Author Archives: staff

SANCAFEST Spotlight: Beth Baker

When it comes to being a top banana in SANCAFEST, SANCA’s new Board Member and longtime student, Beth Baker, sure knows a thing or two! She has been a student since the very early days in the fly tent, and Beth is consistently one of our top SANCAFEST participants, raising $1,000 every year for the youth scholarship fund.

I feel that my success in fundraising is due to persistence. I post on Facebook often, and give my Facebook friends and family interesting tidbits about where and how their donations help at SANCA. I like to send out reminder emails as well. I target those who have donated in previous years, and also try to expand my email list with new possible donors every year. If it is coming down to the wire, a simple giveaway, like a favorite recipe, can help. It can aid in making the decision for those donors on the fence. Lastly, posting fun videos, GIFs, or pictures periodically, with your donation link, show your Facebook community what you do at SANCA and gives them an idea of what they are helping support. Personalization is key!

Beth, do you remember how you first heard about SANCA?

On Living Social actually, back when that was popular. I moved to the Seattle area, from upstate New York, in the summer of 2005 after my husband and I had both graduated college. I didn’t know anyone out here, and most of my new coworkers were much older than I was, so it wasn’t easy to make friends.

Back in high school, I used to dance, do musical theatre, and color guard. I had mentioned to my husband about wanting to get back into a creative activity like that. He came across a two-hour flying trapeze class on Living Social, and thought it might be the perfect fit for me. I brought a friend with me to my first class, but she got too freaked out to try it. She did the warm up but wouldn’t climb up to the platform. I was scared to death the whole time, but pushed myself, thought it was fun, and couldn’t wait to try it again.

It was about six months later when I returned with a different friend, and she loved it as much as I did. We came back together monthly until we got into harder tricks, and then started coming twice a month because we needed more practice.

Eventually, she couldn’t come as often, so I had to step out of my comfort zone enough to say, ‘Ok, I love doing this, I’m just going to come by myself,’ and slowly started meeting people in the tent and making friends with other regular flyers.

Then I began taking classes inside, starting with trampoline class, which I totally hated. After that, I found the aerial program and took classes with Coach Alyssa for static trapeze, and I’ve been doing that for about six years (minus two hiatuses to have my kids).

What is it you like about flying?

Flying Trapeze is really about getting out of your comfort zone, embracing the fear, and challenging yourself. Once you finally get comfortable with a trick or skill, you switch it up to learn something new, and have to go through the whole getting comfortable and confident process all over again. It’s a new experience every single class.

I’ve never been an athletic person. I love the work out and mental and physical challenges of wanting to be better at something. The community we have in the fly tent is really encouraging. We push each other to do our best and to do the things that scare us when it comes to flying.

One of the first circuses I ever went to was Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus, when I was six or seven. It was such a great spectacle to witness. It’s something that you have a hard time wrapping your mind around, where do people go to learn all of these amazing things? It’s so great to see how recreational circus has exploded in the last few years and how more and more people can run away with the circus in their own way. It’s such a cool, unique, and different activity to be a part of. It’s very exhilarating, and it’s very challenging in the best ways.

Now that you are a mom, have you done any baby and me classes?

Beth & her son Jett Baker

When my older son, Jett, turned two I couldn’t wait to start taking him to the baby and me classes. We did that class together for almost a year. Now, he’s graduated to Tot Circus 1 and has been in that class for almost a year. As soon as Bennett, my younger son, turns 2 we’ll start taking the baby and me classes together. I’m so excited to share SANCA and all the circus fun with both my boys.

Jett is also dying to try Flying Trapeze. When he turns four in November, I’ll be taking him to the fly tent for Pay-Per-Flight so he can get started!

What do you hope your sons will get out of taking circus classes?

Right now? Patience and listening. Jett, compared to his younger brother, is my wild child. Bennett is so easy going and chill. With Jett, it’s about harnessing all this exuberant energy he has. It is my hope that directing his enthusiasm into a movement based, creative, and challenging activity will turn into something positive for him as he grows.

It’s great to be able to expose them to classmates and coaches from all different backgrounds and lifestyles. It’s this kind of positive exposure that all our children need to grow up to be kind, respectful, and loving human beings.

I also love that I am able to introduce them to the arts at a young age. As an graphic artist myself, I like giving them the opportunity to try out different creative avenues and find different ways to move their bodies and express themselves.

It is my hope, that they will want to stick with circus as they grow, and that they find their niche and passion in it.

What drew you to want to be on SANCA’s board? Are you on any other boards?

