I’m a dentist by day, a circus performer by night – that helps with extractions

Elsie Liontou in her two very different roles.

Elsie Liontou in her two very different roles.

Elsie Liontou in her two very different roles.

In My Story, readers share their unique, life-changing experiences. This week we hear from Elsie Liontou, 36, who lives in Aberdeen.

When I climb the silk, I stop thinking about anything else. I don’t think about my daily routine, I’m not going to think about my problems or what I have to do at work tomorrow. All I think about is: my hand must go here, my hand must go there, my legs must go there. I turn on the background music and just flow.

Most of my patients have no idea that I am a circus performer and instructor after leaving practice.

On a daily basis, I am the chief physician at Bupa Dental Care Cove Bay in Aberdeen. I work in a mixed practice of NHS and private dentistry and from day to day my book will be quite full. I pay no attention to other dentists and do everything from routine visits to full oral rehab and Invisalign treatment. I work from 8:30 to 17:00 and then I start my second passion: the circus.

I’ve tried pole dancing in the past as a hobby, but I was worried about my hands getting very sweaty and slipping down the pole! It wasn’t for me. When I moved from Greece to the UK, I was looking for something similar – to de-stress after moving, stay fit and connect with people. I attended my first airshow class eight years ago and just fell in love with it.

Elsie spends time at the circus.

Elsie spends time at the circus.

Elsie spends time at the circus.

It didn’t seem that hard to me, I won’t lie. And I was never afraid. I have a background in ballet and I participated in dance competitions in Greece when I was young, so I think it helped a lot to be a bit more flexible. But I had no upper body strength – none! It was definitely a challenge for me.

A year later, together with two friends, we founded Inverted – our own circus and pole fitness studio. I am currently a qualified silk and hoop aerial instructor and spend my evenings and weekends teaching. I have two children aged 4 and 2 and I have developed a lot of activities for children, so on Saturday and Sunday we teach young people aged from 18 months to 18 years.

However, performing is my passion. We organize shows at company events, charity events of all kinds. One of the biggest was held at Teca, an arts venue in Aberdeen, and we recreated The Greatest Showman.

I had so much makeup on and thought no one would recognize me, but one of my patients walked through the wrong door while we were getting ready for the show. She took a double take and said, “That’s my dentist!” It was very funny.

I’m very proud of what I do and it’s definitely rewarding when you’re doing a tooth extraction. Someone might comment on your arms – “Oh, you’re pretty strong” – and I say, “Yeah, I exercise,” and sometimes I tell them that. People generally find it fascinating.

Balancing everything with two kids is a challenge, but I’d say it’s possible. I went back to the studio about three weeks after giving birth to my first child and at first my daughter was with me all the time. Now he goes to classes and likes it very much.

You need a support system to make it work, and you definitely need partner involvement. You have to sit down and set a schedule together, and I make sure that my husband also has some free time for himself, because it is very important. I had a lot of support from my parents when my husband was working at sea. My mother came from Greece to help me with the children, and most evenings I would say “goodbye!” as I left the house and headed for the train.

When you have a baby for the first time, or even a second time, I think one of the biggest challenges is getting motivated to act. You usually feel like you want to stay home and don’t want to let them go. But one thing I’m going to say is that it has really helped my mental health.

Whenever I go to the studio, I’ll come back with such a big smile and actually have a lot more energy. You don’t want to go home and be grumpy.

If you feel like trying a circus or a new hobby in the new year, I want to say, try it. In particular, we have many women who say “it’s not for me because I don’t have a body yet” or “I don’t have the strength”.

But if you come to the introductory class, you will see that there are a lot of people who have no idea what to do – it’s completely normal. Either you will love it or you will feel that it is not a hobby for you. But until you try, you’ll never know.

Elsie was interviewed by Rachel Moss and her responses were edited for length and clarity. To participate in HuffPost UK’s My Story series, email uklife@huffpost.com.

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