The Leeds girl who ran away with the circus - and now stars in Cirque du Soleil

Yorkshire gymnast turned performer Emily McCarthy, aged 21, in her Slippery Surface Flyers scene, straight after the interval - one of the show's many highlights.
Yorkshire gymnast turned performer Emily McCarthy, aged 21, in her Slippery Surface Flyers scene, straight after the interval - one of the show's many highlights.
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West Yorkshire lass Emily McCarthy says she would have bent over backwards to be in Cirque du Soleil – and now she does exactly that every night.

She ran away with the circus five years ago.

Emily McCarthy, 21, from Tingley, who is a performer in the Cirque du Soleil

Emily McCarthy, 21, from Tingley, who is a performer in the Cirque du Soleil

And after travelling the world she is looking forward to a very special homecoming when Cirque du Soleil returns to town next week.

The 21-year-old is the only UK girl in its latest colourful spectacular, Varekai, Tales of The Forest, which will play seven performances - Wednesday to Sunday, February 22 to 26 - at Leeds First Direct Arena.

That’s just up the road from her family home in Tingley.

In the crowd will be family and friends including her biggest fans - proud mum Julie, 52, dad Andrew, 56, twin brother Max and brother Oliver, 17.

Yorkshire gymnast Emily McCarthy in Cirque du Soleil's spectacular Varekai, Tales of The Forest - at Sheffield Arena from Thursday to Sunday, February 2 to 5.

Yorkshire gymnast Emily McCarthy in Cirque du Soleil's spectacular Varekai, Tales of The Forest - at Sheffield Arena from Thursday to Sunday, February 2 to 5.

Five-year-old cousin Lexi is following in her famous footsteps. She trains at the same Wakefield Gym Club, at Thornes Park Stadium, where Emily’s talent was spotted by a Cirque scout.

Her amazing athleticism is now one of the many highlights of Varekai, featuring super human acrobatics, juggling, contortion, balancing and more.

Varekai - pronounced ver·ay·’kie and translating as “wherever” in the Romany language of the gypsies - features outrageously colourful costumes, turning its large cast into fantastical half-human creatures, set against a forest backdrop.

Emily told how she underwent Olympic training from the age of six but jumped at the chance to join Cirque five years ago.

Emily McCarthy, 21, from Tingley, who is a performer in the Cirque du Soleil

Emily McCarthy, 21, from Tingley, who is a performer in the Cirque du Soleil

She said: “Everybody thought I was bonkers. But from a young age I dreamed of running off with the circus and when I did my family was very supportive.

“I would have bent over backwards to be in Cirque and now I do that every show!

“Acrobatic gymnastics is not an Olympic sport but this is my gold. I see myself now as a performer more than an athlete.

“I’ve been in Varekai for four years but leave after the UK tour. I’m hoping to join a different Cirque show. “There are 10 acrobats in my scene – it’s very technical and precise. We put that on a slippery surface to make it more difficult, representing underwater.

“There’s lots of contortion, strength and balancing, combined with dance and choreography.”

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