Mina Corbeau

Mina joined Host of Sparrows in 2013. She is the company costume designer, and performs burlesque, aerial silks, aerial lyra, aerial rope, tumbling, fire eating, and as fantasy characters and a living statue.DSC_0375-4

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How I Joined the Circus.

2013 was a big year for me as an artist. I had come out of a long depression in which I’d been struggling to find my footing and place in the world, and I was ready to get out and make things happen.

I’ve always been a performer in some fashion or another and I come from a family of performers and artists. From an early age I was introduced to dance and gymnastics by my mother, who coached the sport, and I spent most of my childhood in a gymnastics gym. While I had moderate success at competitions, I never had the goal or skill-set to make it to the Olympics, and by the age of 18 I had had enough of it and quit to pursue a career in fine art and animation. Quitting gymnastics was liberating in many ways. Those who haven’t been there often wonder why so many girls stay with a sport that is so harsh mentally and physically. The answer is often this: when you spend so much of your time immersed in a place, whether you love it or hate it (most of the time both), it is often difficult to see that there is life after the gym. But life there was, and I was very ready to dive into art instead, spending all of my time drawing and writing and very little (if any) of my time working out. During high school I had also fallen in love with acting and singing in school plays. Being in drama helped me break out of my shell, and my gymnastics skills helped me get parts. I knew that I wanted to be on stage, but I wasn’t sure where all this fell into my grand plan. When it came time to go to college, my choices were drama or art. I had left my gymnastics behind for good, or so I thought.

After college it became clear that I was not going to continue with my dream of animation. I began my own illustration business and traveled to festivals and Renaissance faires to sell my work. I struggled mentally with not having a ‘real career.’ I floundered in my personal life and battled with anxiety and depression. Occasionally I would have something published or audition for local productions, but for the most part, I slept through my 20s. Here I was with all of these skill sets and no idea of what to do with them. Something a member of my family had said to me long ago began to haunt me: “In our family we are Jacks of all trades and masters of none.” I always thought that was horrible. As a kid I remember thinking that the worst thing in life must be to not have the talent for the thing it was you wanted to do. Now I was finding that to have talent but not have a place to use it was equally as defeating.

It took until my late twenties for me to finally begin to throw away my old notions of what I was ‘supposed to do’ in life and how old I needed to be to do it, and begin to say yes to things I simply enjoyed. Renaissance faires and conventions had helped me meet lots of amazing people who were living the lives they wanted to live no matter their age. You’re a 50 year old woman who wants to dress as a Storm Trooper in a kilt? Go for it! Be ridiculous. Be bold. Be happy. I honed my costume constructing skills, my networking skills, and something akin to street performance and improvisation, which I had always considered myself terrible at. By 2011 I had a new job, lots of new friends, and most importantly I was ready to give my home city of Richmond a second chance.

The art scene here was booming and so was the burlesque scene. I dipped my toe into this new medium and found it liberating and thrilling. Here I was able to create exactly the vision I wanted to create and get a chance to perform it for an audience without having to follow someone else’s script, music, or choreography. I tested the waters for my illustrations again and found the community very accepting of those as well. Then in 2013 I walked into a dance studio and reclaimed my gymnastics roots. After the first hour long class I took of aerial lyra my arms were shaking and I thought I was going to vomit, but my body remembered. I was in love with working out again. It didn’t take long for my muscles to build back up, and I began learning aerial silks with Heather Bailey and a small misfit group of circus folk who called themselves Host of Sparrows. It was here that I could use all of my art and performance skills in one place with a group of beautiful, kind and accepting individuals. I had found my home and my people, and I would never have guessed it could happen by running away with the circus.