“Running Away to Join the Circus” – and dealing with Parkinson’s

From http://www.parkinsonalliance.org/weblog by guest blogger John Cornicello, a Seattle-based portrait photographer Cornicello Photography and a person with Parkinson’s

It all started a few years ago. I was working for a well-known software company. My job had me at a computer, typing, most of the day. I started noticing some “issues.” My left hand was becoming less accurate — DOuble-caps, repeating letters, things like that. I also noticed that my left arm was pulling in towards my body when at rest and it didn’t move/swing as I walked. My piano playing had been actually getting better for a few years, then all of a sudden it started a dive, too.

My first thought was that I suffered some sort of mild stroke. I got a referral to a neurologist, had an MRI, and things looked good. He had me do some basic movements. Then, as he observed me, he suggested that I might have Parkinson’s. I had no tremors. Just the stiff left arm and some cogwheel type of movement in my left wrist.

I had already been taking Ropinerole for restless leg, so we didn’t change anything there. My diet has never been that great, so my wife and I tried to go radical (for me) for a few months with no sugar, carbs, or gluten. I did lose about 20 lbs very quickly. However, I was starting to get some tremors in my left hand. After three months, I went back to dairy and gluten but have managed to keep away from sugared soft drinks.

Concurrently with all of this I had been photographing for a circus school here in Seattle. SANCA is the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts, one of the largest such schools in the world. I became friends with the owners and at the end of a benefit show in February 2015 I casually mentioned that I had Parkinson’s and asked Jo Montgomery if she had ever worked with Parkinson’s patients. She said she had not, but that I should stop in at the school next Monday. And I’ve been there just about every Monday, since.

I was 57 and pretty sedentary when I started this. Jo started me up slowly with stretching exercises. And then gradually started asking me to try more activities. My initial reaction to most of these has been, “You want me to do what? OK, I can bounce on a trampoline and do some jumping jack type of movements, But now you want me to do a seat drop? And then come back to a standing position?” I dreaded the trampoline for about 2 weeks.

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Then it clicked and has become a favorite part of our routine. Next came walking on a balance beam. About 3″ wide and 6″ off the ground. More difficult than expected, but not so bad. I could do that one. Until one day she suggested a tight wire instead. A steel cable about 1/2″ or so wide. Barefoot, Jo would be holding one wrist as I walked back and forth across the wire. I never measured it, but I’m guessing it is a 12 foot distance. Amazingly I did it. And I enjoyed it.

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All of this has built good core strength and improved my confidence.

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So next came juggling. I’ve never been able to juggle. Maybe it is from lack of discipline and practice.

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But I try. Balls, clubs, rings. On my own, I’m really bad. But I found that I can toss 2, 3, or even 5 rings with another person. I believe this routine is helping to make new brain connections that might help with Parkinson’s.
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Then back to stretching. When I first started I couldn’t move my left shoulder. I would hold my left arm out to the side and grab a bar and tell it to move up/down and forward/back. And nothing would happen. I could tell my right shoulder to make all sorts of movements and it would. But the left shoulder would just sit there, completely ignoring my commands. I don’t know if is the medications (I started seeing a movement specialist in June 2015, and started Carbo/Leva in September), or all the other exercises, or a combination, but my left shoulder is finally starting to follow instructions and move around in circles when I want it to.

We also do some strength training by doing pull-ups on a trapeze bar and an exercise where I grab a bar above my head against a wall and pull my knees up to my chest 20 times.

Outside of circus school I have set up my home “triathlon” routine where I do a 30 minute routine that consists of a mile on a treadmill, then spin at 80-90 pedal rpm on a stationary bicycle for the balance of the 30 minutes. Then I take a shower.

All of this has helped me maintain a healthy and positive attitude. I consider myself lucky that my tremors are mostly mild and confined to my left hand so they don’t affect my photography. Yes, I’ve started using a tripod more often, but not all the time. I do worry that my left hand tremor might be a distraction to my subjects if my hand starts banging against my tripod. But I do explain the situation if that happens and all seems good.

