hooper.’ And so at first I said no, and then I was driving away, and I was like, ‘Wait a minute. How often do you get invited to join the circus?’ […] So I called them back and said, ‘I’ll do it.’
Photo Andrew Feiler
Do you feel like being in the circus has changed your perspective on how you view life?
Oh yeah. Yeah, I mean my values are different, the way I see people, and the way that I connect with people. I’ve always been really present with people, but after being on stage and, like, connecting with the audience and seeing how it affects them, is, is really moving for me. And, and it makes sense since I’ve always been into light and colors since I was little, and I just needed to do something with all this creative energy.
Have you performed with other fire spinners?
[…] Yeah, all the time. […] And [fire hooping is] so calming and, and exciting. Like, the balance is amazing, and the sound. It’s just this love affair that can’t really match anything else. […] I never thought, when I was fighting fire, that I would someday dance with it. […] It’s hard to predict what the next move is for, for anybody, but just to keep saying yes is a blessing.
What do you get most out of the circus?
[…] My purpose is to increase the awareness of my audience, that they have amazing potential inside of them, and they can do whatever they want. […] I like to sort of display the possibility that anything is possible with love.
Do you want to inspire others to get up and do something crazy?
[…] [I want to inspire] somebody that maybe has a daily pattern, and they’re sort of on auto-mode and they’re missing the magic that everyday is a new life. […] So, to try to discourage the autopilot, you know, and to, to have those connections in the moment. Because the moment is all we have right now. And the world could explode in thirty seconds. This is it, you know, this is, like, the maximum. The climax. So I’m really into getting that while it’s here.
Do you have an inspiration for what you do?
Well I was already in the circus, but my dad died almost three years ago, and […] it helped me realize how fragile and amazing life is and how much of a gift it is. And so it’s only helped me live even more boldly than I did before. […]
What message do you want people to walk out of your shows with?
I like the idea that people feel like they can do whatever they put their mind to. Anybody can [learn to] experience their life to the fullest, and to not hold ourselves back.
Words Tessa Murphy