Meet the 2017 Hup Squad!

Ashley, 13, from California, loves circus because “It is a way for me to meet new friends. I have met so many friends that I know will always be part of my life in the past two years I have been in circus. Circus is also a way for me to concentrate on something other than schoolwork. It teaches me how to be part of a big group and how to work together, and I really love that.”

Cailey, 15, from Arizona, loves circus because “It is fun! Seriously, I love finding bruises, being sore and overall feeling myself improve. I also love the feeling of getting a hard trick after working on it diligently. Watching people’s reaction and seeing the look on their face when I tell them I fly and am an aerialist, that I am going to join the circus…I enjoy that. I love dancing in the air. I AM circus. I would love to share that and anything I learn about circus with others.”

Allie, 15, from New York, loves circus “For its physical, social, creative and service opportunities. I need physical activity, and there is no better study break than a few silks inverts. I love the friends I have made in circus and the occasional friends I see at AYCO or Bindlestiff events. It’s fun to connect with other circus-kids! Also, I have found circus adults to be really caring and always willing to give me advice on routines I am designing or my life in general. Designing my own silks, lyra, and duo-acro routines has been a learning experience that allows me to express creativity in how I combine moves to the music. And finally, circus has been a great way to give back. I love to give circus to younger kids and see their faces light up when they succeed at their first challenging move!

Mazie Jane, 13, from Colorado, loves circus because “When I joined the Salida Circus, I had no background experience in circus arts. Now, I have performed aerial silks and trapeze in numerous shows and at events all around Colorado. I love the circus because it is now a part of me that I feel was missing for years. I am simply lost without it!”

Zoe, 14, from Oregon, loves circus because “It gives me wings! Performing and training circus is a place I feel very at home. I love the feeling I get from learning new tricks, and being able to peice them together in a form of beautiful art. I feel like circus has very much filled a creative and artistic hole in my life that wasn’t filled before. I also love circus because it makes me feel confident and gives me chances to make new friends and circus family. Circus is the best self help that I could ask for, and every time I go back to it I get the same feeling as the first time.”

Emily, 16, from NJ, loves circus because “There is endless potential in circus and its foundation is in teamwork. If I have an idea for a new hand balancing trick, I can work on it until I get it, and then share it — where others will adapt it. In circus, you are always surrounded by people with unique perspectives, which is conducive to creativity and fun!”

Anna, 16, from New York, loves circus because “It is fun!! I have been unicycling since I was eight and I have been juggling too and I have enjoyed every moment of it. Circus does not require a specific skill level because there are so many things that you can do therefore circus is for everyone!!

The Social Circus Movement: Alive and Kicking!


Image by rafayanwer,

Social circus is rapidly gaining popularity throughout the circus community. Here’s a little info about this wonderful, growing movement!

What is social circus?

Cirque du Soleil and other organizations define social circus as outreach to at-risk kids to build confidence and strengthen emotional health. Some international social circuses include Clowns Without Borders, Cirque du Monde and Zip Zap Circus. These particular programs focus on either traveling to developing areas outside the US or bringing kids from these areas to the US.

Do all social circuses focus on outreach internationally?

No, there are many smaller social circuses throughout the US that serve a local community. They have the same missions of giving kids some tools to succeed in the future via circus, but function on a smaller scale.

What is AYCO’s role in the promotion of social circus?

AYCO recently completed the first phase of a multi-year plan to support the growth of social circus in the US by creating The Social Circus Network. The Network includes members from Circus Harmony of Missouri, CircEsteem of Illinois, Fern Street Circus of California, Trenton Circus Squad of New Jersey, Bindlestiff Family Cirkus of New York, Circus Smirkus of Vermont, My Nose Turns Red of Ohio, Prescott Circus Theatre of California, The Circus Project of Oregon, Wise Fool New Mexico, SANCA of Washington, Phoenix Youth Circus of Arizona, Salida Circus of Colorado, Zip Zap Circus, Circus Up, Circus Mojo, Circo Social Puerto Rico, and the International School of Louisiana Circus Arts Program.

Does social circus refer exclusively to working with at-risk youth?

No, some social circuses focus on working with kids with disabilities and adults, such as Circus Mojo of Kentucky and Circus of Hope. Circus outreach programs can take many forms, and often times larger circus schools have programs for disabled children and adults, as well as programs that send performers to hospitals.

How do I get involved with social circus?

The world of social circus is growing, and there are more recognized social circuses around the US than in past decades. Find a local social circus and try it out. Or, if there is not one near you, start an initiative!

– Emily

The following link is to the list of social circuses recognized by AYCO. Maybe one of them is near you!

If you have more questions, feel free to email AYCO’s social circus coordinator:

Circus in Uncommon Places


Circus Za’atri, at a refugee camp in Syria

Part of what distinguishes circus from conventional sports is its flexibility. The “rules” of circus include respect, courtesy, safety — leaving much room for interpretation. Some modern circus groups are applying these rules in wholly new ways.