This is the first time I’ve ever been on an executive board, though I’ve been involved with other non-profits, in the past, as an active volunteer. In college, I was also in a co-ed, national honor fraternity where we volunteered with our college, non-profits, and local community.

I love how inclusive SANCA is. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what your background or ability is, there is always something you can do or try. It’s a very creative and social environment, whether you’re a kid or an adult. I also appreciate all of the ebc and outreach programs that work with youth with different abilities. I know so many parents who have kids on the spectrum and are differently abled that could/would benefit from the programs and coaches here.

For me, as a work at home mom, I come to SANCA by myself to have my personal time, away from kids, a few hours a week. It’s my outlet, my relaxing time; I choose to be here and to be involved in any way I can.

So, how does she do it? Check Out Beth’s Recipe for SANCAFEST Success:

  1. If you have participated in SANCAFEST in the past, the best way to begin a new SANCAFEST fundraiser is to reach out with periodic targeted emails to donors who have given before.
    Share ongoing information about the impact of their gift and what it means to you.
  2. Offer to give away something simple. (You could do a recipe like Beth’s example, or even offer to do a trick. Coach Faye last year offered to sing any song of the donor’s choice while upside down and Programs Assistant Veronica has offered to try any apparatus of the donor’s choice).
  3. Make it fun! Share fun GIFs, videos, and pictures. You can even live stream your a-thon events and people can donate directly to your live stream!
  4. Be sure to thank your donors! Giving a public Facebook shoutout not only is a nice thing to do, but it will also give your donors warm, fuzzy feelings so they will be more likely to donate to you and SANCA again in the future.
  5. You can check out Beth’s Facebook fundraising page here.

Thanks, Beth, we’re so happy that you are a part of our circus!

Nick and Rachel Hit the Road

Coaches Nicholas Lowery and Rachel Randall are Duo Straight Up, an energetic, light-hearted Chinese pole duet, and they’re off in their new trailer to perform with a traditional traveling circus!

The last time we checked in was 2015! What has been happening with Duo Straight Up since then?

Nick: That was when our act just started out! We were still doing the original version of our act, with different music, which we performed in Up, with a Twist that year.

Rachel: We performed at two fairs in Hawaii , at “Ciudad de Las Ideas” conference in Mexico, and with the Venardos Circus for the Greater Gulf State Fair in Alabama.

Nick: Yes! We also were Tweedledum and Tweedledee for the Venardos Circus at the LA County Fair, which was an Alice in Wonderland-themed show.

What’s next for you?

Nick: We just got a giant truck and trailer and we’re ready to live the traditional circus life! We’ll be performing with the Zoppé Family Circus.

 Have you been wanting to do full time circus performing for a while? This is your first major traveling show, right?

Rachel: Yeah, we’ve been wanting to perform full time. It’s tricky staying in shape and keeping your act current when you have three weeks of work and then nothing.

How do you feel about living in the trailer for six months?

Nick: I lived in a trailer [which belonged to the show] for six weeks doing the first leg of their tour and it was fine! Honestly, the trailerhas more space than our current room in Seattle and we’re excited to have our own little house on wheels.

Was it hard for you guys to be apart for the six weeks Nick was touring with Zoppe?

Rachel: Yes! I was directing the P3 show at that time so I had a lot going on, and it was hard to not have Nick there.

Nick: Of course. I think it will be much better to travel and perform together this time!

What has changed in your act?

Rachel: It’s sexier!

Nick: And the skills have improved! But older versions of the act were more comic and whimsical and now it feels a little more adult. Still PG-rated! And we’ve had to rework our act a bit to get it to fit with the theme and new music for the show.

What’s the theme of the show?

Nick: It has a traditional Italian circus vibe. All the costumes are period-looking, less modern

Rachel: Think ribbons instead of sparkles

Photo by John Cornicello

How has your act and style changed over time?

Rachel: Initially we wanted to make a playful act (our first idea for a name was “Duo Squirrel”).

Nick: It’s a simple story that we tell with the act. It’s a love story, kind of messing around with each other. There’s always little adjustments to go from one show to the next.

Rachel: But there will still be flirting! I can’t not be flirty on stage. Before it was more silly, almost slapstick. It’s gotten more and more refined, more streamlined, elegant.

Nick: Definitely our skills have gotten better.

Rachel: We have a release move we call the “princess bomb,” and I do a handstand on his head on the pole. We still have the jump-over, where I slide down and Nick jumps over me.

Photo by John Cornicello

You guys performed at Twist this year, how was that? 

Rachel: Twist is always really fun.

Nick: It’s cool to do a show where there’s so many friends in the audience. The Teatro Zinzanni tent is awesome to perform in. I love that show.