This past week I found out that one of the members of SANCA’s board of directors has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and she has joined in on the Monday class. Our first try at juggling rings with each other went remarkably well.

Some days I wonder if I should be more concerned with my Parkinson’s. But so far I have managed to maintain a very upbeat attitude. I really look forward to both the SANCA and the home workouts. And I am somewhat amazed as I learn about more and more friends and colleagues who have some sort of tremors, be they essential tremors or Parkinson’s. This makes me have hope that more people will be learning about these issues leading to more research and the possibility of cures and even prevention. In the meantime, I am now starting to think about boxing lessons with a program like Rock Steady Boxing.

Thank you, John, for sharing your story with my assistant and blogging partner, Gloria Hansen. You are very creative and we applaud your unconventional approach to exercise, which we know is the best medicine for Parkinson’s. — Margaret Tuchman, President of  The Parkinson Alliance

Community Letter – Spring 2016

2016 Community Letter Header150223_cornicello_0548Spring is here — juggling balls are dropping like rain, smiles are blooming like flowers, and trapezes are swinging like … well, trapezes!

I am happy to report that the first quarter of 2016 has been great for SANCA! Our students, parents, patrons, coaches, and staff have continued to build an amazing family, all of us supporting each other as we discover the places in ourselves and others that are transformed by circus arts.

Our annual fundraising gala was a tremendous success! Thank you to all who joined us on Leap Day or were with us in spirit. Your support helped us raise nearly $200,000, beating last year’s event fundraising by more than $35,000! You continue to validate our direction and commitment to our mission by helping to directly fund SANCA’s increased investment in Social Circus, our Youth Performance Companies, and our ongoing scholarships for youth in Circus Arts classes.

We’d also like to extend our gratitude to our generous friends and hosts at Teatro ZinZanni and our wonderful group of event sponsors. A big thanks also to our performers who carried us on an amazing metaphorical journey from a bleak, black & white world into the vibrant, joyful, and colorful world that SANCA embodies!

Here at SANCA we’re calling 2016 the “year of Social Circus.” Our pilot program with the Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) has been a huge success — they’re asking us to expand our partnership to include additional sites this summer. We’re also beginning new partnerships with organizations like Garfield Community Center and the Broadview Emergency Shelter.

Circus 1-ders Twist 2016SANCA’s therapeutic circus arts program, Every Body’s Circus (EBC), is thriving — already this year our EBC student population has grown by 25%. In March, we kicked-off EBC Outreach with two special education classes from the Highline School District, introducing them to the challenge, joy, and triumph of circus arts. Stay tuned — we’ll keep you posted on our progress. In the meantime — read more about Social Circus and our partners in SANCA’s online Spring Newsletter.

Many of you have probably seen a flurry of announcements for our new workshops. These workshops provide higher-level training and specialty skills instruction from SANCA coaches, guest performers, and visiting artists giving students the opportunity to dive deeper into their chosen circus art! Check the Workshop page for a full listing.

Leap into Spring with a class or workshop and celebrate with us! Take an Intro to Circus or “single serving” class or finish out your week with a Friday night Pay-Per-Flight on the flying trapeze! We also have a bevy of performances upcoming: the Spring Festival of Flight, SASS — SANCA’s Annual Spring Showcase, and the P3 Demonstration. Come on down!

I have the privilege of being here at SANCA every day, but it wouldn’t mean anything if you, our amazing SANCA family, weren’t here, in person or in spirit, to challenge yourself and grow and help others to do the same.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

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Carl Bystrom
Interim Executive Director
SANCA — School of Acrobatics & New Circus Arts

P.S. You can also read or download a copy of SANCA’s Spring Newsletter.

