Meet SANCA’s P3s! (Part 2)

SANCA is very excited to welcome the latest group of young circus artists to the third year of our Professional Preparatory Program (P3)!

The P3 program, now in its third year, offers training for young adults seeking professional careers in the circus arts. The 9-month program provides 30 hours per week of coursework designed to prepare artists for auditions and entry into multi-year circus programs. Training includes four areas of focus:

  • Acrobatics (handstands, tumbling, trampoline, partner acrobatics)
  • Aerial (static trapeze, rope, fabric, hoop, Chinese pole)
  • Dance (ballet, modern, choreography)
  • Theater and Act Creation (improvisation, physical storytelling, acting, mask and clown)

The 9-month academic year is divided into five sessions, during which students first learn a baseline of skills, and then create two acts in the specialties of their choice. In the final session, the students create and perform an ensemble show. Throughout the year, students have the opportunity to assist in the production aspects of other SANCA productions and present works in progress in informal settings for development and constructive feedback.

P3 Group Acro

SANCA’s 2015-16 P3 students get to work on their first day at SANCA!

Coming Blog Posts will introduce SANCA’s P3 students. Today, please welcome Chris Bess and Aleasha Lynn Rosette Holtby to SANCA and the P3 Program!

Chris Bess HSChris Bess hails from Raleigh, North Carolina. He began his is career in physical arts as gymnast, later branching out into parkour, free-running, dance, and tricking. Tricking is a multi-disciplinary art that combines tumbling, martial arts, breakdancing, and strong sense of aesthetics.

Chris says that in Circus Arts, he’s found a way to put all these disciplines and skills together as a performance art that has diversity and creativity that’s not always available in other disciples.

He wants to communicate with movement, and feels most expressive through circus as a medium for making art and putting it into the world. Chris is interested in pushing boundaries, innovating, and creating things that people have never seen before.

Chris discovered SANCA when a physical theater teacher at UNC Charolette, Carlos Cruz, told him about circus and SANCA. Carlos is a circus and aerial straps artist originally from Do Jump! Dance Theatre and Imago Theatre in Portland, Oregon.

Of SANCA, Chris says the first few weeks have been really good and that it’s great to be in a regular training schedule. He wants to focus on Circus Arts at SANCA, with a vision of performing circus and making a living performing. He’s been primarily a soloist, but is interested in doing more partner and ensemble work.

He plans to take what he learns at SANCA back to Raleigh, where he’s involved with Raleigh Culture Project – a group dedicated to bringing all the movement disciplines together and fostering connections with musicians, visual artists, media, video, and the Internet.

Aleasha Holtby HSAleasha Lynn Rosette Holtby is 26. She was looking for new challenges after practicing yoga for five years, and discovered contortion. Shortly after that she started taking aerial classes and fell in love with all of it. She is specializing in Lyra (aerial hoop).

Aleasha wants to master the Lyra and learn intense tricks like elbow rolls and the one-foot toe hang. She’s very excited to expand her acrobatic and dance skills to create a captivating acro-dance. She also is excited to develop more skills all aspects of circus arts so that she can bring her knowledge home to teach it to others. One of her professional goals is to open her own aerials/yoga studio.

She chose to study at SANCA because it offered a full time program, and she wants to spend a full year immersed in circus! Aleasha looks forward to becoming proficient in each discipline, mastering the Lyra, and discovering passions in the circus arts.


Aleasha performing a Lyra and contortion act.

Bad Taste, Good Sense, and Dazzling Deeds of Daring-Do

Or, 3 Things about Old Circus to Embrace in New Circus

     — SANCA Blog Post by Jenna Barrett, SANCA Administrative Director


There’s no doubt about it, working in contemporary circus is fun!

The physical feats are impressive, styles are anything from bold and brassy to thoughtful and sublime; and the jokes are usually pretty funny. It feels like we’re part of the reinventing of circus, bringing a genuine, compassionate, perhaps more intelligent (and less exploitive) facet to the cut glass of this physical arts form, and making it shine like diamonds in the spotlight — or forgoing the spotlight altogether and practicing circus for the joy of it alone, no audience necessary. Like the Beat Generation of the Big Top, or something. Surfing the effervescence of dreaming up liberated yet playful crowd-pleasing acts to a beloved ancient entertainment is exciting, but if we’re going to bedazzle this particular top hat we should acknowledge the history of circus is our history — all of the history, even the seedier parts.

It seems sometimes there is a push to careen forward into New Circus, and by doing so distance oneself from “old,” or traditional, circus. The fact that the demarcation of “New” Circus is necessary at all highlights this; some of how contemporary circus defines itself is by not doing stuff that traditional circus undeniably did do, and those elements are ingrained enough in the recognition of it that they must be forsaken. Let the mistakes of the past be in the past then, my friends, but before we lock old circus history away in the attic I’d like to point out a few antiques that may be worth tucking carefully in the caravan and taking with us as we move on.

