"[Hercinia's] work is awe-inspiring and accessible, mixing theatre with circus arts and blending narratives with movement...They leave a crowd gob-smacked with an outstanding lasting impression.

Deanna Jones, Artistic Director, Suitcase in Point Theatre Company

photo by Joanne Masseau/Flaunt It Creative



Hercinia Arts Collective is a non-profit contemporary circus organization dedicated to the creation, production and dissemination of new contemporary circus works. Our mission is to further the development of contemporary circus through encouraging collaboration and integration of other art forms, including but not limited to: theatre, dance, film, visual arts and multi-media. Through the development of circus arts into a unique physical language, we create dynamic physical performances that engage with an audience through character, story, complexity of theme and human spectacle, and that work to bring audiences into art.



Hercinia Arts is a not-for-profit multi-disciplinary company dedicated to advancing contemporary circus through the lens of other art forms. This practice includes:

a) creating, presenting and touring artistic works that combine aerial, acrobatics, dance, theatre and other art forms
b) presenting these works at festivals, theatres and special events
c) promoting the continued development of circus arts in our community through classes, workshops and outreach


“What I love most about Hercinia Arts is the courage with which they take on and explore new ideas. They are constantly coming up with unique and creative ways to use their talents”

MAckenzie Muldoon, Entertainment Director, toronto international buskerfest



about us

Hercinia Arts Collective is a multi-disciplinary company whose aim is to blur the boundaries between traditional performance and visual art forms and bring people into art. Founded by Natalie Parkinson (acrobat, dancer) and Emily Hughes (aerialist, actor) in 2009, we create dynamic physical performances that engage with an audience through story, complexity of theme and human spectacle. In 2012, we incorporated as a not-for-profit, to allow for further opportunities in creation of new works for a varied spectrum of audiences.

Since inception of the company, our unique performances have been showcased throughout Canada from street festivals to art events to dance showcases, and everything in between. Over the years, our focus has been particularly on outdoor performances, as a means to bring our art to a broader public who might not otherwise have access to artistic performances through conventional means. As such, we have been involved in many busker and street festivals. As circus, theatre and dance artists, our main investigation in performance is to use circus as a language through which to explore themes, characters or to tell stories. As a practice based on visuals and movement, circus is an exciting language because it can communicate on such a visceral level. This makes it accessible to a varied and wide audience. Sometimes art can be elitist, and we think it is vital that as artists we make an effort to narrow this gap and connect with audiences. Through our work performing on the street at festivals, and through a conscious effort to create works that are fun and interactive, we strive to engage with an audience.

Performance highlights include: "Infestation" for Dance Ontario at Nuit Blanche Toronto (2009) ; "A Day in the Park" at Dance Ontario's Dance Weekend (2013); "Corporate Chaos" at Aer Time (2012), CCAFT (2013) and A Spectacle of Play, our self-produced showcase of new works (2014); "Gargoyles" and “Money Fish” at The Dubai Comedy Festival (2015), among many others; “The Stupendous Silver Sisters” at Toronto Buskerfest (2012), among others; “HASA: the Aerial Space Show” at Halifax International Buskerfest (2016), among others; "Money Fish Dance" at Vazari Dance Project’s Plunge: The Cabaret (2018); and “Birds of Flight” for Celebration Square Mississauga (Canada Day 2016), City of Toronto Canada Days 150 Celebration (2017), and Arts in the Park in Earl Bales Park (2018) thanks to Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation.


“Magical... inventive... exploring the idea of what constitutes theatre.”

The Beat Magazine, London ON

photo by Chris Hutcheson


Our Team


Emily Hughes


Emily Hughes began her circus explorations as an 8 year old at HarbourKids circus camp and has been immersed in the evolution of Contemporary Circus ever since. As a young adult she continued her training at Main Space & Toronto School of Circus Arts, eventually becoming a company member of Cirque Sublime, before going on to become an independent circus artist in her early 20s. While pursuing her BFA (2007) in Theatre Performance: Acting at Ryerson University, Emily solidified her passion for storytelling and creating characters through (acrobatic) movement. In 2009 she co-founded Hercinia Arts Collective as a means to combine her passions into creative, theatrical circus work. To find out more about Emily visit emilyhughes.ca.


Natalie Parkinson

Co-FOUNDER/co-artistic director

Natalie is a professional circus performer and teacher. She began her career in dance and expanded into acrobatics, gymnastics and then finally, circus arts. She studied her Honours BFA in Dance and her BA in Kinesiology and Health Science at York University. Natalie has obtained her certifications with The British Association of Teachers of Dancing and is a Level 2 Certified Coach through the National Coaching Certification Program in Artistic and Rhythmic Gymnastics and has her Level 1 Trampoline.  She has been teaching dance, acrobatics and gymnastics for over 15 years and circus for over 10 years. Natalie continues to co-direct and create shows and characters with Hercinia Arts Collective. She has showcased her works at various competitions, festivals and events that have been presented to live audiences both competitively and artistically. She continues to teach, create and perform both locally and internationally while following where her imagination takes her. Her most recent accomplishment was being Artistic Director and Performer for Hercinia Arts Collective’s participation in the Canada 150 celebration events for the City of Toronto.


Sandra Crljenica

Director of special events

Upon starting her fourth and final year of University, Sandra took her very first silks class and decided right then and there her life was going in a new direction. A circus direction! With a background rich in dance, music and theatre, Sandra completed her BFA in Theatre from York University in 2008 with a double major in Creative Ensemble and Theatre Production, and started performing professionally as an aerialist in 2011. She simultaneously interned with renowned physical theatre company Theatre Gargantua for the premiere of their show Fibber in 2008, and worked in special event production at Harboufront Centre and for the City of Toronto during Nuit Blanche. The duality of Sandra’s career lead her to co-produce a full length theatre show alongside Hercinia Arts Collective entitled A Spectacle of Play in 2014. That same year she toured New York with the Caravan Stage Company, and came back to co-produce the 10th Annual Dreamcatcher’s Gala with 444 Theatrical Creations. In 2018 she completed her Postgraduate Certificate in Sport and Special Event Marketing from George Brown College, and joined the programming department at Union Station as a Special Events Manager. Sandra also teaches aerial silks in Toronto at the Toronto Circus Collective, City Dance Corps, and The Circus Fix as well as performing as an aerialist and Special Events Director for Hercinia Arts Collective.

Board of Directors

Evan DeRushie, Toronto, animator

Jim Panou, Toronto, photographer

Jacob Dupley, Brampton, electrician

Kirsten Edwards, Toronto/Berlin, circus artist/lawyer

Tyler Burke, Ottawa, circus artist/rigger