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.
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.
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.
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.”