Author Archives: Maia LeDoux

Thomas Evans

My name is Thomas Evans, I am from Bothell, Washington.

At the age of 16 I found SANCA through the Internet and decided I would give circus a try. At the time SANCA was in a much smaller space than what it is now. I have watched SANCA grow so much since then, and I am so proud of Jo Montgomery and Chuck Johnson and everyone involved for keeping the dream alive.

Coming from a gymnastic and diving background, SANCA took me in with open arms and taught me so many things about the circus world and gave me the opportunity to train in their facility and under their coaching staff.

In 2006, Chuck referred me for a position as an acrobat in a small jump rope troupe to perform cooperate events for Cirque du Soleil. If not for Chuck referring me to this position, I would not be where I am today.

In 2007, I moved to Quebec City to train at The Circus School of Quebec. I would not have been accepted to the school if not for the training and help I received from the staff at SANCA. They helped me so much and supported me in all of my circus endeavors.

I am currently working for Cirque du Soleil in Macau, China, for their resident show at the Venetian called “ZAIA.” If it weren’t for Jo and Chuck’s vision to see circus performers grow and keep this dream alive I know that I, and I’m sure other performers from Seattle, would not be where we are today. I am truly thankful for so much that SANCA provides to the community.

Coming into SANCA is such a breathe of fresh air. I love to see them outreach to so many parts of the community. It really touches my heart to see the work that SANCA does and the ongoing dedication to providing opportunities circus arts to people of all ages.

SANCA provides a worry-free, fun environment for students to come and enjoy exercise in a fun and interesting way. Whether just for fun and exercise, or for professional training, I know that SANCA is the place to be for everyone interested in circus. I can truly say that I would certainly not be where I am now if it was not for SANCA. They have changed my life in so many ways and given me a way to express and perform my art form. SANCA will take anyone regardless of size, age, or social class, as long as you have the willingness to try something new.

Thomas 3I want to thank Jo and Chuck and all the staff at SANCA for giving me such a beautiful experience during my teen years. Looking back now I can fully appreciate everything I was given and how lucky I was to find an environment where I could train with other people who also loved circus in such a carefree, loving, and accepting space. I want to wish SANCA all the best in the future years and congratulations on opening the new flying trapeze program. This is a huge accomplishment for SANCA and all my admiration goes to everyone that was involved in putting it together. Thank you so much, you will always be in my heart.

Terry Crane

Hey all,
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.

Feast of the Senseless

Cirrus Circus: Feast of the Senseless
Fall 2010.
The tale begins with the opening of a restaurant. L’assiette Vide has all the elements necessary for a fine dining establishment – great location, excellent ambience, highly skilled staff, a fancy French name. Only one thing seems to be missing: the chef! How long can the maitre d’ and wait staff keep the patrons entertained in the absence of a delectable meal?

Performed in the SANCA Theatre

KCRQ – Alternative Frequency (SANCA Staff Show)

The staff of the SCHOOL OF ACROBATICS & NEW CIRCUS ARTS (SANCA) cordially invites you to join us for the annual staff show, KCRQ — Alternative Frequency.

SANCA boasts an immensely talented staff of circus and performing artists, several of whom are local or international performers. Each year, for one weekend only, they devise a unique new show. This year, CiRQus hits the airwaves like you’ve never heard it before with the debut of the limited-run show: KCRQ — Alternative Frequency.

A boy with a wildly active imagination listens to the radio and gets entangled in vivid dreams of what he hears. As he spins the dial, sampling genres from Funk to Country to Big Band, his creative fancies take form, spinning, dancing, and somersaulting into reality. Via the medium of radio that leaves so much to the imagination, an ordinary evening of audio entertainment transforms into a whimsical journey through time, space, and impossibility.

KCRQ — Alternative Frequency will feature debut performances by Carey Cramer (corde lisse aerialist), Ben Weston (acrobatics and dance), and Terry Crane (Circus Syzygy, The Sunlight Zone, Circus Flora, Hurjaruuth Dance Theater) with a brand new Cyr Wheel performance.