Viaceslavas Mickevicius of Lithuania is leading the way, bringing circus to Lukiskes Jail, his country’s highest-security prison. Lukiskes has been criticized for its overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions. Mickevicius’ program offers 700 men incarcerated for serious crimes the opportunity to redirect some of their energy into circus. This past year, the program had its very first show, complete with stilt-walking, unicycling, and an audience of 20 relatives.

The Lithuanian program is not the only one taking circus to unexpected places. The Za’atari refugee camp in northern Jordan is home to Circus Za’atari, which is supported by the Finn Church Aid’s non-formal education program and run by Sirkus Magenta, a Finnish nonprofit. The school was founded in 2013 and has grown since to put on performances and tour local UNICEF schools.

Bringing circus to schools is rising in popularity. Public elementary schools in Japan have introduced unicycles as a recess option. The circus community can attest to the valuable lessons taught via circus — focus, patience, balance, self-awareness, empathy — to name a few. Now, students in Japan have the opportunity to learn these skills right at school. Unicycling is quite safe, as one school nurse explained. She has seen only two unicycle-related injuries in her three years of working at Kyuden Elementary School in Tokyo. The implementation of circus equipment in schools appears promising, perhaps the practice will gain popularity elsewhere.

Unicycling certainly seems to be gathering momentum as a trend. Specifically, mountain unicycling, or muni riding, has attracted attention in recent years. Muni riding began in the 1990s on the West Coast of the US, but has become a global phenomenon. Muni riders are more athletes than performers, since they hold competitions as opposed to showcases. The North American Unicycle Championships and Convention was held in July of 2016 in South Dakota, with England and Australia also hosting similar events.

There is yet another program that is reinventing modern circus: Cirkus Cirkör of Sweden. Cirkör itself is a contemporary circus and it has started a novel project as part of its outreach program. Cirkör created Circus Older de Luxe, which brings circus to assisted living facilities. A typical program includes a short show, a meet-and-greet, and a workshop in seated circus. Some of the homes and facilities the group has visited have created the position of Circus Manager, who plans weekly seated circus activities.

Circus is full of potential and can change lives in many forms. All of these programs take facets of traditional and contemporary circus and apply them to another cause. Modern circus is never finished being defined — something new can always be done.

– Emily
Check out these websites for more information about the circus organizations and programs above!

Circus in Lukiskes Jail:

5 Reasons to Be a Circus Volunteer with AYCO!


At the past ACE Conference in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to be a part of the work-study program (run by the amazing Tara, who also happens to be our Hup Squad coordinator).  Obviously, volunteers are super important in making these excellent circus events happen, but here are five reasons why volunteering at an ACE or AYCO festival may benefit or create a more enjoyable experience for YOU:

1. Free Registration:
If you are on a budget, as many circus people are, applying to the work study program may just be for you.  In exchange for your volunteer work, the costs of your event registration are competely covered!

2. Fellow Volunteers:
All of your fellow volunteers at this event are people in similar situations as you with the same central interest, Circus.  This allows for a tight and powerful bond between fellow volunteers which can lead to long-lasting friendships.

3. Networking Opportunities:
While volunteering at the event, it is inevitable that you will interact with and assist attendees of the event.  Many American Circus Educators members are well-established teachers, directors, performers and producers in the circus community, and because the usual social barrier has been broken down by your role as volunteer at the event, the networking opportunities are endless.

4. Festival Accessibility:
Although you will be volunteering throughout the event, there is still time to attend workshops and participate in the festivities.  Much of the volunteering is done between workshops or at breaks, so there is plenty of time to participate in most of the festival!

 5. All Around Amazing Time:
From first-hand experience, participating in the work-study program is an all-around great time! Do it and you will most definitely not regret it!

– Andrew



International Aerial Dance Festival

The International Aerial Dance Festival (ADF) is held every year in Boulder, Colorado. It is a hub for aerialist around the world. People come in for one or two weeks and get to train with professional aerialists and circus artists from around the world. The festival is hosted by Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, and classes are held both at Frequent Flyers and at the University of Colorado Boulder. The festival started July 31 and ended August 12.

Since ADF is held right in my home town, I have been fortunate to attend for four years now. I love getting to train with such amazing teachers and get to know aerialists from around the world.

This past year, three guest teachers were brought in: Ana Prada, Rain Anya, and Tanya Burka as well as many teachers that work at Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, the host of ADF.At the two-week-long festival, each week you can take up to five classes. Each class meets for an hour and a half every day, sometime between 9am and 7pm. At the end of the each day, there are also special evening workshops.