Meet the Harveys – SANCA’s Landlords

Orcas Business Park, owned and managed by the Harvey Family – John, JW, and Michelle – is the largest family-owned property management company in the Seattle Design District. They have leased commercial office, retail, and warehouse space in the Georgetown neighborhood for more than 18 years. John and his son JW are the property managers, and John’s daughter Michelle is OBP’s Director of Finance. They are joined by Shannon Archer, the Office Manager for the business.

The Harvey Family (right to left) - John, JW, and Michelle, along with Orcas Business Park office manager Shannon Archer, celebrate with SANCA at LEAP with a Twist!

The Harvey Family (right to left) – John, JW, and Michelle, along with Orcas Business Park office manager Shannon Archer, celebrate with SANCA at LEAP with a Twist! on Leap Day, Feb. 29, 2016.

When SANCA’s Founders, Jo & Chuck, first approached the Harveys in 2005 about leasing warehouse space for a non-profit circus school, their response was “Are you sure about this?”

SANCA didn’t fit any demographic of renters or business owners the Harveys had ever worked with before, but they were really intrigued by the idea, so they visited SANCA’s original location on 6th Avenue & Lander Street to better understand the kind of organization they might be leasing space to.

When Jo shared her inspiration for starting SANCA – providing healthy, creative activities and access for children with health issues – the Harveys saw an opportunity to become partners in bettering the community, and become part of something bigger than just being a business partner. Jo and Chuck’s passion for SANCA’s mission, and their determination and fire for their cause made a big impression on the Harveys, so they took a leap of faith that a circus school would be a good tenant.

The Harveys’ faith in SANCA paid off. Since first moving in to the building in April 2005, SANCA has expanded from the smallest to the largest of their tenants – taking over two more bays in the building, and expanding to more than 22,000 square feet. In 2009, when Chuck approached the Harveys about building a flying trapeze tent in the next-door parking lot, once again, they asked, “Are you sure?”

Again the Harveys took a chance on SANCA, helping by resurfacing the parking lot to repair the damage of years of semi-trucks being parked there. The Harveys found that it wasn’t too much longer before they were giving flying trapeze a try themselves! Michelle says, “I’d never heard of flying trapeze being so accessible! I tried it out the first year it got started at SANCA. It was thrilling, exhilarating to get caught!”

Michelle’s daughter Emma also started taking SANCA’s summer circus camps when she was six years old. She met one of her best friends at circus camp, and now they coordinate to go to circus camp together every year. Michelle says it’s the highlight of the summer and that they really enjoy sharing in the diversity available at SANCA. Emma also got hooked on flying trapeze and she’s had her birthday party at SANCA these past two years. JW and his wife Sara and both their kids have also tried the flying trapeze, and they’ve brought their cousins from France to try it also.

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“Seeing so many kids have such a great experience at SANCA drove home how
important it was to have SANCA in the community,” says JW.

JW says he views the property management business as a partnership with the tenants. He wants his leasers to succeed at their businesses. In the beginning, JW says, it helped that Chuck and Jo were always very reassuring and a pleasure to do business with. The Harveys extended discounts to SANCA because they really believed in what SANCA was doing and wanted to be part of that. They also knew that in the early years Jo and Chuck took no pay as SANCA was getting started. They both had fulltime jobs: Jo at the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic, and Chuck worked with a decorating contractor for trade shows and special events while also coaching gymnastics and acrobatics. It really showed their commitment to SANCA.

“Taking on a first-time business can be risky,” JW observes. “I rely a lot on personal feeling about the person running the business. SANCA really helped us to rethink the possibilities of who could be a good leasing partner. Now we’re more willing to take risks. We have tenants who aren’t traditional commercial clients, including arts and non-profit organizations like Unexpected Productions Improv School and the EnFuego Baseball Academy, as well as massage, counseling, and therapeutic providers. Over time, we’ve put more money into facility improvements for SANCA than we have any other tenant. It feels more personal – we love having SANCA as a tenant.”

