Outside the Big Top

Miho's Road to the Stage

In her role as Julie in Drawn to Life, a character whom she had a major part in developing during the show’s creation in 2019, Miho showcases her incredible talent and inspires audiences, especially young girls with big dreams.

Could you introduce yourself in a few words?

I am Miho, a 29-year-old actor and acrobat born in Canada to a Japanese father and a French mother. Currently, I play the main character of Julie in Drawn to Life Presented by Cirque du Soleil and Disney. I've been part of the circus world since 2013 and joined Cirque during the creation of Drawn to Life in 2019. I had the honor to originate the Julie character during its creation, and I now share the role with one of my talented cast members.

Can you tell us about your professional background and upbringing and how it has influenced your career as a circus artist?

Growing up, I had the opportunity to explore various activities such as playing the piano, swimming, and attending Japanese school. I grew up with an active lifestyle and eventually trained in gymnastics and then discovered dance. Initially, I pursued a career in architecture at university. However, an aerial performance I saw, awoke in me a strong desire to pursue a more physically creative career. This desire gave me the courage to leave architecture behind and venture into the circus world.

How did you get involved in the circus industry, and what inspired you to pursue this career path?

I started taking classes and gradually became more involved. This experience led me to the National Circus School of Montreal, where I did a lot of my training. I was inspired by how much potential there was in the circus arts.   I trained in disciplines like hand-to-hand, aerials, Cyr wheel and trampoline. During my time there, I also explored different forms of theater and found my inner clow. Circus arts are a field where different forms of performance practices could freely co-exist, all while depending on extreme and precise awareness of the body. For me, it felt like it was a place where borders were not firm, where there were a lot of possibilities.

Photo by Roland Lorente

As a nippo-Canadian artist, what challenges have you faced in the circus industry, and how did you overcome them? 

Being of mixed heritage, I've encountered challenges related to my cultural background. There have been times when people have questioned or denied my connection to my own cultures – because I did not grow up in France or don’t speak Japanese fluently, for example. However, I've come to embrace my differences and assert my identity proudly. The fact that I've been cast as a lead character in Drawn to Life has been a big step forward in terms of representation and breaking stereotypes.

Can you speak to the importance of representation and diversity in the circus industry and live entertainment? 

Diversity and representation in entertainment is important because it can have the power to shape our perceptions, both collectively and subconsciously. What is represented in film, media, live entertainment, etc., should reflect the reality of our world which is filled with people of diverse backgrounds. As a young mixed-race girl growing up in North America, there were very little role model figures that I could relate to physically and culturally. When you see someone – an artist, an actor on film, for example – in which you can see yourself, the idea that this could be your future self is planted. It's important to represent all, not just a select few, because everyone deserves to have the same possibilities, to have the feeling of, "I can do that too," and to pursue their dreams with confidence and a sense of belonging. 

What are some of the most memorable moments you've experienced during your time as an artist on Drawn to Life? 

There have been many memorable moments during my time on Drawn to Life. One that stands out is when we first performed and saw the completed show for the first time. Or the times when I feel the audience is really with me and they follow me in the whole inner journey that Julie takes. When I see and feel that someone has traveled with me, I am touched. One that I will never forget is when I performed the cradle act for the first time. I can't tell you how nervous I was! It was a big accomplishment for me. 

What advice would you give aspiring circus artists, especially those from underrepresented communities? 

Know that this one unique life that is yours, your story, your heritage, your roots, and the richness of your culture are your powers. They’re yours. It is your inner home and an inexhaustible source where you can find refuge, strength, and inspiration. Let it be your guide. Our ancestors were here long before us and have so much wisdom to offer us. There is inside each and every one of us a flower waiting to bloom.

Catch a live performance of Miho as Julie on Drawn to Life in Orlando. Find tickets here.

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