With Anything But the Greatest of Ease

Traditionally, going for a bike ride involves putting on gear on and pedaling around on a vehicle built for one person. But when alumna Erin Mehlich decides to ride a bike, she joins four others under the glare of a spotlight and in front of an audience. The act includes four participants performing various tricks while one person steers the bicycle.

Erin joined The Florida State University Flying High Circus during her freshman year, after being asked by her brother Justin Mehlich, who joined during his freshman year after graduating from West Shore in 2011. Recent West Shore graduate and Caroline Baney also has been accepted into the program.

“I got involved because my brother was the ringmaster at the time and currently still is the ringmaster for the circus,” Erin said. “He told me it was one of the best experiences he has had in college, and I just had to audition. So I listened to my brother and auditioned at the beginning of the year.”

On the other hand, Justin didn’t put a lot of thought into it prior to trying out.

“I got involved during the fall of my freshman year by auditioning on a whim,” Justin said. “That year they were having ringmaster auditions as well as the general auditions. I guess I impressed the coaches well enough with my voice that they put me on as one of the two ringmasters. I was extremely glad that I was chosen to be one of them. I felt honored.”

Like all participants, Erin also had to pass a physical test.

“I went to one of the tryouts and the coaches observed our strength and flexibility,” Erin said. “I made it past the callbacks and now it is a big part of my college life.”

Being a part of the circus wasn’t part of Erin’s deciding factor for attending FSU.

“I didn’t choose to go here because it had a circus; but let’s be real here, it’s kind of the coolest thing in the entire world,” Erin said. “How many people can say that they performed in a legitimate circus during one of the most exciting times in their lives? Not very many.

“I have never been apart of such a unique group of people whose studies range from Macroeconomics to Studio Art,” she said. “The people I have met through the circus have also become my primary group of friends in college and it’s also something I get to do with my brother. I truly love it.”

The home shows didn’t begin until April but the practices have been mandatory since September.

“ ‘Bicycle Built for Five’ is where a guy rides around in circles on this special bicycle while four other girls do tricks on different parts of the bike in motion,” she said. “I am working on getting my strength up so that I can do aerial acts in the future.”

However, Erin’s season ended before it all started.

“On our first performance I fractured my foot,” she said. “ I was going for the rings but I tripped over a pole. I had a boot on my foot for about a month. Even though I was injured I got an award for being ‘rookie of the year’. I was happy.”

Justin said the circus is like no other.

“The experience is different because this wasn’t an option in high school,” he said. “I can draw a lot of parallels to my experiences in high school theater at West Shore except it’s a much more free atmosphere here due to everyone here basically being an adult.”

Justin said this might be his best extracurricular activity yet.

“The circus is probably the best thing I’ve done since trying out for the ‘Music Man’ when I was in ninth grade,” Justin said.