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: www.titlenine.com

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 http://scottywalsh.com.

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.

Meet Dyani, Junior Flyer

Finding Inspiration, Challenge & Greater Confidence Through Flying Trapeze

Dyani board smDyani first learned about SANCA from a friend who was taking classes. She thought that circus looked like a fun and way to get stronger and learn new skills. Watching other people perform circus skills was really inspiring to Dyani, and she wanted to learn it all. It wasn’t long before she started taking multiple classes – including Unicycle, Teen Aerial, and Flying Trapeze.

It’s hard to pick a favorite circus activity; Dyani says she likes it all, but one thing that stood out for her was the idea of wanting to be on the Junior Fly Team. She saw a flying trapeze performance at SANCA and that inspired her to give it a try. Dyani joined the team in the summer of 2014. It was awkward at first, she recalls, because she was new, and an outsider, but getting to know the team as friends and being able to talk with them made it comfortable and welcoming, and she realized that everyone there was working on their own skills and challenges and that they all wanted to get really good at flying.

Her mother, Liliana points out that SANCA has been a great environment for Dyani because it is diverse and there are many good role models to look to for inspiration. Liliana says that she is impressed with the quality of coaching. “The instructors are patient and understanding,” She says. “They give constant encouragement and positive support, and they are really good at helping students face their fears. They pay attention to all the kids they are teaching – not just the ones who stand out as better athletes.”

ft static splits smDyani’s first performance with the Junior Fly Team was in the fall of 2014. She recalls being very nervous and excited about the show, but she felt really good about herself when she heard the audience applauding. One of her most memorable moments, Dyani notes, was her first time flying without spotting lines. She says it was scary at first, but great adrenaline and a huge achievement for her.

“Conditioning was a big surprise,” says Dyani, “It’s really difficult but purposeful and helps you gain strength.” She notes that she also studies martial arts, and that conditioning at SANCA has helped her get better at Taekwondo. Although conditioning is hard, Dyani says her flying trapeze coach, Katie Wagman, really helps out with that aspect of circus training because “She makes it fun and keeps you going on the ground and in the air, and she helps you get better at what you do.”

In turn, Katie points out that “There’s been a huge improvement in Dyani’s skill and attitude since she first started flying with us – she’s very willing to work hard and apply herself, and she’s excited to learn new skills.”

Dyani’s mother, Liliana, thinks that Dyani benefits from circus arts by more than just physical ability. “She believes more in herself now. She has more confidence, and that shows up in all her activities. She got straight A’s in school these past two semesters.”

Dyani likes to tell her friends how much fun circus is – but she doesn’t mention the conditioning because she doesn’t want to scare them off, noting that once you realize the benefit of putting in the hard work, it’s not so bad.

Meet Randi – Active, Fearless, Creative, and Curious About the World.

Randi Morrison 4Randi Morrison discovered SANCA—Seattle’s only nonprofit 
circus school—in 2010 when a friend invited her to come to a circus class. She’s always been an active person, but she’d never done anything like circus before. Randi was delighted with the openness of SANCA and the mixture of people of all ages and abilities learning and working together. The atmosphere was very fun and happy—people everywhere were smiling.

The teaching style of SANCA’s instructors also impressed Randi. They gave good instruction in a safe environment with an eye to detail, and were able to quickly help students learn new skills that many had never imagined that they would be able to do.

“I want others to experience the same joy that I have at SANCA.”

In her career as a hospitalist physician, Randi also teaches residents and students, so it’s no surprise that she noticed SANCA’s instructional style. She says it’s been a great experience to be a student again — it reminds her of what it’s like to be a beginner at a new skill. She’s taken examples from SANCA back with her to the medical setting, and says that one of the most important concepts she learned here is “to imagine what a situation would look like if you introduced kindness.”

Randi Morrison 2Randi’s growth as an aerialist wasn’t always easy. She repeated the Introductory Aerial class until she had the strength and skill to progress to more advanced classes. As her skills grew, Randi had a hunger for progress that outpaced her once-weekly classes. She began taking private lessons twice a week, which eventually led to working with SANCA coaches Tyler and Carey to create a personal, two-week, intensive-training program.

Randi credits her coaches with helping her to work though physical, mental, and emotional challenges while providing a safe, happy space for her—a sanctuary from the stress of her medical work.

“What really excites me about SANCA is that they make this opportunity available to anybody regardless of financial circumstances,” says Randi. “I am so proud to tell people that ‘no one will be turned away’ from SANCA — that scholarships are available to any youth who wants to take circus classes. It’s important to me to ‘put my money where my mouth is’ by contributing to SANCA’s Youth Scholarship Fund.”

