I’m Terry Crane, and I am a circus artist. I specialize in vertical rope, and I practice a variety of other disciplines that I perform and teach for a living. I’ve performed in Canada, France, Scandinavia and Asia, appeared on National TV in a few countries, and done gigs for the king of Norway and the former prime minister of Thailand. I am presently in Helsinki, Finland, where I’m performing for Tansiteatern Hurjaruuth. I’ll be back in the States sometime next year performing an original collaboration funded by the Canada Arts Counsel entitled “The Sunlight Zone.”
But before all that happened….
I was a scared kid who just wanted to do a back handspring. Then I met Jo Montgomery. I showed up at the gym where she was helping coach an adult gymnastics class. Her eyes lit up when I told her that I’d been accepted at Montreal’s prestigious National Circus School (which accepts a smaller percentage of its applicants than any Ivy League University), despite having very little background in acrobatics. At that class and subsequent ones during the summer, Jo coached me attentively with the basic skills I was afraid I would lack when I arrived in Quebec on the first day of school. I think Jo and I had circus dreams that mutually reinforced each other. I was daring to think I could be a performer, and Jo was daring to believe in circus as a means of teaching empowerment.
After that summer I went on to NCS, while Jo went on to become the founder and Executive Director of the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA).
Throughout my three difficult years at the NCS in Canada, Jo and SANCA’s Program Director Chuck Johnson were critical sources of support for me. I returned to Seattle, my home, each summer and was welcomed to a constantly burgeoning SANCA. Offering me teaching work, free instruction, and training space, and perhaps most importantly encouragement and praise, Jo and Chuck made it possible for me to continue at the school NCS. A vivid contrast from the competitive, institutional sphere of performance in which I found myself increasingly enmeshed in Canada, I always felt the highest values at SANCA were personal validation, positive relationships between people, and being oneself—on or off stage. This is a message that stuck with me, and has kept me coming back.
It’s been three years since I finished at NCS, and as I’ve performed, I’ve travelled widely; yet SANCA stands out as a unique place. It’s hard to believe it’s only 6 years since SANCA opened; it seems like such a fixture in the Seattle circus community, and in my life. The team has expanded, and the student body has exploded in size, but the same values are clearly upheld. SANCA has continued to be an invaluable resource for me as a circus artist, though this is not part of its stated mission. I’ve benefited from the training space, from networking with producers and other artists, and from an environment that fosters creativity.
SANCA for me is a sanctuary, a dojo, a place of possibility and sharing, and a family. When I started down this career path, I was timid, and shyly yearned to brave the spotlight. The steps of this path are difficult and confusing; with all kinds conflicting messages involving unconstructive competition, egocentricity, and misplaced priorities. There have been many times I was ready to give up. But I’ve received at SANCA nonjudgmental support and encouragement to be my own artist. Without the sensitivity and warm vision of circus that Jo and Chuck and those who have rallied to their initiative share, I would not be the artist I am now.