What were you doing before performing and coaching was your career? 

Rachel: I was a professional dancer. I’ve always coached circus as my day job. I got a catering job in January this year (that’s my first ‘real’ job).

Nick: I started working at SANCA pretty fresh after getting my bachelors degree in math. My plan was to hang out here for a year and then apply for PhD programs, but then I had so much fun doing circus stuff that I never did that.

Any advice to others who would like to get more involved with performing and possibly who want to follow in your footsteps? 

Nick: Try to have a good idea of what kind of show you want to be a part of. Go see shows, try to get an idea of what kinds of opportunities exist, talk to people who are doing different kinds of shows. When I started I didn’t really have a good idea of what kinds of shows were out there as possibilities.

Rachel: It’s a little bit of a complicated question. Do you want to make a living at it, or do you want to just perform? It’s really hard to break into the full time performing, in any field. Circus does pay better than dance! Even if you do want to perform professionally in the future, you have to go out there and start performing, with the skills that you have today. Don’t think, “I’m not good enough yet, I can only juggle six balls!” You are good enough!

Nick: Yeah, get on stage! Then you learn what works and doesn’t work. You learn a lot from being in front of an audience. When you find a discipline in which you want to perform, it’s then really important to find a coach that you can work well with and trust them. Then be dedicated to practicing.

How do you stay motivated to have such a dedicated training schedule?

Rachel: We have a constitution. The Constitution of the United Forces of Duo Straight Up!

Haha, that is amazing. Can you share anything on it?

1. If you aren’t barfing, you have to train.

2. Don’t be too grumpy in the morning.

(Rachel: I hate training in the morning).

3. Push each other.

4. Stay positive.

Those are some great guidelines!

Bon voyage! Merde! and we’ll see you down the road!


Terry Crane on “The End of Rope”

Terry Crane, the rope expert and Artistic Director of Acrobatic Conundrum , is joining us at SANCA as our Artist in Residence for the end of July. He will prepare for and workshop his new show, which will debut at the San Francisco Aerial Arts Festival in August. For the residency, Terry is creating aerial and floor choreography for a new piece, “The End of the Rope,” which features six rope artists and a live musician.

“The End of the Rope” uses a large pulley with a rope threaded through it, a new apparatus that builds on movement research developed while using the “counterweight loop” featured in previous Conundrum shows — “Love & Gravity,” “The Way Out,” and other collaborations. For those unfamiliar with the counterweight loop, it is made up of 12-strand rope threaded through two large wooden pulleys, with the ends spliced together so it forms a vertical circle. In order to climb one side, the other side needs to be counter-weighted, which makes it an apparatus that is inherently relational; two or more people are needed to operate it. Tickets available here.

The new apparatus operates with similar principles but also a unique property — the rope has two ends.

The “End of The Rope” is a constellation of suspended stories, with the ending of each acrobat’s vignette hinting at the beginning of another. Loftily dancing, speaking from their aeries, and descending to dance, the circus artists of Acrobatic Conundrum share glimpses of their interior selves even as they defy gravity. The world they create is equal parts grace and humor, aerial acrobatics and careful mise en scène [a visual theme; or “telling the story” in a visually artful way]. Spectators are beckoned into the plot to pursue trails left by poets-in-motion, and the fourth wall fades away as audiences and performers share moments of wonder together. Terry is performing with Yuko Hata, Kip Jones, PJ Perry, Sommer Panage, and Xochitl Sosa, with musical accompaniment by Kip Jones.

In describing the aerial ensemble work that Terry creates and choreographs, he shares his perspective on the importance of collaboration and how he imbues this symbolism into his art:

“In the context of the moment, a symbol’s meaning shifts. On stage we’re a microcosm of humanity; a small ocean in a bottle. And in every show, in every moment, we need to be attuned to each other. We need to pay attention and rely on each other.

Terry Crane & Xochitl Sosa on Corde Lisse. Photo by Marc Hoffman.

“I’ve fallen in love with, and been dear friends with, and collaborated with talented artists who have been denied entry to the U.S. As well as being bad for art, a wall designed to exclude hurts the needy and puts one more division in our own hearts. I categorically oppose this symbol.

“It’s vitally important, now more than ever, to share our art, ideas, and stories across cultural, linguistic and national lines. Touring work to other countries means flow of information both ways. We inspire each other. Perspectives broaden, the perception of diversity grows. We discover new ways [for] people to navigate the same questions: of how to get along, create home, [and] build community. Places on maps become places we have lived, people we meet while teaching, [and] audiences who react in unexpected ways. These places become part of our own stories. We cross-pollinate. We see how it’s possible to live otherwise than we do. Long distances shrink and we become closer.

