I'm A Dentist By Day, A Circus Performer By Night – It Helps With Extractions

Dentists need strong arms and Elsie Liontou says she's found just the thing.
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’s based in Aberdeen.

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

Most of my patients have no idea that once I leave the practice, I’m a circus performer and instructor.

By day, I’m the lead practitioner at Bupa Dental Care Cove Bay in Aberdeen. I work on a mixed practice of NHS and private dentistry, and day to day my book will be quite full. I overlook the other dentists and do everything from routine appointments to full mouth rehabilitations and Invisalign treatments. I work from 8.30am until 5pm and then I start on my second passion: the circus.

I tried pole dancing as a hobby in the past, but I worried about having very sweaty hands and sliding 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 the move, stay fit and connect with people. I attended my first aerial performance class about eight years ago and just fell in love with it.

Elsie hanging out at the circus.
Elsie hanging out at the circus.

I didn’t find it that difficult, I’m not going to lie. And I was never scared. I have a background in ballet and competed in dance competitions in Greece when I was young, so I think that helped quite a lot with being a bit more flexible. But I had no upper-body strength – none! That was definitely a challenge for me.

A year later, myself and two friends founded Inverted – our own circus and pole fitness studio. I’m now a qualified aerial silks and hoop instructor and spend evenings and weekends teaching. I’ve got two children who are four and two years old and I’ve developed a lot the classes for kids, so on a Saturday and Sunday we teach young students from 18 months old to 18 years old.

Performing is my passion though. We put on shows for corporate events, charities, all sorts. One of the largest was at the Teca, an art venue in Aberdeen, and we recreated the Greatest Showman.

I had so much makeup on and thought no one could possibly recognise me, but one of my patients passed through the wrong door when we were preparing for the show. She did a double take and was like: “That’s my dentist!” It was very funny.

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


Balancing everything with two children is a challenge, but I’d say it can be done. I was back in the studio about three weeks after having my first baby and in the beginning, my daughter was with me all the time. She now attends classes and loves it.

You do need a support system to make it work, and you definitely need the partner to be involved. You have to sit down and make a schedule together, and I make sure my husband also a little bit of free time for himself, because I think that is really important. I had a lot of support from my parents when my husband was working offshore, too. My mum came over from Greece to help me with the children and most evenings I was like “bye!”, out of the house and off to train.

When you’ve got a baby for the first time, or even a second one, I think one of the biggest challenges is the motivation to get going. You tend to feel like you want to stay at home and you don’t want to let them go. But one thing that I’m going to say is that it really, really helped my mental health.

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

If you’re tempted to try circus or any new hobby in the new year, I want to say give it a go. We do have a lot of women in particular who say “this is not for me, because I don’t have the body yet” or “I don’t have the strength”.

But if you come to an introductory class, you’ll see there’s lots of people that have no idea what to do – it’s absolutely normal. Either you’re going to love it, or you’re going to you feel that this is not the hobby for you. But until you try, you’re never going to know.

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