Former Canadian National Power Tumbling Champ lands back at SANCA for weekend workshops.

CJ moustacheOwner of West Coast Flying Trapeze in BC Canada and former SANCA coach, Chris Johnston will be back in  Seattle this weekend! While at SANCA, he taught flying trapeze, tumbling, trampoline to students and staff alike.

Chris started gymnastics at the age of four and at thirteen he began to focus on trampoline and tumbling. His tumbling career took off quickly and he was a Canadian National Champion at seventeen, which allowed him to earn a spot on the Canadian National Team. After leaving gymnastics, his love of acrobatics never ceased and it quickly led him to his career in circus arts.

Chris knew he wanted to pursue acrobatics, but his journey as a flying trapeze coach, flyer, and catcher began in stark contrast to the exacting precision of his gymnastics training. After being hired for his first circus job, he was given a tour of his new facility. Upon passing the flying trapeze rig, he inquired as to who would be crazy enough to do such a thing. The tour guide quickly informed Chris that, whether he intended to or not, he was going to learn how to fly.

Despite being terrified of heights, he was drawn to the Flying Trapeze. Since then Chris has taught circus in Mexico, the Caribbean and throughout the United States. His love of the Flying Trapeze and circus arts is why he wanted to bring the experience back home to Canada and share it with others. Chris now lives in BC and will open West Coast Flying Trapeze in its new permanent location in March.

Chris is teaching two flying trapeze workshops

CJ ftat SANCA in February. On Saturday, February 13th from 5:00-8:00pm, he will get into the mechanics of Flipping & Twisting on the flying trapeze. Students will break skills down on the SANCA trampolines and then piece them back together, better than ever, on the flying trapeze. On Sunday, February 14th from 12:00-3:00pm, he will coach a Catch & Return workshop that focuses on the much sought after round trip, from fly bar to catcher and back again.

Leslie in India

Orientation - (25) beautiful women from all over the world. Really. Greece, France, Japan, Mexico, Canada, UK, Chile, Switzerland, Italy and a strong showing for the West Coast of the USA

Orientation – (25) beautiful women from all over the world. Really. Greece, France, Japan, Mexico, Canada, UK, Chile, Switzerland, Italy and a strong showing for the West Coast of the USA.

Coach Leslie is not just one of SANCA’s amazing coaches, she also teaches bellydancing classes and performs in Sirens of Serpentine (bellydance) and Pyrosutra (dancing with fire). Leslie is currently on a dance sabbatical, participating in a two-month intensive dance training program in Odissi classical dance, Vinyasa and Kabelia (Gypsy) in Pushkar.

Shakti School of Dance is a center for the study and practice of traditional Indian dances, yoga and their intrinsic philosophies.

Housed in the Vaishnav temple of Lord Rang Nath Venu Gopal, in the holy town of Pushkar, Rajasthan, India, the school ambiance is a contemplative devotional atmosphere.  It is a place where artistic and spiritual inquiry is nurtured and reinforced by structured study.

Students from all over the world come to experience Rajasthani folk arts and culture through, classes, lecture demonstrations and performances.  The diverse curriculum offers students a chance to drop into Colleena’s unique Indian Fusion Belly dance classes or learn from a local Kalbelia ‘Gypsy’ – Rajasthani folk dance.

The school’s main focus is to promote and preserve Odissi classical Indian dance of the Kelu Charan Mohapatra lineage. Imparting rich authenticity through the traditional classroom setup, Odissi students delve into a rigorous training system of Indian classical dance technique, supplemented with deeper studies in Indian aesthetic theory, Vinyasa Krama Yoga and related cultural and philosophical studies.

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What do dancers do with their one day off a week in India? More dancing! Chari Dance - Pot Balancing (Rajasthani Traditional folk dance)

What do dancers do with their one day off a week in India? More dancing! Chari Dance – Pot Balancing (Rajasthani Traditional folk dance)

Coach Leslie

LeslieHeadshotI met Leslie Rosen, my aerial fundamentals trainer, in the summer of 2013. From the moment I met Leslie, I found her to be kind, accepting, and patient with me and all of her other students. No matter what kind of experience, body, or skill level her students bring to class, Leslie is uniquely adept at individualizing physical training so that it can be accessible to anyone. Leslie has truly been my ambassador at SANCA, and I’ve come to depend on her guidance and wisdom.