“Much as it might temporarily satisfy our angry, aggrieved selves, there can be no denying we are one thing. One species. Sharing one planet. In my mind, inclusion and exclusion are two answers to the wrong question. Something like, ‘How can I belong?’ They both stem from the illusion of our separateness, from each other, from what’s around us. I think because we are here, belonging is implied.

“I’m dedicated to holding up a mirror to our community, to reflect as accurately as I can the fact of our interconnectivity. I encourage all my fellow U.S. circus artists to do similarly; it’s time to put all that training to some use. Now is a moment for truth. Let’s make some art that means something.”

To read more about Terry’s process of apparatus creation and symbolism, visit the Acrobatic Conundrum blog .

Diavolo Comes to SANCA!

Jones Welsh and Anne-Marie Talmadge, who were formerly co-artistic directors of Diavolo and now help run LA’s physical theatre company Not Man Apart, are offering a workshop in Dynamic Partnering and Kinetic Storytelling: 360°FLOW.

As the name suggests, 360˚ Flow is a practice of having a 360-degree spatial and body awareness, a three-dimensional system that focuses on transitional movement in dance and tumbling. Practicing inversion, balance, shape, and rhythm into a fluid use of the body in space and time result in a level of mastery and control of the force of gravity. Jones and Anne-Marie Talmadge have developed this technique that draws on influences of all styles of dance as well as martial arts and gymnastics to approach dance and tumbling on a visceral and anatomical level, facilitating the body’s natural alignment, coordination, and expression. Movement exercises and combinations focus on expanding movement potential, environmental awareness, and breaking through fear and mental blocks. The class also includes strengthening, flexibility, partnering, and improvisational components traveling in and out of the floor.

This day long workshop will be held Saturday 8/11 and Sunday 8/12 from 12-6pm and is for students ages 16+. There are no pre-requisite skills or experience.

Jones and Anne Marie are on their way to China to be part of the new Cirque Du Soleil show, so this will be your last chance for this workshop for a while!

Diavolo was a finalist on America’s Got Talent last season.

Please contact the office to register for this incredible workshop.

Creating an Inter-Generational Duo: an Interview with Duo Avocado

Interview with Ava Vermilya and Alyssa Hellrung, the performers of “Duo Avocado!*” Duo Avocado will be performing with Vuelta La Luna Variety Circus as a part of Kla Ha Ya Days on July 19th – 22th in Snohomish. Get to know this coach/student duo!

*Pronounced Duo Ah-‘vah-keh-doh, like evocative.

How did you start performing together?

Alyssa: Ava was in the Magnifcent 7 and I was coaching Mag 7, so I’d been working with her there for a while. I’d previously been working with another kid and she left circus for soccer. So, I hadn’t been working with anyone for a while, probably a year at least! So I think it was the summer of…oh god.

Ava: I remember it was the summer I was going into 5th grade. I think it was 2015?

Alyssa: So I approached Ava’s mom Elaine, because I have known her forever, because Ava’s sister, Sylvie was in the Amazing Circus 1-ders at the time, and was like, “Hey! I miss doing duo trapeze with a kid and Ava seems great (and bendy!) and I think it would be really fun!”

Ava: Well, I remember you just came up after practice one day and just said you wanted to talk to me so I thought I was in trouble! Then you asked if I wanted to do duo trapeze with you and I had seen Elly do it and was like, that looks like fun!

Alyssa: Ava didn’t have a ton of aerial experience, so we started from the very beginning, which for me was awesome! Because there were no bad habits, so that was really cool. Also, she didn’t have to adjust to me as a new base because there were no previous bases. Our first performance was SASS 2016. You were so tiny!

Who named it Duo Avocado?

Ava: Kind of both of us. It started as a joke because we couldn’t think of a name and people call me Avacado.

Alyssa: We were stretching in Mag 7 one day and people were naming their favorite fruits and I was like, “You know, avocado is a fruit”.  And Ava was like “WHAT?” Then there’s also this funny Scoobie Doo episode where this guy’s last name is avocado but pronounced “Ah-vah-keh-do”. So the Mag 7’s were like, “Wouldn’t it be funny if you were Duo Avocado?” So then we just started going by that name!

What other performances have you done?

Alyssa: We’ve done a new act at SASS every year since 2016.

So you aren’t re-working the same act, you create a new act for each one?

Alyssa: Yeah.

Ava: And I think SASS was the debut for each of those acts.

