Raised in a circus: 'I wouldn't have it any other way'

Up in the air: Shae West doesn't think she lives life on the edge. "I know what I'm doing." | Picture: Mark Turner
Up in the air: Shae West doesn't think she lives life on the edge. "I know what I'm doing." | Picture: Mark Turner

Shae West is a 6th generation circus performer who’ll be making her way to Bonnyrigg next week with her big, fun and unique family – the Stardust Circus.

Stardust Circus is Australia’s largest animal circus and has a number of entertaining attractions including a large flying trapeze troupe, a 10 person Hungarian trained teeter board act, dynamic aerialists, acrobatic comedy and crazy clowns. 

Shae, 17, said she didn’t exactly have what other people would classify as a “normal” childhood, but it was certainly interesting.

I had some pretty special experiences. I remember when we got the lions as cubs. I was able to play and watch them grow up.

Shae West

In a one-on-one interview, she shared what it was like growing up in a circus and why she “wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“We were home schooled and when we were younger we’d help out by interacting with the animals, cleaning up their yards and setting up. Because we traveled all the time, we got to meet lots of new people and see all of Australia so that wasn’t bad.

Circus performers are encouraged to horse around: The circus is mostly based in NSW and travels to Cairns every year. Picture: supplied

Circus performers are encouraged to horse around: The circus is mostly based in NSW and travels to Cairns every year. Picture: supplied

“We have lions, monkeys, ponies, goats, dogs and horses. I don’t do acts with any of the animals but the others do.

“I had some pretty special experiences. I remember when we got the lions. I was able to play with them when they were cubs and watch them grow up.”

According to Shae the circus follows strict guidelines and believes in animal welfare. 

Shae West and her family: The 6th generation performer said performing is in her blood. Picture: supplied

Shae West and her family: The 6th generation performer said performing is in her blood. Picture: supplied

Shae is an aerial performer who does several acts with aerial silks, the spring board, the trapeze and the aerial cloud swing.

“I follow a strict schedule and train every day. To be an aerial performer you have to have strength and know what you’re doing. Anything can happen when you’re performing live.

“I’ve always wanted to be a circus performer, it’s in my blood. There are expectations and my family like us to stay, but at the end of the day it’s a choice. 

“One day I’d like to have a family and raise them in the circus too. I plan to continue working here for the rest of my life.”

The circus is owned by her grandparents and her father was one of seven children. Shae said she also has a brother, two sisters and 10 cousins who are all part of the circus.

She shared the story of our her parents met.

“When my mum was younger she used to hang around the circus and play with them. She ended up running away with them and married my dad.”

We asked what her key was to happiness and success.

Shae is an aerial performer: her acts include aerial silks, the spring board, the trapeze and the aerial cloud swing. | Picture: Mark Turner

Shae is an aerial performer: her acts include aerial silks, the spring board, the trapeze and the aerial cloud swing. | Picture: Mark Turner

“I still get butterflies at the start of a performance. But it’s also seeing the smiles on peoples faces and talking to them after the show.”

She said the only challenge can be the weather.

The circus travels on 22 motor vehicles including semi trailers, 14 trucks and 4WDs.

“When it’s rain, it can get muddy and wind can get into the tents, which can be scary sometimes.”

She also mentioned the odd wardrobe malfunction. “Yes, there have been times where I’m performing and my costume rips at the wrong time!”

At the end of the day, Shae said she’s a teenager who likes spending her spare time with her boyfriend and binging on Netflix shows.

The circus travels 10 months a year, often in NSW.

Animal welfare a priority: According to Shae the circus follows strict guidelines and believes in animal welfare. Picture: supplied

Animal welfare a priority: According to Shae the circus follows strict guidelines and believes in animal welfare. Picture: supplied

Show details:

  • Stardust Circus is at Bonnyrigg from Friday, September 14 to Sunday, September 23.
  • Details: stardustcircus.com.au

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