Additional featured performers include Kari Podgorski (cloudswing — Circus Contraption, Seattle Opera’s Pagliacci, Teatro ZinZanni), Jon McClintock (aerial chains — The Cabiri, AerLift, Moisture Festival), Alyssa Hellrung (trapeze — Circus of Dreams, AerLift, Moisture Festival), Nickolai Pirak and the Russian Bar Hoppers.

The show will also feature High-Rise Ensemble Acrobatics choreographed by Rachel Randall (R and All Dance Company), live music and arrangements by Nicholas Lowery, and cameos by Carl Bystrom and Tara Jensen.

Artistic coordinator: Terry Crane (Ecole nationale de cirque graduate & cofounder of Circus Syzygy).
Producer: Darren Dos Santos (Cirque du Soleil’s KA and ZAiA)

Just Add Water

This June seven young professional circus artists converge in Seattle for a month-long collaborative project at the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA) in Georgetown.  For three weeks, the individual artists will commingle their diverse talents, tastes and ideas to create an original contemporary circus production, Just Add Water.

Drawing from their personal experiences as traveling artists, the performers will not only showcase their jaw-dropping acrobatic skill but also illuminate the lesser-seen human side of their chosen metier: the instant connections formed backstage, the elaborate pre-show rituals, the comedic lost-in-translation moments of cultures coming together, the tough goodbyes and the touching reunions.

SASS! — The SANCA Annual Spring Showcase

The SCHOOL OF ACROBATICS & NEW CIRCUS ARTS (SANCA) cordially invites you to join us for SASS! — The SANCA Annual Spring Showcase.

Three shows only!
May 22 & 23, 2010
2 p.m. Saturday, May 22nd
7 p.m. Saturday, May 22nd
2 p.m. Sunday, May 23rd

Every year SANCA presents a showcase of unique, circus-variety shows featuring students, alumni, staff, and friends of SANCA. For one weekend only in May, we will hold three shows, each featuring a different line up of spectacular local and internationally renowned circus performers alongside SANCA’s tremendously talented student performers including:

–Young Artists Aged 5-17 from: SANCA’s Youth Performance Company , The Magnificent 7, and The Amazing Circus 1-ders
–Dr. Calamari and Acrophelia (Circus Contraption, The Moisture Festival)
–Kari Podgorski (Circus Contraption, Seattle Opera’s Pagliacci, Teatro ZinZanni)
–Terry Crane (Circus Starlight, The Sunlight Zone, Circus Flora, Hurjaruuth Dance Theater)
–Mick Holsbeke (Festival Juste Pour Rire, Palazzo Colombino, winner of the prestigious Prix du CIRQUE ELOIZE and Prix TELMONDIS at 31st Festival Mondial du Cirque De Demain)
–Duo Madrona (Circus Flora, Banana Moon Circus, Teatro ZinZanni)
–Bernard Hazens (Roncalli’s Bajazzo and Panem et Circenses, Circus Dorolla, Teatro ZinZanni)

Show Artist Breakdown:
Saturday 2pm
Youth Company
Magnificent 7
Zora Blade
Vivian Tam
Orville Zharoff and Kelly Howard
The Amazing Circus I-ders
Nicholas Lowery
Jasmine Manuel

Saturday 7pm
Russian Bar Hoppers
Alyssa Hellrung
Dr. Calamari & Acrophelia
Kari Podgorski
Duo Madrona
Youth Company
Terry Crane
Alexandra Daves

Sunday 2pm
Mick Holsbeke
Nickolai Pirak
Orville Zharoff & Kelly Howard
Youth Company
Victor Nguyen
Magnificent 7
The Amazing Circus I-ders
The Missing Wheel Unicyclists

