Author Archives: Jeff

How to Create an Act – A Step by Step Guide

 

It’s almost time for SASS! This year we have over 60 submissions for the four shows in April! But how do you go from learning tricks in class to presenting them on stage in a way that is engaging, fun, and authentic to the story you want to tell? What are the key ingredients to developing an act?

Performing in front of an audience can be a rush, but the journey to make it to the stage can often be a daunting one. There are so many aspects to consider when putting together an act that getting starting can seem a bit overwhelming. But don’t let that dissuade you! The process should be creative and fun. It’s important to remember that it isn’t about perfection, it’s about creativity and connecting with the audience!

Every Friday from now until SASS we’ll be sharing tips covering everything from stage make up, costumes, choreography, and music to prepare and refine your act so you’re ready for the stage.

 

Step One – Brainstorm

 

Contemporary circus has so many interpretations of what an “act” can look like. It can be minimal, with little in the way of props or costumes, or it can be as elaborate as Cirque du Soleil (Canada), Circus Oz (Australia), Archaos Circus (France), and Plume Circus (France).

For the purposes of this series, we’ll assume you don’t have a magical garden of props and costumes and focus on the more DIY ways to create an act.

Performing is more than showing off cool tricks you’ve learned. It’s about engaging with the audience, connecting to people, and inviting audience members to suspend their concept of reality and buy into the one you’ve created.You may want to start with the music and build around that, or you can start by creating your character or story and building your costume, music, and choreography from there. So don’t let the sequence make you think you have to do these steps in any particular order, it’s just a framework to help you to start thinking about what inspires you. This process can be done individually or with other performers if you are creating a group piece.

 

1. Find inspiration – Check out other performances in person or online for inspiration.

  • Which performers inspire you? Why?

Once you begin to articulate what you like it will be easier to play with different aesthetics and create your own style.

 

Photo by Scott Foster.

 

2. Identify your theme –  It can be easier to get started if you have a theme to go on, but for creating an act for something like SASS, a good place to start may simply be creating your own theme. A theme can be any concept which gives your creative expression some direction.

  • Themes can be the environment, or world, in which your act takes place.  Are you in a forest? In outer space? The future?
  • Or it can be an abstract concept such as a feeling or shared experience like heartbreak, persistence, or longing. Do you want to explore what growing up is like?  Catharsis? Is there an event or experience you recently went through you want to explore through your art?

Run through some of your sequences with a different concept or emotion and see how it changes the way you move.

 

Photo by John Cornicello

3. Story –  The most interesting performances to watch are those that have a story to them. This can be told through movement, through the song you choose, and your choreography. For now, just start by thinking generally about what kind of story you want to tell.

  • Do you want something silly? Inspiring? High drama?
  • Is there a perspective or point of view you want to share with your audience?

As you develop your act you’ll want to fill out the story more so that there is a beginning, middle, and end, or at least some kind of challenge and resolution.

 

 

4. Environment – There is so much creative freedom in creating the environment that it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. If you have identified a theme, this can help you begin to create your environment.

  • What concept or theme are you exploring and how does this influence the kind of environment you want to create for the audience?

 

Photo by John Cornicello.

For variety shows like SASS, environment can be created with minimal props, lighting, music, or use of space. You don’t need a huge elaborate set in order to give a sense of time and space for the audience. Just have a solid understanding of your own concept and let that influence the colors and choices you make. If you choose to embody a childhood doll, then let your lights or costume colors reflect that. If you have a more moody piece in mind, you may want to consider darker colors like blues and purples for your creative direction.

 

5. Character –  You may find inspiration from icons, fairy tales and folk lore, or from an emotion or concept.

  • How does your character move in the world? Are they slow and methodical? Do they know where they’re going? Or, are they more manic and scattered?
  • How does this character engage in the story you’re telling?

Character doesn’t need to be as specific as Goldy Locks or a peacock, what’s important is that you let your character or persona influence the way you move and engage with the audience and story.

 

Photo by John Cornicello.

