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.
Emily can be contacted at the following numbers and locations:
Pure Motion Physical Therapy
Phone: (206) 316-0457
2130 Westlake Ave N, Suite 2
Seattle, WA 98109
Georgetown Office (inside SANCA)
674 South Orcas Street
Seattle, WA 98108