Meet Vanessa! She is by far one of the most beautiful, inspirational, and treasured women in my life. Let her tell you the story of where she came from, and what she is doing now. As you read about her journey towards her passion for Trapeze, imagine if you let yourself follow the unknown. Imagine the possibilities that could open up if you took that leap of faith (or that jump with the trapeze) and let yourself fly away with your dreams & aspirations!
Name: Vanessa Rizzotto
Circus Arts Coach at Zacada Circus School. I teach trapeze, silks, hoop, acrobatics, trampoline, juggling and many other circus arts.
What were you doing before you fell onto this path?
Before I fell into the wonderful world of circus I was finishing my undergrad to be a teacher. I then continued with two more years of schooling to become the Grade One teacher at the London Waldorf School. During this time of teaching, circus was simply a weekend hobby or a summer vacation destination.
Would you say you were happy with what you were doing previously? Or was there something that was missing from your previous career path?
Yes I was happy with being the Grade One teacher at the London Waldorf School. That being said, something was definitely missing from my life. As much as I loved the community, the school and of course the children, I knew that for myself I needed more time. Working in a Waldorf school requires you to be incredibly responsible and giving of yourself. I, like all other Waldorf teachers, was taking on a group of children that I would follow up to Grade 8. I was beginning an eight year journey helping to raise 17 six year olds, and at the ripe age of 23 I wasn’t ready for that. I decided that as much as I enjoyed teaching, circus would be my career now, while I am young and able, and I would take what is known as the ‘eight year journey’ later in life.
If you were happy with your current career, what was it about Trapeze that made you believe it was time to act on this interest & develop it into more than just a hobby?
While I was teaching I used to imagine a little birdie sitting on my shoulder whispering sweet nothings about the flying trapeze into my ear. It was something that was fairly quiet, yet very consistent. I would think about all the women I knew that were fliers at the time and what I wanted to learn myself. The call to circus simply wouldn’t go away! To me, flying trapeze is such a beautiful art. During my weekend flying classes or summer’s spent away, I remember truly feeling like there was nobody on this entire earth that was happier than I was when I was standing on the platform about to jump. There was something deep inside of me that was addicted to this feeling. I would think “Wow, THIS is what life is all about, THIS is what people should strive to feel like, and THIS is how I want to feel as often as I possibly can!”
Had you had experience in an area like this before?
No, I had no specific previous experience that helped me with my flying skills. I was however an active person, I played team sports, I was a lifeguard and a runner. I was in shape, but not specific to the circus where you have to learn how to keep your shoulders engaged and point your toes! There was no foreshadowing to me learning circus arts. I literally fell upon the flying trapeze on a vacation in Costa Rica and fell instantly and irrevocably in love with it.
Did you have a mentor/ role model whom you confided in as you ventured into this new territory? How did they help shape your decision to follow your passion/ how have they shaped your journey?
YES! I definitely have a mentor in the circus world. His name is Peter Gold and he is a flying trapeze legend in the US. He was a world renowned flying trapeze catcher with the Ringling Brothers Circus. He was who I had my first flying experience with. After a week of learning from him on vacation I asked him, on the bus ride to the airport, “How do I continue to keep this in my life?” Fortunately, at the time he was taking on interns and he graciously invited me to train with him and his team in Austin, Texas. After a spring of training in Austin he gave me my first summer camp job in West Virginia teaching flying trapeze and other aerial arts. Summer after summer he would hire me to teach at other summer camps throughout the states. Once I left teaching, I found a circus school here in Stoney Creek, called Zacada Circus School and ever since then they have been my full time home away from home. I have learned from many new mentors at this school, but always have Peter Gold and that bus ride to the airport to thank for igniting my journey.
Many books that I’ve been reading talk about discovering your happiness in life, and the easiest way to start is to look back at what you were interested in as a child. Did you ever play games/ participate in activities related to this field?
I was a recreational gymnast and tried it for a year or two when I was 10. I also loved to choreograph dances to Spice Girls with my friends in my living room at home. Being a gymnast and a dancer isn’t exactly the same as flying the trapeze and teaching circus arts, but I consider it in the same family. So yes, I supposed I always did play games and participate in activities as a child that are related to my current career.
What were some of the challenges you faced when deciding to follow your passion & pursue this dream?
One of the biggest challenges I faced was figuring out how to make circus my yearly work. Before I found Zacada Circus School all I was doing was teaching in the summer season in the U.S. I tossed around many ideas from cruise ships to Club Med, from moving to Montreal to joining a not for profit circus project in South Africa. How was I going to make it throughout the remaining 8-9 months of the year? Then I found Zacada, and for a while it was Zacada during the winter and summer camps during the summer! Another challenge that I faced was money, but like most things in life, if you follow your heart, plant the seeds, and do the work, life will give you exactly what you need. Needless to say, I have been able to support myself for years now doing the work I love.
Do you have any advice to other women who are possibly on the fence with following their own directions?
There is something really special about being able to say that you love what you do. If you’re afraid about money or consistency, start incorporating your passion part time and then learn more about how you can do it full time. I believe one of the biggest reasons people don’t follow their dreams is because they don’t know how. So take it on as a part time project and do the research! Figure out how! Because I guarantee that there are people before you that have figured it out…which means that you can too!
Looking back, is there anything that you may have changed that you think would have helped you get on this path sooner?
No, I don’t think I was meant to get onto this path sooner. I believe I was meant to finish my undergrad and get the experience with teaching before all of this. If I went straight to the circus I probably would have been wondering the whole time if teaching was what I was meant to do. All of that experience helped me to confidently enter into the circus world, knowing very well that it was what I was meant to do.
Where do you see this passion growing to over the next 5 years? And 10?
Where I work there is always talk about how Zacada can grow and how we can add new things. Possibly buy our own tent, create a circus cabaret, or set up our own flying trapeze! There are plenty of opportunities, but like most new dreams, we have a lot of research to do still.
Where can someone find more information about your company/ career choice?
Peter Gold and his company is now based in Florida and you can find out more information at:
Zacada Circus School is where I currently work full time and here is their link as well:
Do you have anything else you’d like to say to anyone reading this?
Just let go of the wheel. Trust. Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love