Michelle says, “It’s really nice to know that we can help the community by supporting SANCA at the business level. SANCA reaches a huge part of our community – even touching our own employees and other tenants. Many of our families have taken classes at SANCA.”

“SANCA has also been a big part of the revitalization of Georgetown,” says JW. “The school’s clientele has brought younger families into the neighborhood and given a boost to local businesses. I’ve seen Airport Way become a bustling neighborhood, and motivated young entrepreneurs and startups have set up shop since SANCA became part of the neighborhood.”

The Harveys haven’t just been great landlords for SANCA – they’ve become valued partners, supporters, and donors for the circus school. Orcas Business Park has sponsored SANCAthon, and the Harveys are mainstays at SANCA’s annual gala – Up, with a Twist!

“The Twist gala was a real eye opener,” says Michelle, “It’s very moving to learn about all that SANCA does for the community, and how much it grows year after year. We want to see that success continue and help support it.”

SANCA is very thankful of The Harvey’s support of the school – we couldn’t ask for better landlords!

Hello and Goodbye

SANCA coaches are amazing instructors and are often also amazing performers, and sometimes this means that we have to say goodbye or “see you later” to some of our favorite instructors. We love them, and we will miss them, (and we look forward to seeing them again!), but we have to find new fantastic people who will fill those ‘staff’ tshirts.

Among the departures:
Joshua will be in the Carolinas performing;
Nick and Wendy will be with Circus Smirkus for the summer;
Erica and Carey are touring with Acrobatic Conundrum for at least part of Spring;
Arne is in Montreal;
Leslie has been in India (but has returned!);
and Marta is hitting the road on a new adventure.

Here are some of the new faces in the gym and tent:

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Nikole Gramm is Seattle-based circus artist with a focus on fabric. She also occasionally performs other aerial apparatuses, partner acrobatics, and tramp wall. She found circus arts in 2010 after spending many years as a competitive gymnast and a couple years as a gymnastics coach.
She was coached by Sara Knauer at Aloft in Chicago, IL and Rachel Walker in Montreal, QC. During her time in Chicago she taught aerial at Aloft and frequently performed in El Circo Cheapo Cabaret. Since moving to Seattle, she performed in S7nners, produced by The Circus Project in Portland, frequently performs at corporate events with Animate Objects Physical Theater in Seattle, and coaches aerial classes at SANCA.
Nikole is a new aerial coach

Eve headshot sqWarrenZelmanPhotography-3 (2)Eve Diamond is an aerialist joining the SANCA staff with over ten years of teaching, training and performing experience in circus arts. Her love and respect for circus started when she was 12 and attended summer camp at Circus Smirkus (Greensboro, VT).  After being inspired by what circus training and performing has to offer, she was accepted to and attended three years of professional circus training in San Francisco, CA. After graduating in 2011, Eve’s been performing and teaching around the USA with companies such as Cirque Productions, Cirque Mechanics, Circus Bella and more. This summer she was invited to perform her cloud swing act at the Montreal Completement Cirque festival in Montreal, Canada.

The passion Eve felt for circus early on continues to inspire her to educate people of all ages and abilities. She encouraged her students to challenge themselves and be challenged by circus arts. As a former kid growing up in youth circus, she cares deeply about preserving circus training to the next generation and instilling the values of hard work and dedication. You can see more of what she does at www.eveontheswing.com.
Eve will be the Assistant Director for Cirrus Circus

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James Finch has been involved in circus for 4 years, specializing in flying trapeze. He discovered his passion for acrobatics at the age of 10, as a competitive gymnast and extreme sports enthusiast. He also has a mustache. James is a new coach on the fly staff