So, when Leslie announced she’d be taking a quarter long sabbatical from teaching to study Belly Dance in India, I was first happy for her, and then I wondered, who could possibly replace Leslie Rosen, even for one quarter?

Joining the circus is so much more than learning tricks and conditioning exercises, it is embarking on a transformative path that many have walked before. Circus is a tradition, and within every skill is the history and experiences of those who developed the skills before we ever dared to try. Leslie understands this and brings that context to her training. In fact, Leslie’s entire career is steeped in performing arts that rely on the intergenerational transmission of knowledge- stilt walking, fire 10983131_10152707028861267_4857998011046761167_nperforming, hula hooping, belly dancing, and of course, passing that knowledge on to others as a teacher. Leslie leads two performance troupes, the belly dancing Sirens of Serpentine and Pyrosutra, her fire troupe. Additionally, she has the distinction of being the only Belly Dancer in the Cirque du Soleil database. Leslie truly exemplifies a modern artist embodying centuries of tradition in her work, and by teaching what she’s learned, she hands those traditions down to her students so the lineage can continue.

10648459_738113749589054_789311957643444959_oWhen Leslie came to SANCA nearly a decade ago, she brought with her a background in dance, but no experience with aerial acrobatics. This makes her current aerial expertise 100% learned in-house at SANCA. Leslie progressed from aerial basics, such as learning to climb the rope, to mastering aerial fundamentals and beyond. She was able to achieve this in part by having a diversity of trainers over the years, including Chuck, Alyssa, Chelsea, Jeff, Terry, Crystal and Rachel and Ben. Over time, through countless classes, workshops and trainings (and no doubt a great deal of commitment), Leslie found the techniques and skills that worked for her and continued to deepen her understanding of aerial arts. But circus is much more of a journey than a destination, and even though Leslie is a successful trainer and instructor, she continues to challenge herself by remaining a life long student of her various disciplines. I’ve seen Leslie stealing moments to study new aerial technique from videos, I’ve watched her dangle from the Lyra above me as she learned how to move her body on a new apparatus, and I’ve sweat and worked hard next to her when she’s dropped into my Strength and Flexibility class. Leslie is more than just my teacher, she’s my peer in the circus lifestyle, which is what being in a community is all about. It’s not about hierarchy, it’s about connection.

12523041_10153686112600546_5228380534484919030_nJust as Leslie has committed herself to the ongoing education of circus arts, she will be apart from us for the winter session so she can deepen her understanding of classical Indian dance. On New Year’s Day Leslie traveled to a temple school in Rajasthan to study Odissi, Vinyasa yoga and Belly Dance and fire performance with the Romani (also known as Gypsies) for three months. She will no doubt come back full of new experiences, techniques, and the multigenerational knowledge contained in this traditional art form.

Instructors like Leslie Rosen are what keep art alive in our increasingly digital, disconnected culture. We are lucky at SANCA to have a community that values tradition and inherited knowledge, that respects and acknowledges the experience of trainers like Leslie. I will miss her while she’s gone, but by learning new techniques and different ways of approaching skills with new instructors, I am following Leslie’s footsteps.

-Amber Parker

Lauren Herley

Lauren 3

My name is Lauren Herley, and I am a corde lisse (vertical rope) artist, contortionist, handbalancer, acrobat . . . in short, a circus artist.

SANCA welcomed me into their doors when I was 18, when I decided to pursue the art of circus. Their kind, humble, and knowledgeable staff helped me and guided me to find a training program that suited me best. I was a young former competitive artistic gymnast, swimmer, and musician, and naive still to the world of art and contemporary circus. But SANCA took me and introduced me to the world of circus art. I had the privilege to train with Kari Podgorski and Terry Crane as my first teachers and to train in the same atmosphere as Duo Madrona (Ben Wendel and Rachel Nehmer), who at that time were preparing for the 29th Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain, and later performed two seasons with Teatro ZinZanni.

Lauren 1I began to learn and see the great and superior potential within this beautiful work. I became more driven and filled with fortitude than ever. What an honor it was to be in a school where kindness, humility, discipline and hard work were all strongly encouraged. Shortly after I began training at SANCA I began teaching as well, SANCA became my second home and now as I am always many, many miles away I still feel that closeness.