Learn trapeze, trampoline and more at circus academy

Originally published May 19, 2010 at 4:17 PM | Page modified May 19, 2010 at 8:05 PM

Seattle‘s School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts, SANCA, offers classes in aerial, tumbling, hoop, juggling, trampoline and more. The first Friday of every month is Casual Flyday, where each swing on the flying trapeze is only $5. This weekend, the school is producing a spring showcase for the public.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Demonstration show

SASS: SANCA’s Annual Spring Showcase

2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts, 674 S. Orcas St., Seattle; $19 for adults, $12 for ages 12 and younger (206-652.4433 or

If You Go

Circus arts school

Where: 674 S. Orcas St., Seattle


Enroll by June 22 for the next 12-week session of classes, starting June 27. Five-day summer camps starting June 28 for ages 6 and up. Half-day camp $190; full-day camp $360

Try it out

“Casual Flyday” is the first Friday of each month (next event: June 4). From 6 to 7:30 p.m., try the trapeze for $5 per swing. Ages 13 and older, on a first-come, first-served basis.


$35 annual registration fee, family cap of $100; classes run from $138 to $312, from 45 minutes to 115 minutes.

More info on SANCA

For a directory of classes and programs, see

More on Terry Crane


Hidden in Georgetown’s gritty factory terrain is a big top, of sorts.

A warehouse contains a world of colorful tutus, leotards and tights. Multiple trapezes hang from the ceiling, along with ropes, hoops and fabric. Mats, trampolines and tightropes hug the floor. Unicycles and balls line the walls. And as juggling clubs pass through the air, legs and arms swing by.

This is a place where anyone, of any age, can become a star. A circus star. “We’ll take everyone,” said Jo Montgomery, executive director of Seattle‘s School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA), one of the few circus schools of its size in the country. “There is never a kid turned away.”

To give the public a glimpse of the action, the school is presenting a special showcase this weekend, called “SASS” (for “SANCA’s Annual Spring Showcase”).

SANCA’s offerings include aerial training, tumbling, jumping and spinning with hoops, juggling, trampoline skills, a circus band, and clown classes for all ages. For the little ones, there’s even a room with miniature versions of everything, such as a tightrope only one foot off the ground and a tiny trapeze, too. There are “Baby & Me” classes so tots can get used to being in a group, as well as summer camp for teens. And, the first Friday of every month from 6-7:30 p.m. is Casual Flyday, when anybody can try out the flying trapeze for $5 a swing.

Mesmerized by tricks

Montgomery, a pediatric nurse at Seattle Children’s hospital, started the school with Chuck Johnson six years ago. She’d taken a gymnastics class taught by Johnson for fun, and was mesmerized by the circus tricks her classmates were doing. The two started with five students and now head up a total of 706, from the ages of 3 to 67, including underprivileged and special needs students. As a nonprofit, the school gave out $45,000 in scholarships last year.

“Together, we figure out what they can do,” said Montgomery, who works with the students on their strengths.

There’s a staff of 27 teachers, who also take classes in their free time. They participate in the school’s performance troupes, made up of elementary ages to professional levels.

“I love the moment where someone comes in and says they can’t do something,” said Johnson, SANCA program director, who helped found Portland’s Cascade Youth Circus. “So I break it down to small pieces … and a huge switch turns on. They do something that they thought they couldn’t and now there are less things they cannot do.”

That’s how the trapeze was broken down for Gwen Gutow, 39, a stay-at-home mom who lives near Seattle‘s Madison Valley when she’s not in circus school. At 25 feet above ground, the trapeze was intimidating at first.

Wearing a pink T-shirt and black yoga pants, she climbed, rung by rung, up two wobbly silver hardware-store ladders tied together. Then she rose onto a skinny platform, holding on tightly, as she slapped on chalk so her sweaty palms could grip the bar.

The bar was surprisingly comforting, heavy and stable. With ten toes over the platform, it was a long way down to the string net, but when “Ready” was announced, she had to let go and leap into the air.