1. But Where Are the Elephants?

An Acrobatic equestrian act in Cavalia.

An Acrobatic equestrian act in Cavalia.

First things first: animals are rarely featured in contemporary circus. This makes sense from a chronological, technological point of view; we don’t use dray horses to till fields anymore, either. While New Circus is largely focused on the physical and entertaining feats of the human animal, it is important to recognize that not all of the relationships between performers and performing animals are exploitive and abusive. Acrobatic equestrians (say that three time fast) are responsible for much of the historical success of circus in the West, and the contemporary blockbuster Cavalia serves as a shining example of promise for future circus that can include performing animals in a positive, mutually beneficial way.


2. Funhouse Mirrors

Funhouse Mirrors at Playland - Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library.

Funhouse Mirrors at Playland: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library.

Audiences seek entertainment that thrills and entertains, and the things we pay to see on stage and screen are cultural mirrors of each age. Our fears and delights are reflected in other mediums as well, like monster trends in horror movies. If zombies — creatures that were once like us, but are now undead and monstrous — are popular at present because they embody the vile possibilities of the human without the humanity, then could it be that dreamlike aerialists in the sky and cavorting acrobats represent living heroes who show us the dazzling feats that are possible the stranger beside us on the bus?



3. Live Girls

Sells Floto circus M'lle Beeson, a marvelous high wire Venus.

Sells Floto circus M’lle Beeson, a marvelous high wire Venus.

How did circus women help the suffrage movement? In those charming vintage posters there is an unmistakable patina of the seedy, the salty, and risqué always seeming to almost topple into raunchy. However, circus athletes of the early 20th century could not perform in the puritanical trappings of women’s dress of the day, and so they were some of the first women to wear short skirts in public. This gender-inclusive trend continues to this day, where studies show that circus is one of the few sports activities that create success for all kids who put their mind to it, regardless of the social influences and differences that typically separate boys and girls in athletics.


In circus, the only limits are imagination.

Besides, it’s not like traditional circus went anywhere, as the continued prosperity of centuries-old traditional circus outfits indicates. However, it is heartening to see traditional circus quietly reform their menagerie to reflect their audience’s desires, and do away with the more distasteful elements in their shows. Many “circus traditions” are little more than marketing gimmicks dreamed up by the show outfit themselves, to create fondness, and are easily swayed by modern trends. Like circus peanuts. Peanuts? In public?! Where children that may possibly have allergies are present?!? This is America, buster. That’s just a nonstarter. But these days there is room in the theater for both traditional and contemporary, and that emergence is exciting.

SANCAthon: it’s back, and bigger and better than ever!

Thank You to everyone who made SANCAthon a success!

Here’s the annotated Catch-athon video by Kristen Petersen

SANCAthon_2013_meghan_cornicello_01medSANCAthon is a super fun community celebration! We’ve got exciting plans for this year’s SANCAthon and you don’t want to miss it!

Four hours of excitement including:
· Catchathon!
· The Buskers’ Challenge!
· Team Events!
· Circus Performances and Drawings

Participants can register today, join a team, and learn more at! (must preregister by Friday, October 30th)


Read about all our exciting team events at the SANCAthon Team Page. You can make contributions in support of teams or individual participants from their team and personal pages.

SANCAthon catch sqTeam Catchathon:

Our goal is to make as many catches in one hour as we can! Join us in the SANCA School of Flight Tent to kick off SANCAthon at 12 p.m. on Sunday, November 1st.


Team Aerial:

We’re taking on the challenge of climbing the height of the Space Needle as many times as possible in one hour! Are you a climber? We’ve got your apparatus– rope, fabric, trapeze, or Chinese Pole, this event’s for you!

unicycle2_051212_student_unicycle_BensonSquire_sqTeam CANYONATHON:

Wire Walkers and Unicyclists: We’re going to cross the width of the Grand Canyon in a relay-style event especially for tightwire walkers and unicyclists!

SANCAthon_2012_staff_handstandrelay_Maia_13sqTeam Handstand:

We will attempt a wave of handstands around the whole gym where everyone will hold a handstand for 15 seconds before the next person goes up in a relay fashion!

SANCAthon_2013_SW_AA_juggling_sqTeam Juggler:

The SANCAthon juggling team is all about three things: Throwing, catching & raising funds for the SANCA Youth Scholarship Fund. We are setting our sights on achieving the group goal of 2,015 catches in any juggling pattern and with any juggling prop, be it bean-bags, balls, rings, or clubs. It is as the old juggling saying that we just made up goes: You gotta throw ’em if you wanna catch ’em.

Team Tumbling: SANCAthon_2013_diveroll_cornicello_sq

SANCA’s tumblers are going perform a demonstration of the awesome skills we’ve learned for everyone to see! We’ll dazzle you with rolls, handstands, cartwheels, or crazy tumbling passes.

baby&me_2008_chloefierstein_rope_01sqTurbo Tots:

SANCA’s 2 – 4 year-old tots are going to tear it up at the TURBO TOT OBSTACLE COURSE! This incredible, super fun obstacle course will include Wacky Wall Walkers, Balancing Feathers, Juggling, Monkey Jumps and More!


