Former Diver, Gymnast Makes a Comeback through Circus Arts
Laura Landry, a 46-year old Gainesville insurance rep, lit up the stage posing as “Pollution” at the Gainesville Downtown Festival and Arts Show last weekend. Her 5-minute long routine incorporated aerials silks, acting, dance and floor acrobatics. The crowd and fellow performers applauded in awe.
I’ve known Laura for a couple of years now and it’s not just her dedication to circus arts that inspires me, a fellow part-time circus enthusiast, but her humble attitude and incredible work ethic.
But how did Laura get here? What’s her story? I wanted to find out, so what better way than interviewing this Renaissance Woman?
After hanging out with her for a while, we both realized we were both competitive divers in our past. We meet occasionally at the community pool to throw some of our old dives while the kids “oohed” and “ahhed.” But, turns out, this lifelong athlete has played more sports than I can count on one hand.
Born and raised in Binghamton, New York, Landry played every sport she possibly could—softball, volleyball, tennis, badminton, gymnastics and springboard diving.
“Since I was born, I have always had a big passion for physical activity,” she said. “As a small child, I was constantly upside down doing rolls, cartwheels, handstands. A cartwheel was worth a thousand words for me.”
In the end, she felt gymnastics and diving were her calling. In her first year of college at SUNY Cortland, she won first place at the Division 3 NCAA meet on 3-meter springboard and placed second in the 1-meter springboard. She then decided to move to a Division 1 school to see how far she could progress.
“I wanted to go to the Olympics. That was my dream since I was a kid,” she said. “I ended up at the University of Florida and was a diver on their team.”
While at UF, her biggest diving accomplishment was making it to the Senior National Outdoor Championship on 10 meter-platform where she competed with some Olympians and the best divers in the U.S. at the time. During her time on the team, she also coached high school students in the Gainesville area.
Although Landry graduated with a degree in exercise and sports science, she believed she had focused on sports for too long. She wanted to explore other talents. In addition, she believed as a woman in her mid-twenties, she was too old to pursue gymnastics or dance any further.
Boy, was she wrong.
Landry decided to earn a degree in computer programming and landed a job at Nationwide Insurance. The job has given her the flexibility to bring her former talents back to life in the form of circus as well as horseback riding, music and art.
“I began doing circus training two years ago. It felt so good to move that way again,” said Landry who is a performer and student at Gainesville’s S-Connection Aerial Arts. “I see the circus gym as my playground every time I walk in. I love the creativity, the music, the dance, and the choreography.”
And, she adds, there is no hard age limit to learning circus arts.
“The great thing about circus is that it is not a pounding type of activity. There is so much variety, each individual can really focus on their own strengths. For instance, I am not as flexible as I used to be. I work on my flexibility but I often will include more moves that focus on my particular strengths in my routines rather than flexibility.”
She also added that most activities do not include the physical areas that decline as we get older, but are important for our well-being. Circus training is a complete, full-body workout, says Landry.
“I think some women my age may think they can’t do it. Growing up, I didn’t see a lot of women being this active in their 40s or older,” Landry said. “I have to admit, I thought in a limiting way myself – but it is not the truth. I am amazed by what I see older women doing – there is so much we still can do. I want to push the age boundary as much as possible.”
Keep up the good work Laura!