 

 

Start by brainstorming and engaging with content. Talk to your friends, start a pinterest board, collage, or list to start collecting your ideas in one place. Then as you start to formalize your concept, you’ll have direction to move towards when choosing your makeup, hair, and costumes.

 

Photo by John Cornicello.

Spotlight: New Social Circus RODA Coach – Monte Britt!

Make your End-of-Year Gift today to support youth circus programs like Circus RODA!

*RODA – A term used to describe the participatory circle in Capoeira, roda literally means “wheel” in Portuguese. All caps RODA is the name of SANCA’s newest youth program!

From dancing and poetry, to gymnastics and basketball, Monte Britt has always had a love for the arts and being active. So, when he saw an internship advertisement at the Rainier Boys & Girls Club for Circus RODA, a new teen program at SANCA, he thought, “Why not?”

Now, two years later, Monte is starting a career as a SANCA coach and youth mentor in the same program, sharing his love of flips with other students and encouraging them to break out of their shell and not to be afraid to try new things and be themselves.

Get to know Monte Britt!

In high school Monte experienced bullying from other teens and issues with his family because of his sexuality that made him feel like he didn’t fit in. For Monte, the arts and physical activities were an outlet where he could get away from those problems and find avenues of self-expression.

Monte (bottom row, center) supports other students as they learn to build a human pyramid in the Circus RODA project.

SANCA’s Social Circus RODA is a school-year long project for teens to learn circus and performance skills, and create an original show, while also learning life and job readiness skills like time management, collaboration, public speaking and presentation, and leadership.

At SANCA, Monte found a place where he could be himself, and the Circus RODA project gave him an opportunity to gain confidence, and discover a feeling of belonging.

Monte says, “It’s just amazing how you can just come into [SANCA] and be treated like you’re just normal …. You don’t have to be scared. It doesn’t matter what you are, who you are, what color you are.”

For Monte and the other teens in Circus RODA, it was an important discovery to realize that they didn’t feel pressured to do everything perfectly. Instead they were encouraged to get up and try again, or try something new.

“[At SANCA] you could do one bad flip and all you hear is the coach clapping and cheering you on and just saying OK we can do it again, or if you don’t want to do it again or feel comfortable, then we can do something different. They’re not going to pressure you to do something that you don’t want to do. And that’s why it kind of, I think, that’s what kept most kids here; because they feel like they didn’t have to be pressured to do something and it was always something they can look forward to doing.”

We know it kept Monte coming back! He came back for the second pilot version of the project, and quickly became one of the leaders of the group.

A favorite moment in the program for Monte was when the group got the idea for their showcase. “The Break Out” was RODA’s spring show in 2017, covering topics from mass incarceration and institutional racism to the Black Lives Matter movement and the participants’ dreams for their own future. Shortly before the show’s scheduled performance, police shot and killed local resident Charleena Lyles in her home. After the show, students and attendees participated in a community discussion to discuss the topics the show addressed.

“One of my friends she did the spoken word and it was basically based around shootings that had been happening, issues that are just happening politically. And it really touched me and most of the audience. Basically, it was it was the first program that touched me to do The Break Out and other kids also had the same vision because there was a lot that happened that year.”

For Monte, Circus RODA also became a means of personal transformation. By working hard in Circus RODA, Monte realized that “It takes a lot a lot of preparation. A lot.” He started to feel more comfortable with being social, and as the oldest teen, he discovered he wanted to be a good role model and leader to the other students in the program. Monte says he feels like he went from the “terrible two’s” as a high school student, to feeling like a leader as a youth mentor and coach.

Monte started working at SANCA in October as our newest coach at the beginning of the third year of the Circus RODA project, and he has a lot to share with the teens who are just getting started. “You don’t have to come in with confidence because once you start you’re going to want to do more and more, because you’re going to see this, and see that, and you’re going to be like I want to do that.”