I spent only about ten months at SANCA before I left to further my training and my career, but I still look back at SANCA, and the more circus schools and companies I experience the more I realize how SANCA is one-of-kind. There is no place like it. I feel blessed to have it be in the city of my birth, Seattle. Every time I return home to visit, SANCA re-welcomes me ever so warmly, offering me a beautiful space to train and to teach. Chuck and Jo are such knowledgeable people whom I feel blessed to have had as guides in the beginning. I feel as if I am a better person because of SANCA.

Lauren 2Now I am finishing my time at l’ecole nationale de cirque de Montreal. I have had experience with Cirque du Soleil, and have performed at international performances such as the 2010 Olympics Opening Ceremony in Vancouver, B.C. I am now preparing for the 32nd Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain opening spectacle. I credit SANCA for starting my career. I would not be who I am today, or experienced the success I have if it were not for those welcoming doors and the people at SANCA who accepted me into their space. SANCA will always have a special place in my heart, and because of SANCA, I will never stop dreaming.

Duo Madrona

Duo Madrona 3We 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.

Duo Madrona 1Fast-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.

Duo Madrona 2For 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.

Mick Holsbeke

My name is Mick Holsbeke, and among other things I’m a clown.

When I tell people that I perform as a clown for a living, there is usually a small mix of reactions that I receive: surprise, confusion, or disbelief; or sometimes distress or even disapproval.

And of course the rare “wowed face” where they are sincerely intrigued, think it’s quirkily impressive, and want to know more. I’ve grown accustomed to all of these possibilities, and I often ask myself, “How would I have reacted, if someday in a Back to the Future movie I had met my future self, and he told me he is, and I was to be, a clown? Honestly, I have no idea how I would respond, but in a weird sort of way I don’t think it would surprise me.

Two days after graduating from high school in Naples, Florida, my bags were packed, and I was leaving to join the circus. In the year before I had learned to juggle from my high school economics teacher, and I was immediately swept off my feet by the creative potential of this oddball activity. It was the only thing I wanted to do, and I was ready to dive in as far as possible. There was no particular circus in my sights, but I had circus dreams in my blood, and I was following a hunch. Someone had told me that if I wanted to find circus, and vaudeville, then I should head to the Pacific Northwest. So with no further delay the engine was ignited, and I hit the road.

My path took many turns in years to come, but it wasn’t until four years later, while eating pizza in Portland, Oregon that I met Chuck Johnson, and my circus dreams finally took root. At this time Chuck was just beginning his new nonprofit venture with Jo Montgomery. The name of the venture was SANCA, and their goal was to build a safe community and gathering space for people of all ages, sizes, and abilities. Their medium—circus!

Chuck invited me to come see the place, and take a class. They had roughly 50 students at this time, and the school was housed in a small warehouse on the south side of Seattle. If you didn’t know it was there you might never have found it. There were no signs, no logos, little heating, and the bathrooms were separate from the space. The only sign of life was a big yellow door, beaming outwards like a ray of light. I fell instantly in love with the ambience that surrounded SANCA, and I offered to help in any way I could.

As luck would have it they were looking for someone to help them teach classes, and they were willing to train me to be one of their circus instructors. It was the perfect opportunity, and I gave 100% of myself to SANCA.

Mick Holsbeke 3During my time with SANCA I was a student, instructor, and outreach coordinator. I taught circus classes to students ranging from toddlers to adults, helped to organize and orchestrate their blooming school outreach program, turned screws and bolts where needed, and constantly continued my own personal acrobatic training under the tutelage of Chuck and Jo. I loved my job, and my new circus community. My students were amazing, and the training I received as an instructor was invaluable.

After spending a year at SANCA I was completely transformed, and decided to audition for one of the largest professional circus schools in the world, École Nationale de Cirque (ENC), the National Circus School in Montréal, Canada.

ENC, is the leading school for aspiring circus artists, and my next six months were dedicated to preparing for this audition. The chances of a small-town, recreational circus hobbyist such as myself being accepted were slim, but SANCA pulled upon their greatest resources to help me align myself in the right direction, and on February 1st, 2006, the day of my 23rd birthday, a door creaked open.

I spent the following three years running around the Montréal school soaking up as many hidden circus secrets as I possibly could. I learned to flip, dive, tumble, jump, hang, fall, sing, dance, and most definitely flop.

Then in June of 2009, I graduated from the professional program at ENC, with a specialty in Clown. Why clown? Because I have been taught by people like Chuck and Jo that giving from the heart can change lives. A smile can make someone’s day. A laugh can change a perception, and love is a gift!