She recalls being told: “Turn off your brain … Hang there first and swing. Then hang by your legs to dismount and do flips.”

“These directions work. It’s amazing. You’ll feel a lot of adrenaline. … Start off small and week to week, it’s amazing seeing how much strength you’ll gain.”

Her husband, Brian Crawford, a 40-year-old software architect at Microsoft, and their two children have taken SANCA classes for years, first together in the “family circus” all-ages class, and now separately after the kids “dumped” their parents for their own classes. Corinne, 8, takes the circus class, where she gets to dabble in everything, while Cameron, 11, specializes in trampoline. His favorite: tuck jumps.

On the trampoline, Cameron jumps high, smiling ear to ear. Recently, he was brave enough to try trapeze as well. The sensation is like “flying,” he says.

“The routines help me with memory,” said Cameron. “They help me remember what comes after another, which helps me with math at school. I have to do math timings, sheets with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. … It also helps me to relax.”

The parents first met in college, at Tacoma’s Pacific Lutheran University. He convinced her to hang out with him while juggling outside, and she missed classes to be with him. SANCA became a way to share with their children that flair for the fun side of life.

“It’s exciting to work side by side with the kids,” said Gutow. “I like them seeing that adults have to try, too.”

At SANCA, the Crawfords also practice side by side with professionals, sometimes from Teatro ZinZanni.

“We’re in the same space, they work out their act,” said Gutow. “It’s inspiring to see.”

A circus pro

One of these professionals is Seattle-based Terry Crane, who has performed from Helsinki to Beijing. He specializes in vertical rope acrobatics; he loves climbing to the top, winding his body around the rope, then spiraling down in a beautiful, fluid motion.

It all started with climbing trees as a kid, basically doing things that “scared his mom.” He attended Oberlin College and studied improvisational dance, but when he got into the prestigious National Circus School of Montreal, across the street from the famed Cirque du Soleil, SANCA provided him the support to survive the often cutthroat nature of circus.

“The world of circus is really competitive,” said Crane. “It’s about money, it’s about being the best, about being in festivals and winning the prize.”

In the face of that cutthroat environment, he said, “I felt defeated, but Jo and Chuck told me to hang in there and I saw the joy it would give kids.”

Crane started off teaching summer camp at SANCA. And from June 17 to 20, he kicks off his own show at SANCA with other acrobats from Montreal, France and Italy.

SANCA “is my home base,” said Crane. “It’s the place we come together and become family. I enjoy that exchange and I love seeing the kids slack-jawed.”

Craving the spotlight

Anna Partridge was one of those wide-eyed kids.

She started taking classes when the school first opened six years ago, when Montgomery, in her role as pediatric nurse, suggested it as a way to keep active.

“I’m always here — Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, five days a week,” said Partridge, 16. “My best friends are definitely from here.”

Once shy, Partridge now craves the spotlight. She loves audience members coming up to her afterward and saying how happy her act made them feel. Her teachers say she has a bright future in circus performing, and is well balanced across all the disciplines, though juggling is her favorite.

“I love to make the audience happy,” said the Mercer Island High School sophomore. “Everyone here wants you to succeed. … As long as you have fun, it doesn’t matter. You meet new people, learn new things, and then go home and show your new skills off.”

Marian Liu: 206-464-3825 or

2009 SANCA Annual Spring Showcase (SASS)

Two unique, circus-variety shows featuring the spectacular SANCA Youth Company, the amazing Circus 1-ders, incredible SANCA instructors and fabulous friends of the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts.

