WITH 18 years of circus experience and a European rhythmic gymnastics championship title under her belt, 37-year-old Zheni Espana from Bulgaria makes the aerial hammock look easy and elegant.
The mother of two teenage boys (14 and 18) started rhythmic gymnastics training at the age of five, and picked up her prestigious European title in 1994.
She stopped training gymnastics professionally and signed up with the circus to see America and travel the world.
While working for a circus in America, she met her current husband, who is a fourth generation circus performer from Brazil.
The two got married and travelled the world together as a family.
Their two boys were home schooled and also performed in the circus until last year, when they decided they wanted to complete their schooling in the Bulgarian public school system while staying with relatives.
‘It was very hard for us to leave our boys behind.
‘We have signed a year-long contract with Aqua The Aussie Circus Spectacular and will only be able to see them when we complete our contract,’ said Espana.
She told the Zululand Observer that she has grown as a performer owing to her husband’s knowledge and experience, which has pushed her to where she is today.
She does a five minute aerial hammock act during the performance, that incorporates strength, flexibility and finesse.
‘I train seven times a week, all day long and always look for advice from other performers on how to improve my act.’
Espana fell during a performance four years ago and dislocated her shoulder and had to undergo surgery.
‘It was really hard, as I was out for a number of months and had to get back into shape quickly to get back onto the stage.’
She claims to have no regrets choosing circus life, as she works with her husband and members of her extended family.
‘Entertaining is my life. I can’t imaging living any other way.’
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