Contribute in support of performers at their team & personal pages from the SANCAthon Team Page.

The Amazing Circus 1-ders and the Magnificent 7 – accompanied by the SANCApators Band — will close out the day by with some amazing new performances. You may be witness to the debut of AcroVengers: Origins, as well as an amazing aerial ladder act, a tumbling and springboard act, and a new ring juggling act.

The Buskers’ Challenge:

Cirrus Circus and our staff performers will give it their all for you! Challenge our performers to achieve amazing feats of daring do by putting down a donation for a trick. Want to see an acrobatic three-high? Juggling 7 balls? A dueling unicycle challenge? Show us the $$, we’ll show you the tricks!

Random Acts of Circus will happen throughout the day, and you’ll have opportunities to enter drawings for fabulous prizes. See you Sunday, November 1st for SANCAthon!

SANCAthon header 1

Meet SANCA’s P3s! (Part 1)

SANCA is very excited to welcome the latest group of young circus artists to the third year of our Professional Preparatory Program (P3)!

The P3 program, now in its third year, offers training for young adults seeking professional careers in the circus arts. The 9-month program provides 30 hours per week of coursework designed to prepare artists for auditions and entry into multi-year circus programs. Training includes four areas of focus:

  • Acrobatics (handstands, tumbling, trampoline, partner acrobatics)
  • Aerial (static trapeze, rope, fabric, hoop, Chinese pole)
  • Dance (ballet, modern, choreography)
  • Theater and Act Creation (improvisation, physical storytelling, acting, mask and clown)

The 9-month academic year is divided into five sessions, during which students first learn a baseline of skills, and then create two acts in the specialties of their choice. In the final session, the students create and perform an ensemble show. Throughout the year, students have the opportunity to assist in the production aspects of other SANCA productions and present works in progress in informal settings for development and constructive feedback.

P3 Group Acro

SANCA’s 2015-16 P3 students get to work on their first day at SANCA!

Coming Blog Posts will introduce SANCA’s P3 students. Today, please welcome Cameron Clarke and Katheryn Reed to SANCA and the P3 Program!

Cameron ClarkeCameron Clarke is 19 and hopes to become a circus generalist and expand on every discipline that he can while at SANCA because there is so much variety and so much to learn. Cameron says:

“I became involved in circus when my family moved to Belgium for three years. I joined an afterschool circus program called Circus Avanco in Aalbeke, Belgium. I hope to audition at École de cirque de Québec in 2016 and attend their three-year professional training program. I chose SANCA for my preparatory study because the facility is excellent and it will be a good way to accomplish all of the training I seek in one place. The circus community in Seattle has been very welcoming and I am excited to live here.”

Katheryn ReedKatheryn Reed is 28 and has been a dancer all her life, but she says it didn’t always feel like it was a viable career, that something was missing, and that her body felt disconnected.

“About 5 years ago” Katheryn says, “I started training in partner acrobatics focused in L-basing with the Seattle Acro group. My whole world opened up, and with the increase of strength in my core and upper body, I finally felt like one piece when I danced.”

Katheryn has been involved with the circus community in Seattle for some time now, working closely with The Acrobatic Conundrum, stage managing for their show The Way Out, and choreographing their show Secret Passages.

“Through continuing to meet new people I became the Captain for the Seattle Chapter of Circus Now, and over the past year we have produced over 10 fantastic and free circus-related events supporting Seattle’s amazing circus community.”

“I chose to train with SANCA because it has always been my circus home, says Katheryn, “It’s welcoming and friendly with amazing facilities and talented teachers. I love ground acrobatics, hand to hand, and Cyr wheel. I just felt like I could not take enough classes to see the progress I wanted, so the full-time P3 Program seemed like the perfect fit!”

Katheryn hopes to continue to perform in Seattle and tour in the longer term. She loves choreographing for circus and hopes collaborate and produce circus in the future. You can also find her dancing and performing professionally with Cafe Nordo and Marxiano Productions.

What’s UP at SANCA? – Aviatrix!

If you look up at SANCA, it’s not unusual to see the high-flying quartet known throughout Seattle as Aviatrix hanging from the rafters. Often they are “flying” from their triple trapeze in a retro-circus homage of aviator Amelia Earhart and wing-walking women such as Ethel Dare, the “Queen of the Air,” from the barnstorming airshows of the 1920’s.

Carri Andersen, Cathy Sutherland, Esther Edelman, and Martha Enson as Aviatrix! Photo by John Cornicello

Carri Andersen, Cathy Sutherland, Esther Edelman, and Martha Enson as Aviatrix! – Photo by John Cornicello

The members of Aviatrix are Carri Andersen, Cathy Sutherland, Esther Edelman, and Martha Enson. In their combined pasts they have been gymnasts, actors, dancers, and directors. They have performed across the United States and in Europe & Mexico, on the outer edge of the Space Needle, and in the presence of kings.

