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She lost her legs. Now she's teaching others to fly

Erin Ball was able to reignite her passion for circus arts after losing her lower legs in 2014. Now she has opened a school to teach others the art of circus performance.

Performer Erin Ball has started a circus program for others with disabilities at her Kingston, Ont., school

Erin Ball didn't let the loss of her lower legs get in the way of her passion for circus performance. (Submitted by Erin Ball)

When Erin Ball lost her lower legs to frostbite after becoming lost in the woods for nearly a week in 2014, it looked like her circus career was over.

Instead, the double-amputee was able to reignite her passion for high-flying performance, and now she's helping others with disabilities get off the ground, too.

Ball has created an accessible space at her school, Kingston Circus Arts in Kingston, Ont., and is opening her doors to anyone and everyone.

"I've been actively seeking out amputees and all people with disabilities to come in and try circus arts," Ball told CBC's Ontario Morning.

Prior to losing her legs, Ball had been a circus arts performer for years, specializing in acrobatics and aerials — particularly silk aerials, where the performer spins and twists around a long shroud suspended from the ceiling. 

Losing her legs could not stop circus artist Erin Ball from getting off the ground

6 years ago
Duration 3:19
After suffering the loss of both lower legs, it was love of the circus and intense training that made Erin Ball want to carry on.

Ball became depressed after losing her legs, and said there were days she didn't want to get out of bed.

"Circus was a big part of what helped me to move forward," she said.

Of course, adapting to her new physical condition took time.

"I tried doing things the way I had done them before and it wasn't really working. Eventually I started taking off my prosthetic legs and started playing around with different ways of doing skills and finding different skills, and a whole world opened up for me."

Inspired by student

Ball got the inspiration for a fully accessible circus school from a student who had also lost a leg.

"I was trying to teach her the same way I taught everyone else, and it also wasn't working," Ball recalled.

"She took her [prosthetic] leg off, and a whole new world opened up for her as well."

But Ball also learned something from that student.

"It was different than what worked for me because she has one foot, and it was just so interesting to me."

Once Ball began taking on other students with disabilities, she realized they needed their own, purpose-built space.

The new school has been equipped with pulley systems to make it easier for everyone to try circus arts, and Ball said students are already taking advantage.

"What I have seen has been huge smiles, and such a huge sense of accomplishment in going form thinking that was not possible to being able to be up there."

Her students will give their first performance Saturday night in Kingston.

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