About the Professional Preparatory Program

SANCA’s Professional Preparatory Program (P3) is a first step towards a career in circus, with a specific focus to prepare graduates for further study at a multi-year circus institution for higher education. The curriculum is structured as a rigorous generalist program designed to provide strong foundations in five main areas of focus:

  • Floor acrobatics (handstands, tumbling, trampoline, partner acrobatics)
  • Aerial acrobatics (static trapeze, rope, fabric, hoop)
  • Dance (ballet, modern, choreography)
  • Theater and (improvisation, physical storytelling, acting, mask and clown)
  • Act Creation in a selected discipline in preparation for auditions

Performance skills classes and coaches

Our coaches have a combination of formal training and performance experience that brings a practical perspective to their technical training.

Professional circus performers require far more than the physical skills to do a single circus act.  Our program has a strong theatrical, dance, movement, and physical performance aspect.   This gives our students the skills and experience to connect to their audience, develop expressive and evocative movement, gain control over timing and subtlety, and synchronize their movement with other performers while keeping their unique character.  The high quality and refinement of physical expression while performing the demanding skills of a circus act is the hallmark of a performer at the professional level.

Physical skills classes and coaches

The SANCA pre-professional program is designed to create a strong generalist background in which the students have a working knowledge of Acrobatics, Hand balancing, Aerial, and Performance skills.  Although our students do focus on a single subject to a certain degree, the majority of their training builds their general skills so that they have a solid background of proprioception, balance, body awareness, control strength, active flexibility, and power.  These skills are crucial to the kind of artistic performance presence and freedom of movement needed to produce professional quality acts.

Instructors for the Professional Preparatory Program

P3 Instructors 2016-17
  • Cris Clark (Lead Coach)
  • Keira McDonald (Theater)
  • Ileigh Reynolds (Dance)
  • Eve Diamond (Aerial Lead)
  • Adrian Hillyer (Handbalancing)
  • Megan Becker (Ballet)
  • Tom Hanna (Trampoline)
  • Katie Wagman & Paul Peterson & Tom Hanna (Flying Trapeze)
  • Emma Curtis (Lyra)
Guest Instructors for 2016
  • Nikole Gramm (Aerial)
  • Emily Scherb (Anatomy)
  • Lenna Liu (Mindful nutrition)
  • Carmen Schultz (Massage Techniques)
  • Jasmine Manuel (Tightwire)
  • Nick Harden (Unicycle)
  • Audrey Spinazola (Clowning)
  • Rachel Randall (Dance & German Wheel)
  • Laura Miller (Tap)
Artist Talks 2016
  • Thomas Evans (Cirque du Soleil)
  • Terry Crane (The Acrobatic Conunudrum)
  • Carlo Gentile (La Famiglia Gentile)
  • Lauren Joy Herley (CIRCA)

2015-2016 Coaches
  • Jacob Skeffington (lead coach)
  • Keira McDonald (Theater)
  • Zora Blade (handbalancing)
  • Domitil Aillot (Chinese pole, tumbling, handbalancing)
  • Rachel Randall (Dance lead)
  • Anna Thomas-Henry (Aerial lead)
  • Rachel Nehmer (Aerial)
  • Jeff Tretheway (Tumbling)
  • Clara Scudder-Davis (Flexibility)
  • Lisa Luengo (French)
  • Darren dos Santos (Trampoline)
  • Cyrus Khambatta (Choreography)
  • Ebon Grayman (Flex & Conditioning & Tumbling)
2015-2016 Guest instructors
  • Tanya Brno (Aerial)
  • Jeramie Hardi (Tumbling)
  • Arne Bystrom (Juggling)
  • Marta Brown (Cyr Wheel)
  • Ben Wendel & Rachel Nehmer Duo Madrona (Duo trapeze)
  • Duncan Davenport (Trick Roping)
  • Nick Harden (Teeterboard & partner acro)
  • David Crellin (Theater)
  • Noa Schnitzer (Static trapeze)
  • Bridget Gunning (Aerial)
  • Carey Cramer (Aerial)
  • Chris Johnston (Tumbling)
  • Shanghai Pearl (Burlesque)
  • Mick Holsbeke (Theater/Clowning)
  • Joshua Johnson (Tramp wall)
  • Jeremy St. John (Tramp wall)
  • Camille Swift (Static trapeze)
  • Leah Jones (Aerial)
  • Kaleena Jordan (Stage makeup)
  • Alex Allen (Aerial)
  • Sarah Sparrow (Aerial)
  • Nick Lowery (Chinese Pole)