The inspiration for the troupe came from the 1920’s barnstorming airshows, and Sutherland says after they first got the idea they did a lot of research on aviation and design. It turned out that finding the right costuming was one of their biggest challenges. They searched for months for costumes that fit their theme and could be worn on the trapeze. One of the best finds they made was the Federal Army & Navy Surplus store on Seattle’s First Avenue in downtown. It turned out the store had much of the costuming the troupe needed.

Another challenge the quartet faced in putting the act together was synchronization. With four people working up in the air on a trapeze, but no outside director; how to get the timing right? Lots of video recording turned out to be the answer, and it’s not uncommon to see a tripod aimed at the quartet during rehearsals.

Too Many Martinis! Photo by John Cornicello

Too Many Martinis!
Photo by John Cornicello

In addition to their wing-walking classic, Aviatrix have devised a “bottoms-up” burlesque act called “Too Many Martinis” that features 5-foot-tall, martini-glass-shaped, stainless-steel trapezes dreamed up by Enson and constructed by musician-sculptor Ela Lamblin of the Vashon Island troupe Lelavision. It’s not every day that you see a new-fangled aerial apparatus appear, so when the martini glasses first came to SANCA, it attracted a lot of attention – everyone wondered what they were going to do and how it would work.

Aviatrix regularly appears in Moisture Festival and many other local Seattle events and shows, but it wouldn’t be far from the mark to say that SANCA is home base for them. When the group was first getting started they trained at the Georgetown Ballroom, but as business picked up at the ballroom, scheduling open training time was getting difficult. SANCA’s founders, Chuck & Jo, invited Aviatrix to train at SANCA.

Sutherland notes that if it weren’t for SANCA, they might not still be training together as a group – it’s that hard to find training space large enough to accommodate their apparatus in Seattle.

“SANCA has been so outstandingly kind and generous to us,” says Enson, “It’s really set up for the circus and aerial training we do, and it’s got a great ceiling height.”

Enson also points out how flexible it is at SANCA and how good the community it is. It’s easy to move their trapeze and rigging to different parts of the building to accommodate classes without missing out on their regular training schedule, and there are often opportunities for feedback and act discussions with staff.

The Aviatrix at Moisture Festival. Photo by Michelle Bates

The Aviatrix at Moisture Festival. – Photo by Michelle Bates

“It’s great to see the range of ages training and taking classes here,” Enson says, noting that her own daughter, Ruby, has taken classes at SANCA. “All the staff at SANCA does amazing things. It’s very inspiring to see the staff here training and teaching.”

SANCA staff and students are amazed as well by Aviatrix. Every time they turn on their music to run through their act, people in the gym all stop what they are doing to watch the impromptu performance.

The High-Flying Aviaxtrix! Photo by John Cornicello

The High-Flying Aviaxtrix! – Photo by John Cornicello

Keep your eyes peeled for Aviatrix’s next public performance and make sure to catch them throughout the run of Moisture Festival every spring in March and April.

Meet SANCA’s Doctor of Physical Therapy and Circus Coach – Emily Scherb!

Emily Scherb - SANCA's Doctor of Physical Therapy!

Emily Scherb – SANCA’s Doctor of Physical Therapy!

Emily started her circus career when she was eleven years old at a summer camp in Pennsylvania. She began by learning static trapeze, mini-tramp, and tumbling. Then moved on to partner acrobatics, swinging rings, aerial cradle and flying trapeze, and became a flying trapeze instructor when she was 15 years old.

She moved to Portland, Oregon and joined Pendulum Aerial Arts and DO JUMP! Physical Theatre, where she performed for several years. Her career eventually led to Saint Louis, where she went to college for a degree in physical anthropology and dance. While there, Emily taught circus skills at Circus Harmony, a youth social circus program.

After college, Emily worked for a time as the Assistant Manager for TSNY – the Trapeze School in New York. During that time she apprenticed with STREB Extreme Action Company – a dance-based physical action performance school and production company and helped start the Espana Streb Trapeze Academy. She then returned to Saint Louis for graduate studies at Washington University to complete her Doctorate in Physical Therapy.

Emily always knew she wanted to be involved with physical movement and combining working with performance arts and physical therapy was a natural fit for her. She enjoys teaching people how to move – both everyday movement and performance movement. Emily says that physical therapy is really about teaching people how to recognize limitations in movement and retraining to overcome the limitation to return to normal movement and ability.

