From Chemistry to Circus

May 10, 2017
Grace Blinkoff
Hayley Larson '14
Hayley Larson '14 performs in "Off the Wall" with the OC Aerialists in 2014. Photo credit: Mika Johnson

Hayley Larson ’14 entered Oberlin College thinking that she would become a chemistry major, find a lucrative job, and dance on the side. However, her future didn’t pan out this way. Larson double majored in chemistry and dance, and instead of pursuing a career doing lab work (which, according to Larson, “I wouldn’t be very good at”), she is currently teaching at Aloft Circus Arts and Aerial Dance Chicago, where she trains and performs solo work in aerial silks, juggling, and the Cyr wheel. Her main project is performing as Duo Filamental, her duo performance name. Larson is the porter (base) for duo trapeze, aerial cradle, and duo silks acts with her flyer, Rachel Webberman ’15.

Larson’s passion for circus arts is not entirely surprising given that she studied dance at Oberlin, and was an active member of the Oberlin College Aerialists Club, which she “immediately became obsessed” with. Throughout her years at Oberlin, Larson also participated in the Student Dance Showcase, Oberlin Acro Club OCircus, and co-taught the Aerials ExCo. For her senior project, Larson created an evening-length aerial-dance piece that incorporated contemporary dance and aerial silks work with 16 other dancers, four of whom were also aerialists. Simultaneously, Larson was training and performing with a group in Cleveland called Stardrop Circus, which trains in the gymnastics space at Sokol Greater Cleveland.

Before breaking out of the Oberlin bubble to teach and perform in Chicago, Larson spent a year working as a curatorial assistant at the Allen Art Museum until the summer of 2015. Reflecting on the past two years, she says, “Graduation seems long ago and doesn’t feel long ago at all. For some people, graduating may feel like the end of the world.” Fortunately, Larson was able to hold onto her “circus people” from Oberlin. “The Oberlin world just keeps getting bigger,” she says.

From her circus experience, Larson learned that “expectations don’t matter as long as you’re doing what you love.” Although she may not be following the most traditional career path, she is content. In the future, she hopes to perform in variety and tent shows in Europe. She is also excited about continuing to help people feel good about and move their bodies.

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