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katie headshot sm sqKatie Herndon grew up on a farm in central Washington and quickly discovered her love for heights and hanging upside down. After years of gymnastics she competed on the Acrobatics & Tumbling team for Azusa Pacific University. From there, her love of acrobatics led her to circus and aerial arts. After graduating with her degree in business, Katie moved back to the Pacific Northwest and began teaching and performing while furthering her circus skills through flying trapeze and trampoline. In 2015 she was given the opportunity to train with The Flying Aces as part of the Netherland’s National Circus. After a five-month immersion in the world of caravans, tents, and traditional circus, she once again returned to the beautiful city of Seattle, and has found an incredible environment in the SANCA community. She is now teaching tumbling and training acrobatics, trampoline, aerial silks, rope and flying trapeze. Katie is a new circus arts coach

shawn headshot sqShawn Kellogg has been studying movement since 2008 and has delved into yoga, martial arts, circus, dance and other disciplines. He collaboratively created and performed in several contemporary clown and theatre shows over the last three years. He has spent many hours training handstands, tumbling, and other circus arts at the San Francisco Circus Center, Twisters Gymnastics in Port Townsend, and right here at SANCA. For the last three years he has made a living as a structural integration practitioner and movement educator. He does private sessions with adults and children. In his sessions he teaches functional kinesiology and works with clients to relieve pain and create more ease everyday. Shawn is a new circus arts coach

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Sadie Ledonna has been dancing and practicing movement arts from an early age. As a homeschooler through middle and high school, Sadie was able to pursue her development as an artist, and sought out training in every activity that interested her. These included but were not limited to Scottish dance, ice skating, theater, weight training, singing, modern dance, ballet, and partner dance. Her first experience with circus was at SANCA in an intro to circus class. She loved it, and was inspired to learn more! Over the last 7 years, she has studied aerial, clowning and other disciplines at The New England Center For Circus Arts, The San Francisco Circus Center, and Versatile Arts. She has also collaborated in creating and performed in various clown, theater, and vaudeville shows around the Pacific Northwest. Currently, she lives a ferry away on Vashon Island and teaches children at UMO School Of Physical Arts. She is excited to continue learning and to share her knowledge about movement!
Sadie is a new aerial coach

alyssa_luna_headshot_sqAlyssa Luna saw her first glimpse into the circus world in 2007, when she joined circus club in college. After college Alyssa moved back to Seattle and discovered her new found love was just around the corner. She began to indulge herself with silks,  Lyra and finally found flying trapeze. She specializes in flying trapeze, Lyra and duo trapeze. Her love and dedication for all things circus led her to teaching kids through day camp programs as well as summer camps  throughout the south, east coast and a bit of Midwest.  Her love for circus and what it can teach today’s youth still continues since she found her way to SANCA. Alyssa is an Outreach Coach

missy headshot 3Missy Nagin first found circus when she moved to Seattle in 2013. She took her first flying trapeze class and was hooked. She started flying regularly and wanted to stronger. She began taking aerial classes inside to build more strength control. As a nurse in real life she spends her time caring for patients with cancer and circus provides a great outlet. As a nurse, already connected with Camp Korey, she had the opportunity to volunteer as an outreach coach. After this experience Missy wanted to get more involved. As an Outreach Coach Missy gets to combine her love for circus in combination for helping children grow both emotionally and physically.

amber headshot sqAmber Parker came to SANCA as a student in 2014, mostly on a whim and looking to try something new. After her first class, however, she was hooked and her life was forever changed by the circus. She began with aerial fundamentals, and has since branched out to contortion and Cyr Wheel, and most currently, to studying circus arts academically and professionally.
Amber’s background is in women’s health, which she has been specializing in since 2004 through various lenses- birth work, health education, public health research, counseling, and social work with high risk populations. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Antioch University in 2014, and is currently working on her Master’s Degree in Creative Arts Therapy, with a specialization in Drama Therapy. In her Master’s work Amber is developing methods of using Circus Arts as a therapeutic medium, combining circus skills training with mental health counseling. Now, as a Every Body’s Circus Coach, Amber is excited to combine her background in Women’s Health with her passion for Circus Arts to help SANCA further achieve their mission to improve the mental and physical health of our community. Amber is an Outreach Coach and SANCA Blog contributor