She thinks that the combination of circus and physical therapy makes treatment accessible at many levels:

  • For the general population circus-based physical therapy creates opportunities to develop strength, health, and flexibility in a way that empowers you and builds confidence at the level you are at – and it’s a fun way to stay active!
  • For people with disabilities, it’s a way to approach working with a limitation that creates a new perspective and enables a person to do things they couldn’t do before by providing a new, different, or unusual stimulus that wakes up the neurological system.
  • For performers and circus artists, Emily shares her knowledge of anatomy and physical therapy to teach artists how to train using good body mechanics and in a holistic manner that keeps the body healthy and avoids injury.

“It’s important to me that I support the circus community and help the community grow in a healthy and sustainable way,” says Emily, “Teaching circus has been a good foundation and education of how to communicate about movement to patients, and the importance of treating the whole body to create coordinated movement.”

At SANCA, Emily keeps active in circus as a part-time Flying Trapeze Coach. She also works with SANCA’s Every Body’s Circus Program, helping to run summer camps for youth with disabilities.

“It’s such a unique opportunity,” Emily says, “Because SANCA has so many medical and sports professionals present as staff, and even as students, that it becomes a very safe and welcoming environment for kids who haven’t had the opportunity to participate in sports. Here at SANCA, they get to participate and they don’t have to feel different from their peers – they get to be like everyone else who is learning circus. At SANCA, their therapy becomes fun – it’s no longer a chore to learn how to use their bodies – and they receive a level of focused attention that’s not always available in other areas of their lives.”

Emily points out the changes that kids experience in the program:

  • They’re more confident and determined.
  • They learn better weight bearing movement.
  • They learn better oppositional (cross-body) movement.
  • They improve their coordination and their ability to achieve skills that others often take for granted, like being able to jump, or walk up stairs.

As part of her practice as a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Emily holds clinic hours at SANCA two days a week, and also at her office on Westlake at Lake Union. She is also a touring lecturer, presenting workshops on anatomy and injury prevention for circus performers and students all across the United States.

Hanging out on the flying trapeze net.

Hanging out on the flying trapeze net.

Emily can be contacted at the following numbers and locations:

Pure Motion Physical Therapy
Phone: (206) 316-0457

Westlake Office
2130 Westlake Ave N, Suite 2
Seattle, WA 98109

Georgetown Office (inside SANCA)
674 South Orcas Street
Seattle, WA 98108

Back to Sports with Title Nine and SANCA!

SANCA Board Member Kristina Wicke

SANCA Board Member Kristina Wicke

SANCA Board Member Kristina Wicke recently sat down with Circus 1-ders Coach Terri Sullivan to chat about SANCA and Title Nine—a women’s athletic sportswear store in Greenlake—and the upcoming Back-to-Sports Fundraiser benefiting SANCA on Thursday, August 27th.

SANCA Coach Terri Sullivan

Terri Sullivan

Kristina and Terri have been friends and circus fans since their days performing as members of the New Old Time Chautauqua. They’ve both been part of SANCA since the beginning – Terri as our first hired Circus Coach, and Kristina as a founding Board Member. Outside of their roles at SANCA, Terri is the District Manager for Title Nine, and Kristina is Store Manager for Title Nine’s Greenlake location.

Kristina Wicke: Why do you think SANCA and Title Nine a good match? And what do they have in common?

Terri Sullivan: You and me for starters! Seriously, there are a ton of things that the organizations share. A SANCA woman IS a Title Nine woman. There is a shared sensibility, style and attitude. I think I’ve told you before, but when I first found the Title Nine store I was excited. I said, “Finally! Here are my clothes! I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”

KW: What’s your favorite thing about SANCA?

TS: I love EVERYTHING about SANCA. The most exciting thing is the way that I’ve seen it empower kids to be confident in their bodies. It’s a HUGE skill. That physical confidence allows kids, especially girls, to become capable, strong people – both physically and mentally. Also the Circus 1-ders are awesome!

KW: You are clearly passionate about SANCA. What do you love about Title Nine?

TS: The people. The people that work and shop at Title Nine are awesome. It’s the reason I work there – plain and simple. There’s a wonderfully quirky sensibility at T9. When I first interviewed for my job, I wasn’t really sure if it would be a good fit for me. Then I met all the fabulous folks that I would get to spend time with and I was sold. Just like at SANCA we celebrate out victories and learn from our mistakes. And did I mention that the clothes are pretty great, too?

SANCA Coach Terri Sullivan - keeping in shape at Title Nine!

SANCA Coach Terri Sullivan
keeping in shape – and style! – at Title Nine

KW: Do you have some current favorite T9 outfits?

TS: Oh, heck yeah …. Right now I’m living in the Standby Capri, Alpha-Omega Top and Shift Jacket. They are great for coaching! And I also love the Performance Jean, paired with the Mixologist Tunic.

KW: Why shop at the T9/SANCA Back-to-Sports Event?

TS: First, it’s a great way to support the school. SANCA continues to offer scholarships for kids who can’t afford the tuition on their own. And that work can’t continue without donations and support. Also, you’re going to walk away with fabulous outfits from a great shopping experience. Title Nine is committed to finding the right clothes for you. It’s a win/win! You get a terrific clothes and SANCA benefits!

