Jess Marquardt is executive director of CirqueLouis, and an instructor at Turners Circus.

What Are These Places?
“I love (CirqueLouis) because we are building on it every day. The center principle of CirqueLouis is compassion, and it’s so exciting to consider what it means to be a circus who cares, then act on it.” Besides planning programming and reaching out to the public, Jess performs and teaches fire workshops with this nonprofit — just a year-and-a-half old.

“Turners Circus is where I started my circus adventure, so it holds a special place in my heart. It’s a program full of learning and growth.” Jess describes Turners as a bright, wild, and family-centric group of performers. “We have toddlers to great-grandmothers performing under that umbrella, which is absolutely delightful.”

Depression Brought Her to the Circus
When she was 19, Jessica sunk into depression.

“Anxiety riddled me, and I became a shell of my former self. I dropped to the lightest I’ve ever been in my adult life, which left me weighing 109 pounds at 5’5″.” Around age 24, her doctor told her she had to start working out, so in order to comply, Jessica searched Groupon and ended up in the circus. “Within the first six months, I had gained 30 pounds (of mostly muscle), and I was happy, healthy, and felt free for the first time in what seemed like forever.”

Suggestions for Others in a Similar Situation
“The hardest thing about feeling blue — whatever shade it is, from a bad day to a dark cycle of depression — is that you don’t want to do anything, and that’s the exact opposite thing that you need. You have to get up and do something physical. Your brain and body chemistry are begging for it. Get someone you care about, try some different activities. Hit up a yoga studio, go to pilates, take your dog for a walk. Anything that involves moving will help.“

Best Part
“CirqueLouis goes into Portland a few times a week to work with students there, and it is by far the best part of my week. I love the success in our students’ eyes, or the joy on their tongues when they say, ‘look at me, I’m doing it!’ It fills my heart with joy and pride.”