Audrey Spinazola sqShe was raised in Boise, Idaho. Having graduated two one-year conservatory programs in San Francisco: The Clown Conservatory (during the Jeff Raz years) and Flying Actor’s Physical Theater program, she then proceeded to co-found Main Street Theater. This alternative event space in San Francisco’s Excelsior district, dedicated to Physical Theatre and the Variety Arts is where she created, performed, and produced for five years. She has been a juggler for Myth Busters and the San Francisco Opera. She is one half of the musical duo Carl and Beatrice. She co-created and toured Genie and Audrey’s Dream Show!!! (an award-winning two woman circus/clown show). She has performed for the San Francisco Accordion Club. Twice. She has coached youth circus programs at San Francisco’s Circus Center, Prescott Circus Theater in Oakland, NuevaSummer, and Circus Moves. She has performed as a hospital clown for both ClownZero and The Medical Clown Project. She is: Audrey Spinazola.
Audrey is our new Youth Performer Companies Director. 

Amanda Thornton headshot sqAmanda Thornton found the circus arts while studying theater and writing. She gravitated immediately to aerial fabric and committed her free time to strength and flexibility using this amazing apparatus. Amanda has tried to broaden her horizons as a circus performer and practice everything from juggling to stilt walking and fire spinning, but aerial is where her true passion lies. After finding a home on fabric she began to experiment with the other apparatus such as trapeze, hoop, and rope and learned that it isn’t just about specializing in one thing for her. She also is a dedicated acro-yogi and loves sharing her knowledge on partner work, which she also took to the skies with her partner on the aerial fabric. To her the circus is a community for learning about all sorts of crazy things, whether that’s flying in the sky, standing on your hands, or object manipulation. Amanda moved to Seattle and began working for Teatro ZinZanni, which is what lead her to SANCA. She is thrilled to play in this beautiful space and work with a community of well-rounded and thriving circus artists.
Amanda is a new aerial coach

Faye headshot sqFaye Visintainer found her way to the world of circus through performing with Oberlin College’s O!Circus. Though she began as a dancer, she eventually picked up poi “just to try it” and never looked back. She took a brief break from twirling things around her head to teach English as a second language in Japan, where her circus skills came in more handy than she initially thought. After her return to America she found herself at SANCA’s doorstep and promptly fell in love. Now she is thrilled to be a part of the Outreach program, and in her off time, delights in learning as much about juggling and flying trapeze as she possibly can.
Faye coaches outreach groups and is our party and event coordinator.

It’s Almost Here!

After many weeks of work, we’re just a day away from Up with a Twist!

Saturday was one of the last rehearsals before the show. Friends, family, staff and performers all came together to eat, rehearse and make last minute preparations for the big day.

This year’s Up with a Twist is sold out, and for good reason. Not only does this show support SANCA’s vital programs, it’s an outstanding production showcasing some of of our most talented performers. If you didn’t get a ticket this year, be sure to tune into our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for a live feed of the show, featuring pictures, clips, and interviews with the performers and audience.

All three youth performance troupes take direction from their director, David Crellin.

All three youth performance troupes take direction from their director, David Crellin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coach Mary practicing her LED Hoop routine for the packed north annex!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Cicus 1-ders, our youngest performers, worked hard all day fine tuning their performance with the dedication and discipline of performers much older.

Coach Milla putting finishing touches on costumes

Coach Milla putting finishing touches on costumes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Director David Crellin and MC Kevin Joyce discussing cues while Cirrus perfects their table routine.

Director David Crellin and MC Kevin Joyce discussing cues while Cirrus perfects their table routine.

Gala Preparations Afoot!