We’d love to see you there!

SANCA Back-to-Sports Fundraiser at Title Nine
Thursday, August 27, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Anyone who shops at Title Nine and mentions SANCA at checkout will have 9% of their purchase value donated to SANCA in support of all our youth programs.

You can preview Title Nine’s selection of sportswear at:

Title Nine – Greenlake
7000 Woodlawn Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98115

The Improbable Return of the Amazing Scotty Walsh!

With a magician, anything is possible, including reappearing at SANCA just in time for the school’s annual Staff Show – The Circus Animal: A Nature Documentary.

SANCA is delighted to welcome back Scotty Walsh – one of our earliest circus students and coaches. Scotty is visiting SANCA from Cork, Ireland during the month of August, working in collaboration with Kelsa Dine. Together, they will debut a new act called “The Deans.” Scotty and Kelsa took time out from their busy training and performing schedule for an interview with SANCA.

Scott Walsh attempts to read Kelsa Dine's thoughts in their new mentalism act, "The Deans."

Scott Walsh attempts to read Kelsa Dine’s thoughts in their
new mentalism act, “The Deans.”

SANCA: Scotty, you’ve been a performer for some time now, how did you get your start?

Scotty: I was eight when I saw my first magic show. It was Mike the Magic Janitor. He was the janitor at Pomeroy Elementary School in Pomeroy, Washington, but he also did magic shows for the school at Halloween and for the town’s Tumbleweed Festival and County Fair. I was really inspired and started inventing magic tricks to show him, and I pestered him constantly about learning more magic.

At one point Mike had a gig at the town Vaudeville Show, but he was unable to attend and asked me to do a magic show in his place. He helped me choreograph a show and taught me how to do it. That was my first magic show – for 400 people – when I was eight.

That’s one of the reasons that I love to do shows for kids, because Mike the Magic Janitor had such a huge impact on me as a kid.

SANCA: What came next in your magic career?

Scotty: The Market Magic Shop at Pike Place Market had been an annual pilgrimage for me for years when visiting Seattle from Eastern Washington. I started working in the Magic Shop and also working as a street performer at the Market when I came to Seattle to attend the University of Washington for a degree in Political Science.

SANCA: Political Science seems a far cry from magic and performance, what sparked that interest?

Scotty: I lived in Kosovo for a year and I’d become really interested in humanitarian issues, and Political Science seemed a natural fit for that kind of work. I was also very active in the performance and circus community in Seattle at the same time – busking at the Market and juggling with the Cascade Jugglers. I also founded the Emerald City Circus as a student club at U.W. to create more community on campus for circus.

SANCA: You were one of SANCA’s first adult students, and later even coached classes for SANCA. How did you discover SANCA?

Scotty: I saw the Cirque du Soleil show “Dralion” and was very inspired – especially by Joe de Paul’s clown act in that show. I wanted to go to the École Nationale de Cirque (ENC), and started teaching myself dive rolls from Hovey Burgess’s book, Circus Techniques.

At about the same time, Jason Williams and Evelyn Bittner (Dr. Calamari & Acrophelia of Circus Contraption) attended one of my shows where I was recreating Houdini’s Water Tank Escape. They told me about SANCA and I started taking classes to prepare for my audition at ENC.

SANCA: After your time at SANCA you went to study physical theatre in Italy. What took you there?

Scotty: I didn’t pass my audition at ENC, but SANCA was giving me everything I wanted to learn about how to perform acrobatics. There is a painting by Picasso which depicts the acrobat/clown Harlequin who descended from the Commedia dell’Arte – a copy of this painting, The Family of Saltimbanques, is hanging in Chuck and Jo’s [SANCA’s founders] office. That painting was always very inspiring to me and I felt my next step as a performer was to train in physical theater and the commedia. I discovered a school called the Accademia dell’Arte in Arezzo – in the Tuscany region of Italy. I was accepted to their 2-1/2 year MFA program in Physical Theatre.

SANCA: Kelsa, how did you get started as a performer?

Kelsa: I had an interest in theatre from an early age, and did performances in grade school, but the High School I went to didn’t have a drama department so I took voice lessons and sung in the choir. I went to college in Baltimore for a degree in Acting and Playwriting, and it was there that I also took classes in single-point trapeze.

SANCA: What took you to Italy to study at the Accademia?

Kelsa: During college I had the opportunity to do a one-month intensive at the Accademia dell’Arte. It was a really amazing experience that stuck with me. After college I decided to continue my studies at the Accademia.

Scotty: Around that time I was planning my next degree – a Doctorate in Drama and Theatre with a focus on performance in mentalism. After graduating the Accademia I went to University Cork College in Cork, Ireland to begin my Doctorate.

Surprising acts of ESP and telepathy on display by "The Deans."

Surprising acts of ESP and telepathy on display by “The Deans.”

