Before the pandemic hit, Vanessa Reyes and Grant Golding were Cirque Du Soleil performers in Las Vegas, Nev. Now, they are living in Grand Forks, giving their children a fresh start.
Like many families during the COVID-19 pandemic, Reyes and Golding found their worlds grinding to a halt during lockdowns.
Six months into the pandemic, they decided to take a trip to Grand Forks with their two young children, Diego, who is now seven years old, and Mateo, who is now four.
With just five suitcases and their two dogs, the family traveled to Grand Forks. Two weeks into their trip, they knew they would not be leaving.
“We just decided to say, ‘this is where we want to live, this we want to raise our kids,’” said Reyes.
According to Reyes, the couple always knew they wanted to live in Canada, as Golding is from Maple Ridge, B.C.; however, they did not know when or where they would move. After travelling to Grand Forks, the move seemed like the right choice.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Reyes trained in classical ballet before moving to Las Vegas at the age of 26, where she joined Cirque Du Soleil as a dancer. During her second show with the company, she met her husband, a two-time Canadian Olympic Gymnast and performer, who was working as an acrobat.
The couple went on to work with Cirque Du Soleil for 11 years, with Reyes also working as a dance coach and Golding also working as a technician for the company.
Since their big move, the family has settled into life in a smaller city.
“The sense of community is incredible, and we missed that. It is not that we didn’t have it in Vegas, but it is not as strong as here,” said Reyes.
However, she initially worried that there would not be enough opportunities for her children in a smaller area.
“It was my biggest concern because, well, it’s a small community; what are they going to do,” she said.
Luckily, the family began finding activities to partake in; Diego, the couple’s oldest son, started school, and Golding is studying carpentry.
The family’s next big adventure came when they decided to open their own performing arts school.
The Grand Forks Performing Arts School officially opens on Monday, Oct. 17, and offers classes for all ages, such as aerial hoop, ballet, gymnastics and musical theatre.
Reyes says the school is a way to create more opportunities for both the community and her children.
“We just want to start; we want to give the opportunity to the kids to do something and learn something, you know, be part of the community as well.”
When asked if the family would leave Grand Forks, Reyes said that while she can not know what the future holds, her family is creating strong roots.
“This is a place that I feel is becoming home.”