Our lead coaches and their roles in the program


Cris Clark

cris headshot

Cris is the lead acrobatic coach of the Pre-professional program.  Students work 8 hours a week on acrobatic classes including handstands, tumbling, partner acrobatics, and trampoline.  Acrobatic classes give students a basic understanding of balance and body position, extended strength, impact rebound and landing, proprioception, managing momentum, explosive strength in jumping, height and rotation, and safe bail out procedures from acrobatic skills.  Students learn to consistently balance a handstand, tumble on spring floor and training mat surfaces, familiarity with trampoline skills, and partner acrobatic basic skills.

Cris guides the students through progressive exercises that develop an understanding of the mechanics of acrobatic skills and body awareness, so that students have a better sense for how to correct their timing, force, and position.  Students gain the proper strength and quickness needed to approach skills before they attempt them, so that they can quickly and safely acquire new skills.

Cris studied at the National Circus School in Montreal and has worked on both a large touring show and small circus companies where all jobs are done by the three or five members.  His performance experience includes companies and audiences across the United States, in Europe, and Japan.  Cris has been a circus coach for over 20 years, working with students who were youth, amateur, adult, specialist, advanced skill, professional level, and performing on tour.   A spectrum of experience that now informs training strategies designed to take a student from whatever physical state they start in to professional level strength, flexibility, and technique as quickly as it is safely possible.


Eve Diamond

Eve headshot sqWarrenZelmanPhotography-3 (2)Eve is the lead aerial coach for the pre-professional program.  Students work six hours a week on Trapeze, rope, fabric, and lyra to gain the strength and air awareness to move fluidly and artistically in the air.  For our students who aspire to be aerialists, these classes build a strong foundation of proper form and safe technique.  They build an aerial vocabulary of skills that translate into freedom of expression and a suspended quality of movement.  Our students who are not primarily aerialists develop proficiency in the air, diversifying their strength and ability to perform.

From her performance experience, Eve brings a recognition of the kind of clean form and technical strength that is required of high level aerialists.  Unbending in the quality of effort she demands from our students, she also brings a full arsenal of strength and technique exercises that guide our students to the skills required to achieve the strong visual lines and apparent ease of grace that is the hallmark of professional aerial performance.

Eve attended three years of professional circus training in San Francisco, CA, and trained under one of the best professional aerial coaches in Montreal on cloud swing.  She has worked with companies across the country and internationally as an independent artist in both touring and short-run circus shows, as an ensemble troupe member, and as a featured solo performer.


Ileigh Reynolds

ileigh-square-headshotIleigh teaches modern dance, and choreography with the pre-professional program.  The students have four hours a week of dance, choreography, and movement, including 1hour of ballet, 1.5 hours of modern dance, and 1.5 hours of choreography.  Students learn the basic positions of the dance form and how to move expressively through those basic positions, with rhythm, precision, and musicality.  In choreography, Ileigh coaches the students to create, learn, drill, and perform sequences of dance and movement, as solo, duo, and small ensemble pieces.  With this experience, our students can listen to and deconstruct music, count a song by its time signature, and memorize choreography in an organized rehearsal setting.

Ileigh works well with diverse levels of skill and experience.  Our students come from many training backgrounds, and some who are strong in acrobatics have very little movement experience.  Ileigh gives a thorough technical basis for movement in beginners, designs challenges for our students who come to us with a full course of formal dance training, and integrates everyone’s individual strengths into ensemble pieces.

Ileigh earned a degree in dance from the New World School of the Arts and has worked on stage in Cabarets, stage productions, and aboard cruise ships.  For the past ten years, she has owned and directed a physical theater and performance event company that produces performance events for fairs, festivals, and corporate events.  She brings a tremendous amount real world performance insight and industry knowledge to our students, giving them both a foundation of theatrical movement and a practical set of skills that will improve their ability to work and perform with circus companies over the course of their career.