Alyssa: And then for SASS 2017 we did a piece called “Little Worrier.” And then Amazon needed a gig for the Amazon Family Picnic in 2017 and so we got to do it and we performed with Ben and Rachel [Duo Madrona] and Tanya Brno and that was AWESOME.

Ava: Yes!

How do you come up with your choreography?

Ava: In between each act we have a month or two where we work on new skills and then from there we make little sequences and figure out how to put them together and come up with transitions.

Alyssa: A lot of times it has to do with the music also, like for “Little Worrier” I had the music and was like, “Let’s make an act with this music,” and then for this one we had some sequences we were working on and the song came in later.

What do you like most about working with each other?

Alyssa: I like how we are a lot alike, like mentally. We both are anxious about stuff. We both like to process things. And we both really like to perform. I never feel bad if I’m like “I don’t know, I think we need a spot.” Which is really nice because sometimes you can work with partners who are like, “Come on! Pony up!” you know? And it’s just been really cool to work with somebody for so long who is still growing. Ava is getting stronger all the time.

Ava: I also love that we can do new tricks now that we’re closer to the same size. If I feel kind of nervous about a trick and want a spot, Alyssa is also the same. Neither of us only want to try a trick with a spot one time.

Alyssa: We are both pretty cautious, which is great. We both step up to things which makes both of us feel safer. I also think it’s funny that we have certain sequences that we have learned along the way that were SO scary when we first learned them and then we’ll learn something harder and then that thing becomes not a big deal anymore. Now every time we have something really hard we know, “Well now we just need something harder!” and then that thing won’t be a big deal anymore.

What is it like working together with the big age difference?

Alyssa: She’s in Cirrus and I don’t teach Cirrus. So that’s cool that I didn’t lose Ava! Sometimes people move up and I don’t get to see them anymore, which makes me sad. But I still get to work with Ava now which is really cool.

Ava: We both have other interests, other things we do outside of SANCA, so we talk about that a lot. Just talk about our lives pretty much!

Alyssa: Totally.

What’s the most challenging trick you have in your act now?

Alyssa: Our opening release sequence.

Ava: I agree. It feels less scary now, but that is definitely the scariest thing. We did have a fall with it.

Alyssa: In a show!

Did you have a mat?

Alyssa: Yeah, and a spotter! But that was back when our technique was not nearly as good as it is now.

Ava: And now that we have it completely down and we haven’t had anything close to a fall, I still sometimes feel like, “Oh no, here’s the scary part!”

Alyssa: Same! It’s weird how sometimes I don’t even think about it and then other times I’m like, “Oh no here it comes!”

What have you learned from working with each other?

Ava: I think just how similar we are. I didn’t know you very well before we started working together.

Alyssa: You hadn’t been in Mags that long.

Ava: Yeah, a year maybe? We’ve come to do so many gigs together that we have just gotten to know each other so much better. Like the Amazon gig I was the only kid. And having someone that I know well makes it less scary. Like I know Ben and Rachel but it’s nice to have [Alyssa] there.

Alyssa: It’s maybe not something that I’ve learned but something that’s been solidified from working with Ava is that if you work with a kid who is emotionally mature and you treat them with respect like a peer, crazy awesome things can happen! Like I’m never yelling at her, we are a team. And that is really key. Even if you’re working inter-generationally, if you are working as a team, super cool stuff can happen, and I think that’s really important.

Ava: Working together we collaborate on what we think looks good and what we think needs to change, and I think it works a lot better because we both get to work together and give our input.

Alyssa: Totally, and I would never get better as a base if you didn’t feel like you couldn’t say how, “Oh that transition is totally not working” or “That felt weird.” We can’t come up with a solution if you didn’t feel like you could say how you felt then we would never get any better. We’ve worked a lot with Ben and Rachel, especially Rachel. She has been invaluable in us improving our skills..

Ava: I feel like I can say if something goes wrong, like, “Um, no I think that was you this time.” I feel comfortable saying that you did something wrong.

Alyssa: For sure.

Does it make you want to perform more?

Ava: Yeah. The whole show [Amazon] there was a story and I also like acting. So we got to improv and Alyssa played my baby sitter.

Alyssa: And Ben and Rachel were your parents!

Ava: I definitely like that type of show better than just going on stage for two minutes and being backstage for the rest of the show.

Alyssa: That “go out on stage do your act and leave” is fun, but it’s really fun to be a part of an ensemble. That’s definitely something I’m looking forward to in the Vuelta show is that it’s going to be with the same people, doing the same show. I don’t know if there’s any acting, we haven’t heard yet, but I like that kind of show.

Anything you can share about this upcoming show?

