Laurent Racicot has been juggling assignments, jumping through hoops and bending over backward to get a passing grade — literally. “The circus has always fascinated me,” he said.

“When I was little, I went to see the Cirque Du Soleil and I still remember the stars I had in my eyes while watching the artists. I dreamed of being able to be on stage in their shoes one day.”

A natural performer and gifted athlete who loves entertaining rapt audiences under the twinkling lights of the big top, Racicot has been honing his skills since he gained admission to Montreal’s École nationale de cirque at the tender age of 12.

And if you like trampolining, contorting your body or just clowning around, then you too may want to consider a career as a professional circus performer.

It just so happens that one of the most prestigious circus schools in the world is right here in Montreal. So, if you’re stuck in the wrong career and feeling sad, don't worry — there's still time to run away and join the circus.

Attending the school and earning a degree is one way to sharpen skills and gain credibility in the industry. Here are a few tips.

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What are the majors at the National Circus School?

Let’s say you’re a salesman at the end of their rope and a prospect ends a sales call with an abusive expletive causing you to scream out, "That's it! You people have stood in my way long enough. I'm going to clown college!"

Well great, you’ve already chosen a major.

The National Circus School offers a spectrum of circus classes including acting, dance, juggling and the clowning arts. More than 150 students from around the world are enrolled.

It also offers a number of professional programs from a three-year college degree, to a high school degree, to a non-degree program for youth.

How do you stand out in a circus career?

Racicot was an accomplished gymnast when he fell out of love with the competitive side of the sport.

But he was still enchanted by the tricks, twists and turns of a performer so the National Circus School seemed like the best option to achieve his goals.

“Our homework at the National Circus School is quite different from a normal CEGEP,” he said.

“We are in school about 10 hours a day … Our homework is therefore often done in class, which requires less work but more thinking about things and reflecting on ideas.”

Thanks to a foundation in gymnastics, he pressed on and has become an accomplished acrobat, specializing in Chinese hoops as well as Korean board.

“I work hard to be confident and to go for what interests me and to show people my talent,” he said.

“If you want to start a circus career: go for it and innovate. You have to stand out in this profession to have the best opportunities.”

How has the National Circus School adapted to the pandemic?

Before COVID-19, 95% of circus school graduates found employment, said the school’s spokesperson Chloé Granger.

“Most of them work as artists for the best circus companies and are touring in a lot of countries,” she said. “Our graduates also participate in prestigious festivals and contests.”

But now Racicot and his classmates are walking a tightrope of uncertainty with the closure of venues and the cancelling of shows due to the ongoing pandemic.

Final exams and the 2020 end-of-year show — where students would have performed in front of some of the top circus scouts in the world — have also been cancelled, said Granger.

But the show must go on, as they say, and the school has adapted to the challenges presented by the pandemic with online shows and a new lab in entrepreneurship* until things get better.

These include the development of a show for at-risk groups and seniors, the creation of inclusive costumes for all skin types, and the formation of an artist residency program, said Granger.

The school is looking for interested circus folk. The deadline to register for the entrance exam is January 15, 2021, which will be held online this year due to the pandemic.

*This article has been updated.

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