“SANCA is inviting because they’re a big family. They just have a big heart,” says Monte. “One of the dreams I have had is about going in circus professionally … like acrobatics and back handsprings, flips, back flips, a double backflip in the air! Like just stuff like that. I have thought about that a few times and I’m like really thinking about pursuing it, and I really, really, really want to be a contortionist.”

You can support our Circus RODA students by making a gift during our end-of-year campaign. No amount is too small, every contribution can make a difference! You can give online or even set up a monthly giving plan for ongoing support.

When You Know You’re Strong – Circus Strong!

Make your End-of-Year Gift for SANCA’s Youth Scholarship Fund today!

One of the most amazing things about circus is that it empowers Every Body.

Julaine in the middle! Performing a 3-high during “Acro-Biographies: Flipping the Page.” (2017) – photo by John Cornicello

Whether building confidence, overcoming fears, or becoming stronger in mind and body, it’s that moment of “I DID IT!” that circus provides which can transform a life.

Julaine Hall knows this better than most. You’ve probably seen Julaine on stage in a Cirrus Circus show – maybe as recently as this fall for “Acro-Biographies: Flipping the Page.” At 13 years old, she’s one of the stars of Cirrus Circus, and was invited to perform at Teatro ZinZanni’s fall 2016 family matinee shows. When she’s not on stage, then she’s working hard, practicing and rehearsing at SANCA at least five days a week on her Chinese Pole act and other circus skills.

Some of her other favorite apparatus include corde lisse, static trapeze, and aerial straps. If you know circus, then you know these all require a lot of strength! Julaine enjoys the challenges these circus apparatus give her and she says, “I may not have been born the most flexible, but I feel like my body is built for more strength based skills and acts.”

Being circus strong is a great foundation for fitness, for performance, and for life. As Julaine looks toward her future, she hopes to one day attend École de cirque de Québec – the circus training center in Quebec City and to launch a professional career in circus performance.

Julaine hangs out during “Acro-Biographies: Flipping the Page.” (2017) – photo by John Cornicello

“I think about circus all the time. It’s a lot of my life.”

Performing on Chinese Pole during “Up, with a Twist.” (2017) – photo by John Cornicello.

But that’s not all! Julaine is also thinking about what comes after performance, and she’s inspired by SANCA’s resident doctor of physical therapy, Emily Scherb – who was also a circus artist. Like Emily, Julaine wants to balance her performing career with the knowledge and skill to carry forward in the circus community as a caretaker and physical therapist. With a unique understanding of the challenges and demands that circus and performance place upon the body, she’ll be able to give back to the circus community even after she retires from performance.

Julaine’s success in circus and her ambitions for her future career might not have been possible without the support of SANCA’s Youth Scholarship Fund. Julaine was able to access the fund at a time when her family was dealing with expensive medical costs, and she didn’t have to give up on her passion for circus. Her commitment and achievements speak to how vital SANCA’s scholarship fund is to providing access to all youth in our community.

You can support our Youth Scholarship Fund by making a gift during our end-of-year campaign. No amount is too small, every contribution will make a difference for youth like Julaine who are discovering through circus that they are strong!

Meet Mose – A SANCA Student

Make your End-of-Year Gift today to change the life of a teen like Mose!

“When we first moved to Seattle, life was hard because it was a new place. At SANCA I felt included. Like I belonged.”

The first day in a new school can be really tough for almost any kid.

For youth who struggle with connections and social skills that others take for granted, moving to a new home and starting a new school where you don’t know anyone can be terrifying.That’s what it was like for Mose when he first moved to Seattle and started 5th grade at a new school. For Mose, everything seemed too loud and chaotic, and he retreated, covering his ears with headphones and pulling up his hoodie. He became more defensive and isolated.

Alex, Mose, and his mom, Valerie.

Alex, Mose, and his mom, Valerie.

At the same time though, Mose wanted to fit in and do things that other kids were doing like sports and summer camp activities. He really wanted to learn how to do flips, but he didn’t believe that he was physically capable of doing the things other kids were doing. So his mom, Valerie, started looking for options that would work for Mose.