Alyssa: I’ve never been to it but apparently there is a fair and it’s super family friendly. It is far, but I’m hoping some SANCA families will make the haul, it will be worth it. Gabby Leiva [another SANCA coach] is also performing, doing fabric. Also, one of the people who owns the circus is Deanna Riley who is a student here, she takes hoop here and trapeze from me.

Ava: And that’s how we heard about it too.

Alyssa: And it’s in a tent! That’s cool.


Notes from the Wunderground

SANCA’s Social Circus programs take students and our community on a journey. Fueled by the lionhearted impulse that you can use “circus arts for social change and personal transformation,” this spring, two of our newer Social Circus programs manifested this vision in innovative and new ways for the SANCA community. Let’s take a look at what happened.

We are now in our second year of running the RODA program. In partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Rainier Valley and the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, this work-readiness program uses circus arts as the vehicle to develop important skills for teens to improve their circus vocabulary, AND practice responsibility, accountability, collaboration, and even project management.

In addition to the skills developed during the course of the programs, the culminating project for every session has evolved to have a different format. Our first RODA performance, Beautiful Chaos, started with a standard proscenium-style performance. We quickly began to push the boundaries of performance in our second show, The Breakout, which was designed with elements of immersive performance when students literally broke through a wall to a thrust of space in the center of the audience during the climax of the show. Our third project, Untitled, saw a flash-mob format, where participants spontaneously swarmed areas of the SANCA gym and put on short group acts. This spring, a new impulse guided the fourth and most recent project, “The Goonies’ Carnival.”

The impulse was: How can we move beyond traditional performance to more actively engage the audience in a community-building event?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After many discussions with the participants, the idea of combining performance with a public community celebration was a natural fit. This time, not only were the participants working to put together a performance to demonstrate their new-found circus skills, but we also planned a parade and carnival to take us outside the SANCA building entirely and bring circus into the streets! After the parade to Georgetown Playfield, RODA participants hosted a free community carnival open to the public, complete with DJ music, food, circus, games, and dancing. During the entire event, RODA participants were acting as hosts and true community leaders, generously sharing a good time with any and all who attended.

Speaking of, the entire Boys & Girls Club Teen Program students and staff — more than 30 individuals— shuttled over to SANCA to join us for this major event. It was truly a special moment to have our two communities togethery. This still feels like only the beginning of our partnering potential and we are incredibly lucky to be able to grow our communities together.

This is circus arts for social change!



Now for the personal transformation…


Another new SANCA program is Transformational Women’s Circus (TWC), which marked the expansion into exciting new territory for us by offering Social Circus programming dedicated to adults. The women participants all came to this program because they believed, like Amber Parker, TWC lead coach and designer of the program, that circus arts can be used to help heal and offer pathways to self-revelation.

Over the course of six months, these women came together once a week to combine circus arts with drama and group therapy practices, all culminating in a spectacular performance that followed the structure of the hero(ine)’s journey. Blending narrative with circus arts, the participants designed self-revelatory performances both as solos and in groups that explored themes of pain, transition, strength, loss, love, overcoming challenges, friendship, and many more.

During the talk-back that followed the performance, multiple audience members reported that these deeply personal pieces resonated strongly, moving many to tears and a healing catharsis for not only those performing but the audience as well.

This is circus arts for personal transformation!

This is only the beginning for TWC. RODA continues to evolve as well, but what is striking to me is how tangibly these programs manifest that vision of “circus arts for social change and personal transformation.” These programs are specially designed to at times go deep in the inner landscape and at other times to bust out of the box, to fill the streets, to expand out into the world bringing vibrant vitality and joy.

By simultaneously stretching outwards and inwards, a massive space is opened up for everyone: for children of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to experience the joyous creativity of acrobatics and new circus arts.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What will happen in the years to come?

For more information on SANCA’s Outreach and RODA programs, visit our page here.

For more information on the Transformational Women’s Circus Program, click here. 

Note: Applications for the 2019 cycle of TWC will open this fall, check back in September for more information.

Student Spotlight: Director/Actor and Aerial Student Rachel Delmar

Rachel on the aerial silks.

Rachel Delmar has been a SANCA aerial student since 2011. In additional to learning aerial skills, Rachel runs her own Seattle based company, Playing in Progress, producing opportunities for playwrights, actors, directors, & artists to develop new work. She currently teaches at Youth Theatre Northwest.

How did you get into circus?

I actually started doing it back in, 2011, I think? It was one of those things that I had always wanted to do. I’d seen a show, years before, at the Actor’s Gang in LA. They did “Our Town” with aerial silks. In the scene where the two kids are talking from their bedroom windows, they were on silks. As a director and actor, I had never thought of that, and to see a classic piece mixed with this more modern artistry really opened up my brain to the endless possibilities of mixing mediums.”