By Amber Parker

There’s a simmering excitement around SANCA lately that’s greater than the usual magic you feel when you walk into the building. The entire gym feels more alive- children running from annex to annex, parents and volunteers crouched in corners sewing costumes, coaches, directors and administrators bustling all around us. It’s not just that it’s been more busy at SANCA, it’s that Leap with a Twist is approaching us fast, and everywhere you can feel the creative energy that is manifested when a community comes together around a common cause- to produce an original and inspired stage show.

image1SANCA’s annual fundraising gala, Up with a Twist (re-named Leap with a Twist since it falls on Leap Day in 2016), is a mere three weeks away. This is SANCA’s 7th year producing this show, and it’s become a highly anticipated and integral part of the SANCA community. Not only is Twist the largest show of the year, the fundraising at the gala supports SANCA’s Circus Arts Program for Youth, which makes the benefits of circus arts available to all families, independent of their ability to pay. Considering this mission to make circus arts more accessible, the theme of the show this year feels particularly apt- Creating a World Inspired by Circus. The show explores the question, “What would the world look without circus?” and what’s more, “What would our community look like without SANCA?”  In many ways, the artistic direction of the show is an answer to these questions.

David Crellin, also known as Armitage Shanks, The Carney Preacher, has been directing Up with a Twist for the last six years and is working with young performers he’s seen advance through all three youth performance troupes, from the Circus-1ders to Magnificent 7 and on to Cirrus Circus. Here, David speaks to the both the concept behind this year’s show and how it explores a world created by circus:

I had the privilege of observing David in rehearsal with all three troupes featured in Leap with a Twist for their first stumble through rehearsal. With a total of 39 children ranging from ages 5-18, David worked with the young performers for hours choreographing their opening scenes and fine tuning their upcoming performances. It’s truly amazing to see the show come together, not only for the visually stunning art direction, but for the level of commitment and discipline required from everyone involved to bring the show to life.

Please stay tuned to the SANCA blog for more upcoming features on the creation of this year’s Leap with a Twist! 

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

Happy New Year! – Community Letter

Happy New Year!

It’s been just about four months since I stepped in as the Interim Executive Director at SANCA and I wanted to give you an update on the organization and a brief wrap-up of 2015.

First, I want to say that it has been a delight working with the staff, coaches, students, and parents here at SANCA. The sense of community and family runs to the heart of the organization. Everyone that works (and plays) here embodies a deep commitment to the students and to the personal growth, mental and physical health, confidence, and simple joy that the circus arts brings to our lives.

Since my arrival, I have been working to formalize the structure of our programs and organization to streamline our processes and focus our energies efficiently. Our organizational structure now reflects SANCA’s three distinct program areas: Circus Arts, Performance, and Social Circus. I want to share with you our progress in each area and where we plan to go in 2016.

Circus Arts Programs
C1A_2012_student_globe_01_smSANCA’s Circus Arts Programs — including 12-week session classes, single serving classes, and flying trapeze classes for youth and adults — continues to thrive with energy and excitement. These programs operate at near-full capacity with a steady year-over-year enrollment of more than 1,000 students per week. In 2015 SANCA granted over $136,000 in scholarships to youth in circus classes.

In 2016, Crystal Campbell and our Circus Arts Program staff will continue the spirit of fun, safety, and accessibility originally established by co-Founders Chuck Johnson and Jo Montgomery. They will also optimize our class offerings, schedule, and staffing to better serve the student body and grow our capacity to meet the needs of the community.

Performance Programs
We had a booming performance year at SANCA including our annual Spring Showcase—SASS; the annual Staff Show, “The Circus Animal: A cornicello-sass2015-902smDocumentary”; and Cirrus Circus’s fall show “HOTEL.” All of our youth troupes — Cirrus, the Magnificent 7, and the Amazing Circus 1-ders – performed at various community events and festivals throughout the region, including the Georgetown Carnival, Whirligig, and Seattle Center’s Winterfest.