*Amazing Circus 1-ders!
*Youth Company Member Lyla
*Crystal Dawn
*Rachel Randall
*Youth Company Member Zora
*The Amazing Arne
*Tightwire Darlings
*Arne and Zora

*Youth Company Member Magnus
*Jonathan Rose
*The Missing Wheel Unicyclists
*Manny the Magnificent
*Acrobat Antics
*Dr. Calamari & Acrophilia
*Vivian Tam
*Youth Company Member Caitlin

Grab a front rug seat at Moisture Festival


Published 10:00 pm, Thursday, March 12, 2009

  • Sally Pepper is one of several aerialists performing at this year’s Moisture Festival. Most of the performances are family-friendly, but there is a series of late-night burlesque shows for the 21-and-older crowd. The festival’s producer said there is a live band at each performance. Photo: Michelle Bates
    Sally Pepper is one of several aerialists performing at this year’s Moisture Festival. Most of the performances are family-friendly, but there is a series of late-night burlesque shows for the 21-and-older crowd. The festival’s producer said there is a live band at each performance. Photo: Michelle Bates

It’s these dark days at the end of winter that have people crying out for something fun to do, and the sixth annual Moisture Festival delivers.

Combining traditional European vaudeville and variety acts such as aerial artists, jugglers, dancers, comedians and can-can girls, the Moisture Festival is a monthlong celebration of physical arts taking place at three different venues: ACT Theatre (700 Union St.), Hale’s Palladium (4301 Leary Way N.W.) and the SIFF Cinema (McCaw Hall, Seattle Center).

Most shows are family-friendly, but the festival does have a series of late-night burlesque shows for ages 21 and older. The family-friendly shows feature a variety of performers, such as bubble magicians, jugglers, comedians, musicians and others not so easily categorized.

“It’s a return of live, variety entertainment that builds on old traditions but is updated for current times,” festival producer Tim Furst said. “There is a mix of 10 different acts and a live band at every show and each show is different, so people can keep coming back and they’ll see something new and different every time. This is their only chance to see some of the world’s best performers in one place.”

Furst is no stranger to vaudeville, having been one of the original members of the Flying Karamazov Brothers. He is retired from full-time performing with the group, but occasionally fills in and will perform as Fyodor Karamazov at the Moisture Festival. Fellow former Karamazov performer Sam Williams, known as Smerdyakov Karamazov, also will perform and emcee at the festival.

When asked how to explain the Moisture Festival concept to a first-timer, Furst says it’s similar to Teatro Zinzanni — minus the dinner theater and high prices. Moisture Festival tickets range from $7.50 for children to $25 for adults, making it an affordable indulgence for a family.

Children and their parents can sit up front on a rug instead of in chairs, and some acts encourage audience participation.

“It’s great for kids just to have the experience of seeing live performance, and to experience a performance surrounded by hundreds of other people experiencing the same thing,” Furst said. “It’s sort of the antidote to television.”

The March 21 matinee is a collaboration with the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts, which is providing all of the performers for that show.

Terri Sullivan, a former circus arts performer and now a part-time instructor at SANCA, says the school has 600 students of all ages, from age 2 to 60-something.

“We wouldn’t turn away anyone who was older, we’d just make sure they didn’t get hurt,” Sullivan said. “But the bulk of our students are in the 7 to 10 age range.”

The idea behind the school is to provide a noncompetitive atmosphere in which people can try new things — and the school doesn’t let finances get in the way. Last year, SANCA provided $35,000 in scholarships to students.

“It’s great fun, first of all, and anything that’s physical and fun builds self esteem and just joy,” she said. “Some kids are great at competition, but others are not and they won’t really blossom.”

Sullivan says circus arts are perfect for all ages and interests because there’s such a wide range of skills. You can do acrobatics, juggle or be a clown, or walk a tightrope or a rolling globe.

The March 21 performance will feature instructors and students from SANCA, including its Youth Performance Company (ages 8 to 18) and the Amazing Circus Wonders (ages 5 to 8).

“They are super, super cute and fun,” Sullivan said of the littlest ones.

“The kids who are at their shows go, ‘They’re the same age as me. I could do that!’ So that’s very inspiring for them, seeing someone who’s just like them.”