After seeing the show, when did you start taking classes?

I came back [to Seattle] in 2011, I started taking the beginning aerial at SANCA. Aerial is my happy place.”

What about aerial makes you happy?

When I moved to New York in 2017, I wasn’t really taking care of myself physically, for a lot of reasons, and aerial became the thing that every week I would go to. And I always see progress in some way, whether it’s not being exhausted after climbing twice in a row, or it’s a little bit easier. The cross back straddle has been my kryptonite, and finally when I was in New York, I started to be able to do it. It’s the fact that when I’m not able to do something, if I’m not strong enough yet or I can’t quite process it yet, I still leave happy. I would be doing this every day if I could.”

“It’s a work out and an artistic outlet for me. And it’s something where there is always a place to get better, there’s always more to learn. For me, the workout has been incredible. I have a strong belief, as I’m sure many women and men do, that we are taught a very specific look of what is beautiful, and I love the idea of being (and only recently, honestly it has been a part of my self-growth) of being strong not skinny. The importance of that, that is something that I want showcased in my art, in my life, and in the way that I teach.”

How has it impacted the way you teach?

I teach theatre, all levels. Right now I’m doing kindergarten through second grade at Theatre Northwest on Mercer Island. In warm ups, I always do strength based things. I believe that acting is a full-bodied exercise. You have to be strong to do it. You have to be strong to do eight shows a week on Broadway. Or to get out of the way if something falls! That’s something that I think is important and a good seed to start planting.”

Do you think it’s informed your own acting?

Watching and doing a different kind of art form always influences you. It influences how I use my body, how I put bodies on stage when I’m directing. The capacity of what can be done expands. Recently I saw “Spongebob the Musical.” I was joking with my friend that [it’s not enough] to be a triple threat anymore; you have to be a thousand threat. There were people acting, singing, dancing, and aerial, on skateboards. The art forms all start to cross over and create a really interesting world and play space for all of us.The importance of that, that is something that I want showcased in my art, in my life, and in the way that I teach.”

You’ve had your own company & produced plays. Are you in the process of starting anything?

Not right now, I’m preparing for grad school so I’m mostly focusing on paying gigs and teaching. I am sharing some of my writing at LOUD MOUTH LIT on May 29th. I’m starting rehearsals for the The 14/48 Projects’ Summer Park Show. It’s a show for kids [adult friendly] that they tour around the PNW every summer. It’s new play always written by a local playwright. This year it’s a play entitled, When You Wish Upon a Pizza written by Amy Escobar. Beyond that… you’ll have to stay tuned… I do hope to get a chance to perform aerial for the first time before I head out to grad school so… hopefully I’ll see you at my happy place soon!”

Thanks for sharing with us Rachel! Maybe we’ll see you in the next SASS show!

Check back for more student features! If you would like to share your story with us, reach out to us here.

Thank You for a Wonderful Day of Giving Big!

Your gift for SANCA’s GiveBIG spring campaign brings incredible momentum to expand access to CIRCUS for ALL. Thank you. In just 24 hours you helped to raise more than $17,600 for community circus arts programs.

Your support can be game-changing for our community circus programs. It helps the Social Circus Outreach program, which partners with local schools and community centers — to reach more schools where 40% or more of students receive a free or reduced-price lunch.

And did you know that SANCA’s Hemiparesis Summer Camp works with youth who have partial body paralysis? Through the course of the week-long camp these kids not only learn new circus skills – they learn new ways to work with their bodies while also developing core strength, balance, and grip strength, all in a fun environment with other kids who have similar challenges that they can relate to. It is your support that makes the Hemiparesis Summer Camp possible!

Kids in SANCA’s Hemiparesis Camp use handstand canes to develop core and grip strength.

Kristie, the mother of one of the camp students, shared her daughter’s experience in the camp:

“I can’t thank you enough for offering this camp. It has been an OUTSTANDING experience for Hannah. Last night, she was crying because she didn’t want it to end! She asked if she could take SANCA classes and do SANCA camp every week next summer. I think it was really important to her to be around a whole group (!) of kids with similar physical challenges. Thank you so very much. You will definitely see us in the future!”

Your support also makes it possible to start new programs like Transformational Women’s Circus. Started by Every Body’s Circus coach Amber Parker, this program uses circus as a means to recover from trauma, anxiety, and depression; just as emerging research is showing the efficacy of the use of body-based therapy programs like TWC.