Our Artist-In-Residence program fostered two original productions from IMPulse Circus Collective (“Figments” at the Moisture Festival and a Pacific Northwest mini-tour of “We All Fall Down”) and continuing works from The Acrobatic Conundrum — including a trip to Egypt for the BackStreet Festival and a talk/performance at TEDxRainier. I hope you were able to catch at least one of these fabulous performances.

Kicking off 2016, we welcome our new Youth Performance Companies Director, Audrey Spinazola. Audrey has joined us from Circus Center and Prescott Circus in San Francisco and we look forward to her creativity and leadership working with our youth performers in the coming year.

Our current crop of seven Professional Preparatory Program (P3) students are all thriving and eager to move forward with the creation of new acts. Look for their end-of-year performance in early June. We will also expand and formalize our Artist-In-Residence Program to accept applications from aspiring circus artists from around the world.

Social Circus
Ben VanHouten VanHouten Photography, Inc. 206-933-8753 ben@vanhoutenphoto.comOur Social Circus programs represent the heart of SANCA and make circus available to those who have the least access and opportunity to participate in healthy, creative, physical arts. In 2015 SANCA granted more than $18,000 in financial aid to our Every Body’s Circus youth and our Circus Outreach partners.

At the end of 2015, we began expanding our Social Circus initiatives, building on the great work that our co-Founder Jo Montgomery began, and continues to provide, in Every Body’s Circus. 2016 promises to be the year of Social Circus at SANCA as the program grows to include:

  • Social Circus Outreach to build additional partnerships in the greater Seattle area that bring circus to underserved and at-risk communities that want to use circus for social, emotional, and physical growth.
  • Every Body’s Circus to bring circus to youth who have learning differences, trauma-related or mood disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorder, or physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, hemiparesis, spina bifida, and vision or hearing impairments.

Our new Social Circus Director, Ian Jagel, is building new connections in our community to reach more underserved and marginalized youth with outreach circus programming — look for an update on our pilot program with the Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) in the first quarter of 2016.

I am also delighted to introduce Alexandra Daves, MSW, LSWAIC, who will lead Therapeutic Circus Arts program moving forward. Alex brings her knowledge and expertise in mental health services as a Licensed Social Worker to compliment the physical health services offered by our co-founder Jo Montgomery, ARNP. Alex looks forward to incorporating mental health services into Every Body’s Circus as we expand our therapeutic circus offerings.

Thank You
In 2015, we raised over $150,000 dollars in individual contributions from our generous community of supporters. Your contributions provided financial scholarships for youth and made it possible for SANCA to offer our Social Circus and Youth Performance programs to the community while keeping circus accessible to all who want to participate.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

I’d also like to thank our institutional supporters who provided general operating and program support in 2015: 4Culture, Boeing, ChenSteinO’MallySven Foundation, Cirque du Soleil, Nesholm Family Foundation, Newground Social Investment, Orcas Business Park (SANCA’s Landlords), The Ruddell Kroll Charitable Fund, Seattle Children’s, The Seattle Foundation, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, Teamtrio, Teatro ZinZanni, Tulalip Tribes Charitable Fund, and the Windermere Foundation.

Looking Forward to 2016
tightwire sqIn 2016, we will expand our Social Circus programs, grow the capacity of the Circus Arts Program, and raise the level of excellence in our Performance Programs. Simultaneously, we will focus on optimizing staffing for programs, tightening up administrative processes and costs, and updating our technical infrastructure to improve efficiency. Your gifts of support in 2016 will guarantee the success of the expansion of our Social Circus programs and community partnerships, ensure continued support of all youth who want to take circus classes via our scholarship program, and will keep the heart of SANCA beating strong.

Whether your support comes as a gift of financial support, attendance at one of our shows, volunteering at an event, participating in SANCAthon, or taking one of our amazing circus classes, we appreciate every one of you and what you bring to SANCA. You are all part of the SANCA family, and you are why we are here.

I hope you all have a wonderful 2016!

Happy New Year,
Carl Bystrom
Interim Executive Director
SANCA — School of Acrobatics & New Circus Arts