And then his mom found out about SANCA.

Valerie spoke with Coach Alex about Mose’s challenges, and Alex had the perfect solution for acrobatic classes for Mose. Alex leads SANCA’s Every Body’s Circus (EBC) Program, which gives kids who have physical, emotional, or developmental disabilities the same opportunities to participate in fun, healthy, confidence-building circus activities that other kids do.

Mose started taking classes with Alex, and it wasn’t long before she discovered that Mose had a great imagination and that he really liked telling stories. Together they developed an epic story that let Mose and Alex play out parts of the story while they were doing circus activities and propelled their lessons from week to week.

Valerie and Alex noticed that Mose’s physical abilities improved, but more importantly, he stopped comparing his abilities unfavorably to others, and he became excited about the new things he was learning.

At the same time, Alex was working with several other boys whose challenges were similar to Mose’s. She discovered that they all shared a passion for the same video game and decided that forming a group class for the kids based on their shared interests would be a great way for them to build friendships and social connections while they learn circus skills.

“Being at SANCA is the best part of the week because it starts the weekend!” – Mose

Now, Mose takes a weekly group circus class and a class with Alex. In the group classes, in addition to learning circus, the kids get to:

  • Learn to work as a team, and take turns being the leader.
  • Learn to express their feelings, and learn how to say “no.”
  • Develop a sense of personal space.

Mose is learning to trust people, and now he has a safe place to reflect and talk through things that are happening in his life.

Circus can change lives — and you can help be part of that change too! Alex’s EBC program is in such high demand that more than 10 kids are on a waitlist, and some may have to wait as long as a year before they can take EBC classes at SANCA.

The only way we can help these kids is by hiring and training more coaches to work with them. With a larger team of trained coaches SANCA will be able to provide more group classes, summer camps, and one-to-one lessons for youth who need extra support. Often this includes joining regular circus session classes with peers in their age group, with just an extra coach on hand to help out when needed.

Make your gift to SANCA today to guarantee life-changing opportunities for kids like Mose.
$41.89 — covers the cost of two 1-hour circus classes.
$253 — underwrites a 12-week session of circus classes.
$1,005 — gives a student circus classes for an entire year!

We cannot do this work without your help.

With deepest gratitude,

Kristina Wicke
Executive Director

P.S. Send your gift of $41.89 or more before December 31st to cover the cost of two 1-hour circus classes for kids like Mose. If your employer matches, you can double the power of your gift! You can also give online or set up a monthly giving plan.  

2017 Community Update & Letter from the Executive Director

 

READ OR DOWNLOAD THE COMPLETE SANCA 2017 COMMUNITY UPDATE


As I sit here sipping my coffee, watching the sun come up, listening to what seems like the beginning of the endless rain of the Seattle winter, I look back over this past year at SANCA and I’m endlessly grateful.

Grateful for our staff — who show up each and every day to enrich the lives of our students and make every day a little more fun. With more than 1,000 students and families coming through SANCA’s doors every week, it’s a busy circus! It’s a joy to see all the activity in SANCA, from tots learning to tumble, to adults learning new ways to work with their bodies, to our staff and visiting professionals who continue to amaze and inspire all of us toward ever more challenging feats of circus.

  • Youth Scholarships: I’m very pleased to share that SANCA has continued its commitment to make circus possible for any child through our need-based scholarship fund. This year we gave $221,645 in scholarships to 847 youth to take circus classes or participate in Social Circus and Every Body’s Circus.

Grateful for our partners — who help us bring circus to more kids in schools and community centers throughout Seattle. We’ve continued our work with wonderful partners like Broadview Emergency Shelter & Transitional Housing; Powerful Schools; Refugee Women’s Alliance; Rainier Boys & Girls Club; Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative; and the South Park, Delridge, and Garfield community centers.

  • Circus works! Over the past year, SANCA partnered with the American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) to participate in a Socio-Emotional Learning Study conducted by AYCO and the Weikart Center that unequivocally demonstrated that circus arts improve the socio-emotional health of youth. Compared with national data of youth development programs, social circus has proven to be among the top-ranking, exemplary programs.