“I have been diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety and standard mental health treatment hasn’t been very effective

“…SANCA has offered me the only therapy that has truly made a difference. In a matter of weeks, I saw greater improvement than in the years before. TWC has been tough and scary and exhilarating and an absolute miracle in my life. This program means the world to me. Through circus and the support of Amber and TWC, I am experiencing healing that I didn’t think was possible and I am deeply grateful.”

– TWC Student



In addition to these programs, your support makes it possible for more than 800 youth each year to receive tuition scholarships. SANCA has already given $114,591 in youth scholarships to kids who want to take classes during the first five months of 2018. That number will double by the end of the year.

Thank you so much for contributing to support CIRCUS for ALL! We would especially like to thank the SANCA Board of Directors for their inspiring $5,500 Challenge Match, and all our 85 community donors who rose to that challenge and far exceeded it. Thank you!!

Interview with Abigail Munn of Circus Bella!

Starting circus at the age of nine with the Pickle Family Circus, Abigail Munn is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Circus Bella. Recently, Abigail performed several shows at Moisture Festival in Seattle, and coached Giulia, one of the children in La Famiglia Gentile (who were in the spring Artist in Residency at SANCA). I had a chance to chat with Abigail during one of her breaks, and learn a little about her life in the circus.

SANCA: How did you get involved in circus?

Munn: I started when I was nine with the Pickle Family Circus and really I just kept going, studying dance in college [at UC Santa Barbara], I always knew I wanted to come back to circus. I also had a cabaret act and toured with a friend of mine. I always knew I wanted to be a trapeze artist. I remember seeing Wendy [Parkman] on the trapeze, and knowing that I wanted to do that, people also said that I looked like her. Then in high school, I went to the Urban School in San Francisco which also had a circus program.

SANCA: What was it like studying dance in college?

Munn: In college I had the opportunity to do choreography and directing, I always loved putting moving bodies on stage. I still do that at Bella.

SANCA: How did you start your own circus organization?

Munn: It takes a lot of grit and chutzpah! I toured with Zoppe Circus and really wanted to bring a small circus performing company feel back to the Bay Area. My friend David Hunt and I got a gig at a winery and was able to use that bit of money as the seed money to get [Circus Bella] started.

SANCA: You were recently in Seattle for Moisture Festival; do you usually stay in the U.S. or perform internationally?

Munn: I feel a commitment to stay in the United States. A lot of people decide to perform in Europe. For me, I feel the importance of creating art in the United States. We need it desperately. Circus is universal. You can be any age and speak any language but the magic of doing a trick in the ring is something we can all understand. Especially for our circus, the shows are free. It creates this opportunity for neighbors to sit next together at a show, they might not know each other but then they’re laughing together. Circus brings people together.
Also, we just have a really robust company, and it’s expensive to try to pack everyone up for a touring show. There’s so many places to perform in the Bay Area so with the economics of touring, it doesn’t seem viable to do without making it a much smaller show. But we have been able to ravel a little bit. Last summer we went to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival to perform on the National Mall for a week and a half, representing the Bay Area which was very exciting. We also once got to perform in Japan, but the Bay Area is where we’re based.

SANCA: What advice do you have for people who want to get involved in circus or who have been doing circus but haven’t started performing?

Munn: Stick with your heart and don’t try to copy anyone else. What’s wonderful about circus is the individuality of the acts. My best advice? Make an act! It can change over time, but make an act and live with it over time. It can take years to make a really good act, so be in it for the long hall! Make sure it has a beginning, middle, big trick, and end. Make an act!

I see so many youth programs that give them so much time to roll around and experiment but who don’t get out there with a complete act. It’s ok if you’re uncomfortable with performing at first. Especially when I was starting out, performing was uncomfortable. It takes time; you have to have a lot of stage time.

SANCA: What do you think you’ve learned from your years of developing your acts and getting more stage time?

Munn: You have to take your time. It’s all about timing and the power of stillness. The power of stillness is really something you have to learn. And then, knowing the timing and how to work with an audience and play with them; you’re not alone up there! But still focus, when you’re doing that drop, everything has to disappear and you have to focus.

SANCA: Speaking of drops, you have a pretty impressive knee stand to ankle-hang drop (see video above). Care to share how you got that trick down? 

Munn: Learning that skill [from Elena Panova], I started with a belt, and definitely fell a few times. But you learn your points slowly before working up to a faster drop. I squeeze my butt, twist my hips, and flex my feet!

Thank you, Abigail! We can’t wait to see you the next time you’re in town!

If you find yourself in the Bay Area, check out Circus Bella’s calendar so you can catch a show!