SANCA: Why mentalism? And what is mentalism?

Scotty: Mentalism is a performing art that uses, or seems to use, highly developed mental or intuitive abilities. Mentalism is traced back to tales of the supernatural – clairvoyance in Greek myths or legends of second sight and witchcraft which emerged from the Scottish Highlands.

I was very interested in the intersection of mentalism and physical theater because physical theater can develop heightened nonverbal communication to the point where it might be said to resemble “telepathy.” I want to reinterpret mentalism through the lens of physical theater.

Kelsa: Much of physical theater is the study of proprioception – total body awareness – understanding the space surrounding your body and where you are in that space. It’s a type of sensitivity training. It’s this type of heightened sensitivity that often connects to acts of mentalism, which people can confuse with ESP or supernatural ability.

SANCA: What brings you back to SANCA just in time for our summer staff show?

Scotty: Last year, Jo invited me to perform at SANCA’s 10th Anniversary Circus Festival, and I had such a great time returning to SANCA and performing last year that I wanted to do it again. I was on summer break from UCC, so I called and asked if I could come back for the month of August, and if I could take part in the staff show and they said yes. Working at SANCA is such a positive and rewarding experience. I knew I wanted to find collaborators for a new act and SANCA seemed like the right place for that.

My proposal to Jo was to have training time at SANCA to create a new act, and in return teach workshops for the SANCA community and the youth troupes. It is really important to me to give back to the community that has given me so much. Participating in the staff show is a bonus and I’m very grateful that they are letting us take part in the show.

SANCA: You’ve been training at SANCA for a couple weeks now. What’s that experience been like?

Kelsa: I’m really inspired by the collective circus groups you have training here – IMPulse and The Acrobatic Conundrum. Watching them create new work and how they are developing their acts through a group devising process is really exciting.

Scotty: SANCA is an incredible place. There’s nothing else like it, and it’s changed my life immeasurably. I am always astounded at how the school enriches the people that come through its doors. For us, it’s been a positive and welcoming training environment. We’ve been able to get feedback on the act we’re working on, and that’s a really important part of the process – having constructive audience feedback in a safe environment while creating new work.

Kelsa: Thank you for welcoming us. This is a fantastic place to work and train.

The Deans - Amazing acts of mentalism and telepathy!

The Deans – Amazing acts of mentalism and telepathy!

SANCA: What can audiences expect from your new act, “The Deans?”

Scotty: A show equal parts comedy and mentalism leading to an unexpected and inexplicable moment of truth.

SANCA: How does it relate to the show theme – The Circus Animal?

Scotty: There’s been some interesting research recently about telepathy in animals, examining the potentiality of animal telepathy, or really, methods of nonverbal, nontraditional communication that we are only just starting to understand.

Kelsa: We’ll be representing that most unusual of animals: The Human Animal.

SANCA: Is there anything else you can tell us about the act?

Scotty: We’re liars, cheats, and frauds, and by the end of the show, you’ll wonder if we’re even telling the truth about that. You be the judge!

Scotty Walsh and Kelsa Dine will appear as “The Deans” for two weekends, Fridays through Sundays in SANCA’S Staff Show – The Circus Animal: A Nature Documentary, August 21-23 and 28-30.

They will also appear at the family friendly August Vaudeville Revue at Kenyon Hall on Tuesday, August 25th at 7:30 p.m.
7904 35th Avenue SW
Seattle, WA 98126

You can visit Scotty at his web page and learn more about mentalism at

Meet the Flying Randles

The Flying Randles

The Flying Randles

The Flying Randles are a mother and daughters team of high flyers that includes Merideth, Evelyn (15), and Carolyn (12) Randles.

They first learned about SANCA when they were living in Helena, Montana and a traveling family circus, the Bindlestiffs, came to town and happened to mention a school in Seattle called SANCA. The family moved to Seattle in 2011 and in 2012 they discovered a coupon for SANCA’s School of Flight in the Chinook Book and decided to give it a try.

Mother and daughters all loved the experience, and really enjoyed doing the activity together as a family. They say it’s great to be able to celebrate each other’s successes. It wasn’t long before they were coming to classes every chance they could, and SANCA’s Flying Trapeze Program Directors Paul Peterson and Katie Wagman started referring to them as the Flying Randles, in the longstanding circus tradition of other family fliers.

For all three, flying trapeze has been a great confidence builder and it has inspired them to also take other circus classes, like static trapeze, aerial rope, and trampoline. One of their high points has been being able to participate in SANCA’s flying trapeze shows. Carolyn says, “It helped me overcome my shyness, being able to do something in front of others.”

Carolyn Randles, as Amelia Earhart in the 2015 summer Fly Show, is caught by Tom Hanna.

Carolyn, as Amelia Earhart in the 2015 spring Fly Show,
is caught by Tom Hanna.