Grateful for YOU, our supporters — who have faith in us and the work we do to bring circus to the world — which is exactly what we did this year! I’d like to share with you some of this year’s highlights and the impact you have made with your support – read or download SANCA’s 2017 Community Update.

I am grateful. Each and every day.

Kristina Wicke
Executive Director

Coming Soon – New Tumbl-Trak!

Tumbling students at SANCA can look forward to an exciting new extended Tumbl-Trak with a new spring bed, coming just in time for our Fall Session classes! Students can also look forward to new aerial fabrics and updated rigging blocks for our aerial equipment.

A big thank you to 4Culture – the cultural funding agency for King County for providing a $4,000 equipment grant. Thank you 4Culture!

Proposition 1 — Providing Arts & Culture Access for All in King County

by Madeline Anderson
SANCA Development Assistant

 

Social Circus Director Ian Jagel works with a group of teens from Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative

Voter ballots were mailed today for the August King County Election! We are really excited about the prospects of the upcoming election here at SANCA because Proposition 1 on the ballot could provide up to $65 million annually in funding for the arts county-wide, and represents a significant boost in funding for SANCA’s circus arts programs.

This August, King County voters will have the opportunity to increase public access for arts and cultural organizations, like ours. Proposition 1 proposes a 0.1% increase in our current sales tax to fund a grant pool to be distributed to arts and culture organizations in King County. Funds would be directed toward programs that increase access to geographically or economically disadvantaged youth. The program is estimated to cost the average family only $30/year, and will dramatically increase the availability of equitable cultural and arts programming in King County. We believe this is a cause everyone in our community can rally behind.

All organizations that receive grant funds will be held accountable in their pursuit of providing equitable and accessible programs. Granted organizations are responsible for maintaining accurate documentation measuring program benchmarks, visitors served, and community impact. Funds will be distributed through 4Culture, a trusted, well-grounded arts and culture funding organization which has been granting funds and providing contract oversight for more than 40 years.

What this means for SANCA

A child from Helper Hands learns to balance while taking an Every Body’s Circus camp.

At SANCA, we have always believed that every child deserves the right to access arts education. Arts and culture programming focused on access and equity bring an important value to the community. We know, for example, that if youth currently experiencing homelessness have the opportunity to express themselves through art and build community, the impact can be life changing. If passed, Proposition 1 may provide a huge opportunity to increase our Social Circus outreach programs, giving even more youth the opportunity to experience the joy of circus, reduce isolation, build community, and develop healthy life habits.

The proposition includes the stipulation that 20% of granted funds go toward “Public School Access.” What this means is that granted organizations must partner with local schools to ensure equitable access to programs. This is something near and dear to our mission at SANCA, where we have already partnered with more than 30 local schools and community centers in our Social Circus programs. An increase in funding directed to these programs would expand our reach and allow us to work with even more youth.

Stable funding for our Social Circus and Every Body’s Circus programs will also give us the opportunity to do things like offer paid internships for older youth, give staff the opportunity to participate in race and equity training, and provide specialized training for working with students with disabilities. Proposition 1 funding would even help pay for bus fare so that transportation isn’t a barrier to accessing cultural and arts institutions like SANCA. These improvements would help us better serve our community and expand access to programs, all good things!

What you can do
Talk to your friends about what being a part of the SANCA community (or any other community arts organization) has meant for you and your family. Share your experiences and talk to your friends about the impact of expanding access for our community.

If you have a SANCA story you’d like to share with us, we’d love to hear from you! Feel free to email us at development@sancaseattle.org. And most importantly, don’t forget to vote in the August election!

For more information about Proposition 1, check out their website at www.culturalaccesswa.org. If you are interested in volunteering, visit https://accessforallwa.org/get-involved/volunteer.

New Grants for Equipment and Support!

