We are Ben Wendel and Rachel Nehmer, trapeze artists known professionally as Duo Madrona. We have performed our trapeze number locally at a variety of venues including the Moisture Festival, nationally with Circus Flora and Teatro Zinzanni, and internationally at Le Cirque de Demain. We have been proud members of the SANCA community since 2004. Over the years we have filled the role of student, instructor, camp counselor, volunteer, office personnel, van driver, tarp stretcher and birthday-cake baker at SANCA.
When we first walked into SANCA in July of 2004, we were not planning for a career in the circus. We had recently graduated from Haverford College with Biology degrees and moved from Philadelphia to Seattle to take research jobs at the University of Washington. We came to check out the newly-opened circus school with recreational interest—Rachel had attended a summer camp with a circus program in New York as a teen and was interested in pursuing her old hobby; Ben gamely went along to try it out.
Fast-forward to January 2008, Paris. We waited anxiously behind the curtain, poised to present our act at the 29th Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain. The festival is one of the top venues for new artists to show their work to the entire global circus community, and only 25 acts are chosen worldwide from thousands of applicants. Nervous, dizzy and disoriented, we struggled to hear the emcee above the pounding of our hearts. Such a mixture of terror and thrill, nausea and elation can make one feel quite alone. However out there in the audience, somewhere in that vast 3,000-seat circus tent was our SANCA family, including founders Chuck Johnson and Jo Montgomery, who had flown from Seattle to Paris in the winter to support us. In fact, this same family had been there for us at every single step, from our first days at the school as disaffected scientists discovering the joy of circus arts, through all the long hours in rehearsal, to representing SANCA as professional artists on an international stage.
For the entirety of our career, SANCA has been our most important resource, the center of our artistic community, and our home. SANCA nurtured us as we made a great leap of faith to follow our dreams and become trapeze artists, and they continue to be a vital force in the community and in our lives personally. Without SANCA we would certainly not be the successful artists we are today.