Her mother, Merideth, says that she enjoys the practice for the mental and physical focus required. It helps her to relax and not worry about other things in life, while at the same time being a very engaging and stimulating activity.

“Flying trapeze inspired me to also go to the gym – it gave me physical goals so that I would be in better shape to do more in flying trapeze,” says Merideth.

Merideth performs a layout as a butterfly in the 2015 fly show, and is caught by Tom Hanna.

Merideth performs a layout as a butterfly in the spring 2015 fly show, and is caught by Tom Hanna.

Evelyn points out that she was really afraid of heights at first, but her Mom encouraged her to keep trying, and having Paul as a regular coach was also very helpful. He helped Evelyn to figure out how to overcome her fears and do new skills. One big challenge was learning to let go of the fly bar in order to be caught by a catcher. Paul says that Evelyn’s swings on the fly bar were great, but for a long time she was afraid to let go. For his part it was about providing patience and positivity until Evelyn built up the confidence to trust him as her catcher and let go of the bar. Of course, she not only learned to let go and be caught, she’s also recently been certified to fly out-of-lines (without a safety belt) for basic swings.

“Sticking with the trick until you learn it can be challenging, but it’s really important,” says Evelyn. “Flying trapeze is a great sport to commit to and level up in (gain new skills) because you can do it all year round.”

Evelyn Randles practices a stradle whip.

Evelyn practices a straddle whip.

Evelyn and Carolyn have both applied to and will be attending the International School of Paris for the coming school year. They’ll miss SANCA. Fortunately, Paris is the Capital of Circus in Europe, so they’ll have plenty of opportunity to keep up their circus skills. Merideth, meanwhile, plans to get in as much extra time on the trapeze as she can while the girls are in Paris with their Dad.

One of the things that they all like about circus is the style and the color, and the constantly changing experiences. Merideth says, “SANCA is a great place to have fun and grow stronger mentally and physically week after week.”

“It’s easy for anyone to get started and get better at flying trapeze pretty quickly,” says Carolyn. “Come have fun!”

What I did at Camp this summer

My summer at Camp Tanuga

This summer I took a sabbatical from SANCA and my day job of being a Registered Nurse in the ER, and ventured to Michigan and a camp called Camp Tanuga. There I got the opportunity to teach flying trapeze full time, an experience I’ve been longing to have since I started coaching at SANCA a few years ago.

DSC_0083Tanuga is located in northern Michigan, about 40 minutes outside of Traverse City, with the closest town, Kalkaska, about 15 minutes away. For someone that grew up in a big city then moved to the Seattle metropolis four years ago, camp was an adjustment. There’s no supermarket around the corner, no redbox down the road, and Internet service was sometimes a bit shaky. That being said, my summer was full of new and fun experiences not involving technology or stores down the road.

Camp Tanuga was established a little over 60 years ago and still carries on many of the traditions that were started back then. In fact, many of the kids are 2nd or 3rd generation campers. The majority of the campers, who are between 7 and 15 years old, live in or around the Detroit area, although there are also campers from Colorado, Florida, California and other states. Tanuga is also somewhat of a SANCA tradition as a few of the staff members from the fly tent have also worked there in the past, including: Paul Peterson, Chris Johnston and Spencer Stevens.

Every day at camp was an adventure, with the schedule often changing at the last minute. To my type A, gotta have a plan self, this was probably the biggest struggle of the summer. Most days, however, my schedule went something like this:

IMG_10768:30 Breakfast
10:00 Instructional 1 (Flying trapeze)
11:20 Cabin Activity (Flying trapeze)
12:15 Lunch
1:00 Rest hour
2:00 Optional (training time for us or sometimes teaching a class)
3:30 Instructional 2 (Flying trapeze)
4:30 Instructional 3 (Flying trapeze)
6:30 Dinner
7:30 Evening Program

Basically, I was immersed in our three-person trapeze team world most of the day. I loved getting to teach new and returning campers new tricks, see them grow as flyers, and see joy in their eyes every time they caught a new trick. In this way teaching at camp and at SANCA are very similar. Both have individuals who have been flying for quite some time, as well as brand new flyers. It has been incredibly rewarding for me working with both types of students.

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 11.03.56 AMThe other part of camp that I loved was getting to grow as a flyer myself. My cabin was about a 10 second walk to the trapeze (give or take a few seconds). It was a dream to be able to walk out my door and fly every day. This summer I faced a lot of fears that I have has a flyer. I was pushed by the people on my team to go to new heights (so to speak), and believe I grew a lot as a trapeze artist, coach, and person. I even caught my double out of safety lines for the first time, something I hadn’t even fathomed I would do this summer.

Camp Tanuga was an experience. Was everything perfect? No. Did I miss Seattle, my friends and the SANCA community? Absolutely. But, this summer at Camp Tanuga was a summer I will never forget. I got to teach some amazing campers, met some fantastic people, and got to explore beautiful northern Michigan.  I also got to do something that I love every single day – flying trapeze.