SANCA received two grants in June to fund the purchase of a Genie Lift Aerial Work Platform, which will be used to service and maintain all of our aerial rigging, lights, fans, and heaters. We would like to thank The Norcliffe Foundation for a $5,000 grant, and the Norman Archibald Charitable Foundation for a $3,500 grant for the purchase of a Genie Lift.

SANCA just received two grants for general support – a $5,000 grant from Growing Tree Foundation and a $500 grant from The Ruddell Kroll Charitable Fund. Thank you!

We are deeply grateful for the support of our grant partners.

New! The SANCA Student Handbook

All about SANCA! Do you have a question about taking classes at SANCA? What to wear? When to arrive? What are general classes and what are specialty classes? Who to talk to when you have more questions?

You can find all these answers and more in the new Student Handbook! SANCA is debuting a Student Handbook that is a comprehensive guide to SANCA’s Session classes, policies, and important information including overviews of all of SANCA’s programs. This is a resource for you to better access what SANCA has to offer. Download a PDF copy of the new SANCA 2017 Student Handbook

A Letter from the Executive Director

Let me start by saying, THANK YOU for being a part of our SANCA Circus Community! You are at the heart of everything we do and you inspire us every day to make SANCA better, more fun, and more accessible. Thank you for your continued feedback and we are committed to taking your suggestions and manifesting positive change.

Summer is just around the corner and in our efforts to improve the quality of our program offerings, I wanted to take a moment to let you know about some exciting developments at SANCA.

Summer Camps! – Following the resounding success of our Summer Camps last year, we are working hard to ensure that this Summer is our best yet. We’re thrilled to announce we’ve added more weeks of our Specialty Camps and redesigned our ongoing partnership camps with the Seattle Children’s Theatre and the Pacific Science Center. Oh, and last year, we nearly sold out 100% of our camps and we’re filling up faster than last year already-enroll your child today!

Business Hours – We’re changing our hours slightly this Summer, have a look:

  • Monday – Friday: 8:45 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Saturday – Sunday: 9:45 a.m. – 5:15 p.m.*
    *Note we’re shifting our weekend hours one hour later

Enrollment Periods – In an effort to streamline our enrollment process, and after much feedback from our community, we have opted to give more time for all current SANCA students to enroll through Priority Enrollment. We will be replacing our Re-enroll week with an additional week of Priority Enrollment for all currently enrolled SANCA students and families. If you are currently enrolled in a SANCA class and hope to re-enroll in the same class, we encourage you to enroll early. Doing so will not only increase your chances of enrolling in the class you prefer, but will also allow us to open more classes that you desire.

Introducing “Creative Circus” Single Serving Classes – We are excited to announce that we are expanding our Single Serving class offerings with a 55-minute Creative Circus class for each age group! Creative Circus offers an exploratory and creative approach to circus, aiming to provide current and new students alike with chances to experience the playful side of circus, all while building skills and getting a healthy dose of physical exercise. Creative Circus will be offered at $10 for current students and $20 for the general public.

A Note about Make-up Classes – After receiving feedback from our students, parents, and coaches about our Make-up classes, we have decided to discontinue Make-up classes and focus on expanding our Single Serving class offerings. We know this is a significant shift for our Session students, and that changes in schedule and structure can be difficult and require a period of adjustment. For this reason, we are offering our new Creative Circus classes at a significant discount for current students. We are confident that through an alternative approach to circus that focuses more on the creative, collaborative and joyous sides of circus, we can improve the quality and variety of our programming.

Student Handbook SANCA is debuting a Student Handbook that is a comprehensive guide to SANCA’s Session classes, policies and generally important information including overviews of all of SANCA’s programs. This is a resource for you to better access what SANCA has to offer. Starting in Summer, look for it on our website, in your confirmation e-mail, and in our office.

Finally, YOU make SANCA. We are committed to serving you better and we want to work with you to make SANCA the best that it can be. If you have questions, suggestions, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to send them to studentservices@sancaseattle.org.
May all your days be circus days,

Kristina Wicke
Executive Director