At SANCA I was surrounded by love, and welcomed for who I am. I was given a helping hand by total strangers, and my life has been forever changed because of it. Since leaving SANCA I’ve performed in more countries than there are fingers on my hands, learned to speak French, made several appearances on TV, and built a life out of circus. Some of my accomplishments include performing for such companies as the 7 Fingers circus company, the Palazzo Colombino dinner show in Frieburg, Germany, the GOP variety shows of Germany, and being an artistic coach for Cirque du Soleil’s 2010 show Banana Shpeel. Festival appearances include the Festival Juste Pour Rire in Montréal, the Beunos Aires Polo Circo Festival in Argentina, Piste de Lancement in Belgium, Montréal Completement Cirque, and most recently being a prize winner at both the Sol Y Circo Festival in Mick Holsbeke 1

Germany, also the 31st Festival Mondial du Circque De Demain in Paris in January 2010, where I received the prestigious Prix du CIRQUE ELOIZE and Prix TELMONDIS along with an artistic grant for clown performance.

I would have never guessed that I would be where I am today, and there is something about it that just isn’t normal. It just isn’t normal to bend in half, stand on your hands, soar through the air or want to be a “clown.” It just isn’t normal, but that’s exactly why I love it. My name is Mick Holsbeke, and ladies and gentleman, thanks to SANCA I’m a clown.

Kari Hunter

Kari Jay Hunter has been part of the SANCA coaching team since the school opened its doors in 2004, but her life in the movement arts began much earlier.

 Kari studied dance and gymnastics  from  age three through college, and shortly after  moving to Seattle in 2001 began performing  with Circus Contraption. Through Contraption  she was introduced to SANCA co-founders Jo  Montgomery and Chuck Johnson, whose combined wealth of circus arts knowledge, generosity of spirit, and enthusiasm for the local circus community led Kari to seek a coaching position at the fledgling school.

Kari is currently the Assistant Director of the Youth Performance Company and the aerial lead for SANCA’s Professional Preparatory Program. Her supportive approach to coaching puts safety first and allows for a broad movement vocabulary and room for creativity. Along with general skill development coaching, Kari specializes in act creation and refinement and has assisted with successful audition pieces for ENC, the De L’Arte school in Blue Lake, California, and Teatro ZinZanni. In addition to coaching at SANCAKari has taught workshops and private lessons at Versatile Arts and Emerald City Trapeze in Seattle, around the Puget Sound in Bellingham, Tacoma, and Olympia, at Le Cirque Centre in Ashland, Oregon, and the Circus Center in San Francisco.

Deemed an “aerialist par excellence” by the Seattle Times, Kari has performed in over 30 major U.S. cities and internationally with:

  • Circus Contraption
  • Acrobatic Conundrum
  • Animate Objects Physical Theater
  • ticktock dance
  • Seattle Opera
  • Moisture Festival 2003-2013
  • EnJoy Productions
  • The Aerialistas
  • Can-Can Presents
  • UMO
  • Edge Theater Ensemble
  • Teatro ZinZanni,
    Seattle and San Francisco
  • Palazzo Variety and Dinner cabaret circuit, Germany
  • Friedrichsbau Variety, Germany
  • Dog and Pony Show Productions
  • Night Flight Aerial, Portland, OR
  • Festival Burlesco, Portugal

Kari has previously coached and performed as Kari Podgorski and Sally Pepper.

Thomas Evans

My name is Thomas Evans, I am from Bothell, Washington.

At the age of 16 I found SANCA through the Internet and decided I would give circus a try. At the time SANCA was in a much smaller space than what it is now. I have watched SANCA grow so much since then, and I am so proud of Jo Montgomery and Chuck Johnson and everyone involved for keeping the dream alive.

Coming from a gymnastic and diving background, SANCA took me in with open arms and taught me so many things about the circus world and gave me the opportunity to train in their facility and under their coaching staff.

In 2006, Chuck referred me for a position as an acrobat in a small jump rope troupe to perform cooperate events for Cirque du Soleil. If not for Chuck referring me to this position, I would not be where I am today.

In 2007, I moved to Quebec City to train at The Circus School of Quebec. I would not have been accepted to the school if not for the training and help I received from the staff at SANCA. They helped me so much and supported me in all of my circus endeavors.