Circus is for everybody, Randi points out. She says she really enjoys being an older student (she took her first class when she was 44) because it shows there is no limit to age or ability. Everyone should take a chance and try circus, no matter what pre-imposed limits you think you have, your coaches will guide you to build new skills and experience success.

Randi says that building circus skills provides great lifelong benefits. Students at SANCA learn to be active, fearless, creative, and curious about the world.

Meet Amber, The Fatcrobat, SANCA’s hardest-working student

tumblr_inline_ni5hhgFxHT1r600ylWhen Amber Parker, a case manager with the UW Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute, first came to SANCA she expected to learn new things and get some exercise, but she never expected how rewarding it would be to join a community of supportive, enthusiastic people who would encourage her and help her discover abilities and interests she didn’t even know she had.

Amber was inspired to give adult circus classes a try because a friend in Colorado was learning aerial silks. From watching online videos, she thought it seemed like accessible activity for a heavier person. In her Aerial Fundamentals class, she realized that aerial silks were more difficult than she anticipated, but she found many other things that she could do that she hadn’t expected to be able to do. She discovered strength and flexibility that she didn’t know she had, and she fell in love with the Static Trapeze.

Many of the benefits of circus are measurable – she lost forty pounds, reduced her high blood pressure, and reduced her daily stress – but Amber says it’s the intangible benefits that really make the difference. She feels powerful and in control of her own body for the first time in her life. Her past eight months of taking circus classes has increased her self-efficacy and boosted her self-esteem.

tumblr_inline_ngyveb7U6h1r600ylAmber points out that her progress is measured and appreciated on its own merit, and at SANCA, she doesn’t feel compared to others. Every day she trains, she feels supported, encouraged, and acknowledged for her efforts. She credits her aerial coach, Leslie Rosen, and other SANCA instructors with making circus accessible by modifying exercises to accommodate the individual. Smaller, step-by-step progressions have made it possible for her to achieve more and build up to more advanced circus skills.

Amber wants others to know that “Circus is a great way to discover the full range of your own physical abilities. You are always put in a position to achieve success.”

You can follow Amber’s circus success on Tumblr – The Fatcrobat

Meet Elijah

Elijah Calhoun 2Elijah has grown up at SANCA, starting with Baby & Me classes with his mother Rebecca six years ago. At first, they came to SANCA for fun, but as Elijah grew he struggled with movement and balance — they discovered that he had Sensory Processing Disorder and motor delays. He took longer to learn movement skills such as learning to walk up stairs, and cross-body motions were harder for his body to understand. Elijah needed to be talked through how to move his body.

His physical and occupational therapists agreed that classes at SANCA offered great complimentary activities for his therapy. More importantly for a young boy who didn’t like traditional sports, circus classes kept him happy and having fun. With lower muscle tone than normal, it was important that Elijah stay physically active, and circus kept him engaged without the stress that comes from competitive sports.

As he grew older, Elijah enrolled in one-on-one classes through SANCA’s Every Body’s Circus program. This enabled his coach, Tyler, to spend more time working with him in a setting that kept Elijah more active. It also gave Tyler the opportunity to re-enforce Elijah’s occupational and physical therapy. Tyler even met with Elijah’s therapists to gain a better understanding of his needs and challenges.

Elijah says, “Circus is fun! I like aerial a lot, but only about a foot above the ground.”.

elijah-aerial-fabricElijah used to find jumping very difficult and he was afraid to try it. Tyler was able to break down the skill of jumping into very small steps that were easier to learn. Tyler could see that Elijah was able to jump, but that he just needed the confidence to do so. Starting with small jumps, Tyler held Elijah’s hand; they eventually progressed to several jumps in a row together. Then Elijah held just one of Tyler’s fingers while jumping, and later Tyler followed behind Elijah, holding the back of his shirt as he jumped. Tyler shows Elijah that he can do a skill, and teaches him in small steps, which helps Elijah overcome his fear and build his confidence.

Rebecca, Elijah’s mom says, “Even if you don’t think your kid is a ‘circus’ kid, give SANCA a try. Every kid finds something here that they love to do.”.

Now, Elijah participates in playground activities like climbing on the jungle gym, playing tag, and sometimes even soccer. He no longer needs occupational and physical therapy. His classes at SANCA keep him active, healthy, and learning new skills. Elijah says the thing that his circus classes help him with the most is having fun.