I am currently working for Cirque du Soleil in Macau, China, for their resident show at the Venetian called “ZAIA.” If it weren’t for Jo and Chuck’s vision to see circus performers grow and keep this dream alive I know that I, and I’m sure other performers from Seattle, would not be where we are today. I am truly thankful for so much that SANCA provides to the community.

Coming into SANCA is such a breathe of fresh air. I love to see them outreach to so many parts of the community. It really touches my heart to see the work that SANCA does and the ongoing dedication to providing opportunities circus arts to people of all ages.

SANCA provides a worry-free, fun environment for students to come and enjoy exercise in a fun and interesting way. Whether just for fun and exercise, or for professional training, I know that SANCA is the place to be for everyone interested in circus. I can truly say that I would certainly not be where I am now if it was not for SANCA. They have changed my life in so many ways and given me a way to express and perform my art form. SANCA will take anyone regardless of size, age, or social class, as long as you have the willingness to try something new.

Thomas 3I want to thank Jo and Chuck and all the staff at SANCA for giving me such a beautiful experience during my teen years. Looking back now I can fully appreciate everything I was given and how lucky I was to find an environment where I could train with other people who also loved circus in such a carefree, loving, and accepting space. I want to wish SANCA all the best in the future years and congratulations on opening the new flying trapeze program. This is a huge accomplishment for SANCA and all my admiration goes to everyone that was involved in putting it together. Thank you so much, you will always be in my heart.

Terry Crane

Hey all,
I’m Terry Crane, and I am a circus artist. I specialize in vertical rope, and I practice a variety of other disciplines that I perform and teach for a living. I’ve performed in Canada, France, Scandinavia and Asia, appeared on National TV in a few countries, and done gigs for the king of Norway and the former prime minister of Thailand. I am presently in Helsinki, Finland, where I’m performing for Tansiteatern Hurjaruuth. I’ll be back in the States sometime next year performing an original collaboration funded by the Canada Arts Counsel entitled “The Sunlight Zone.”

But before all that happened….

I was a scared kid who just wanted to do a back handspring. Then I met Jo Montgomery. I showed up at the gym where she was helping coach an adult gymnastics class. Her eyes lit up when I told her that I’d been accepted at Montreal’s prestigious National Circus School (which accepts a smaller percentage of its applicants than any Ivy League University), despite having very little background in acrobatics. At that class and subsequent ones during the summer, Jo coached me attentively with the basic skills I was afraid I would lack when I arrived in Quebec on the first day of school. I think Jo and I had circus dreams that mutually reinforced each other. I was daring to think I could be a performer, and Jo was daring to believe in circus as a means of teaching empowerment.

After that summer I went on to NCS, while Jo went on to become the founder and Executive Director of the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA).

Throughout my three difficult years at the NCS in Canada, Jo and SANCA’s Program Director Chuck Johnson were critical sources of support for me. I returned to Seattle, my home, each summer and was welcomed to a constantly burgeoning SANCA. Offering me teaching work, free instruction, and training space, and perhaps most importantly encouragement and praise, Jo and Chuck made it possible for me to continue at the school NCS.  A vivid contrast from the competitive, institutional sphere of performance in which I found myself increasingly enmeshed in Canada, I always felt the highest values at SANCA were personal validation, positive relationships between people, and being oneself—on or off stage. This is a message that stuck with me, and has kept me coming back.

It’s been three years since I finished at NCS, and as I’ve performed, I’ve travelled widely; yet SANCA stands out as a unique place. It’s hard to believe it’s only 6 years since SANCA opened; it seems like such a fixture in the Seattle circus community, and in my life. The team has expanded, and the student body has exploded in size, but the same values are clearly upheld. SANCA has continued to be an invaluable resource for me as a circus artist, though this is not part of its stated mission. I’ve benefited from the training space, from networking with producers and other artists, and from an environment that fosters creativity.

SANCA for me is a sanctuary, a dojo, a place of possibility and sharing, and a family. When I started down this career path, I was timid, and shyly yearned to brave the spotlight. The steps of this path are difficult and confusing; with all kinds conflicting messages involving unconstructive competition, egocentricity, and misplaced priorities. There have been many times I was ready to give up. But I’ve received at SANCA nonjudgmental support and encouragement to be my own artist. Without the sensitivity and warm vision of circus that Jo and Chuck and those who have rallied to their initiative share, I would not be the artist I am now.