All of the classes I took were wonderful. The first week I took four classes: Fabric, Invented Apparatus, Lyra, and Low Flying Trapeze. Fabric was taught by Tanya Burka, MIT as well as ENC graduate and performer with Cirque du Soleil. Tanya was a great teacher. She taught us a piece of choreography and had us play with different dynamics. We also played with the movement of the fabric, such as throwing the fabric horizontally while being inverted. My next class of the day was Invented Apparatus, taught by Nancy Smith, the founder of ADF. A lot of the class was improv based. I loved getting to explore apparatus that I hadn’t seen before. It was so interesting to see all the different people’s processes and how they like to explore. Next was Lyra, taught by Ana Prada, a Columbian yoga practitioner and aerial dancer currently working in Costa Rica. The class focused a lot on moving using the breath. We also worked on very twisty movements using both the inside and the outside of the lyra. My last class of the day was Low Flying Trapeze. April Skelton, formerly of Canopy Studio in Athens, GA and now the Education Director at Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance in Boulder, CO, taught multiple phrases that we worked on throughout the week. She had a very different approach to the low flying trapeze than I was used to; she uses the ropes and the fact that the trapeze can form around your body to create new and unique moves.

One of things i learned in Low Flying Trapeze

One of things I learned in the Low Flying Trapeze class

After all the classes at night there were also workshops that included Thai massage and juggling. There were also performances by the teachers over the weekend showing some of their best work. I loved the shows and getting to see how amazing the people I was learning from were.

The next week I took another four classes: Fabric, two Lyra classes, and Pre Contortion. The second week, Ana taught Fabric. Again, she taught a lot about moving from the breath as well as being efficient with movements so you don’t waste energy. I found it really useful to work on this way of moving, especially because when I work on fabric, I tend to hold my breath. Next, the two Lyra classes were taught by Tanya. I had a lot of fun working with a single point lyra, which I don’t usually work on. We did a lot of spinning and bendy moves. I was so inspired by working with the single point lyra that my new solo that I’m creating is on a single point lyra. Finally, my last class of the day was Pre Contortion which Tanya also taught. I loved getting to be bendy and work on my flexibility even more. We also worked a lot on strength so we could be able to support the flexibility.

I had so much fun over the two weeks and learned so many new things. I wish I had gotten to work with more of the teachers, but I loved all the teachers that I got to work with. I also made so many new friends. Over the past couple of years, I have met people who come back every time, and I’ve made friends with them, so much so that it starts feeling like a family reunion.


Here is one of the friends I made last year.



His name is Mangle and he is from New Zealand.



I became friends with the woman who uses him in her circus.

I had such a great time at ADF this year, and I hope more teens decide to come in the future. It is such a great opportunity to work with new teachers and meet new people.

ADF was the highlight of my summer, and I can’t wait until next year.


Traditional vs. Contemporary Circus

When I tell people that I am a circus performer, I field plenty of questions about what exactly I am performing. These questions can get pretty ridiculous, such as, “Do you stick your head in a tiger’s mouth?” (The answer is no, that isn’t the type of circus I’m in.) Other questions can actually be surprisingly thought provoking, for example, “Is it true that traditional circus is from America and contemporary circus is from Canada?” (To be honest, I wasn’t sure about the answer for that one.) I’ve been giving some thought about how to react to questions such as these lately, and I’ve realized that there is really one controversy at the root of them all; What is the difference between traditional and contemporary circus?

To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what the difference between the difference between traditional and contemporary circus is, so I decided to do some research. The first documented circus ever was during 1782, in Paris, France, and was started by a man named Philip Astley. It began with only equestrian stunts, but soon Astley began to work in various other characters, such as clowns, jugglers, and acrobats. This all took place in a circular structure that we would now call a ring. Circus continued to grow popular in Europe, and eventually it came to the United States too. In 1797, a trick rider name John Bill Ricketts started the first circus show in the U.S. Soon, more and more circuses started to pop up around America. However, the early nineteenth century was a time of change in American history. For the first time, the public was starting to migrate westward, out of New England. This left circus performers with a problem. How could they stay in business if their audience was moving west and they weren’t? The answer proved to be surprisingly simple. Instead of performing in permanent buildings, circuses began to use canvas tents for their shows. This new technology was invented by Joshuah Purdy Brown. Around this same time came the popularization of wild animals in circuses. Eventually, with the expansion of the railroad system, circuses were able to travel relatively easily around the country. Main characteristics of traditional circus include performances in rings and tents, animal acts, and a ringmaster.

Contemporary circus is much newer, and a whole lot harder to find information about. The first documentation of contemporary circus is during the seventies. According to many sources, contemporary circus started in France, although it quickly became a worldwide movement. Soon enough, contemporary circus grew equally, if not more, popular than more traditional styles. While contemporary circuses often travel, they most often perform in theaters and on stages instead of rings in tents. In addition, contemporary circus usually have only human performers, and no animal acts. Contemporary circus is much more story and character based than traditional circus. Contemporary circus also likes to incorporate non-traditional circus skills such as various dance styles, musical variety, and a central theme.


Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam (

So although traditional and contemporary circus may have many differences, such as theme, theater, and animals, but the basis is the same. In fact, today many circuses aren’t traditional or contemporary, but a mix of both styles. For example, in my opinion Cirque Du Soleil artfully blends traditional and contemporary styles. Undeniably, circus is a diverse art, which is exactly what makes it wonderful.

Circus on!

~Juniper ✯

Sources for this article include:

REVIEW: Kurios

A few weeks ago, I was able to go see the then-touring production of Cirque Du Soleil’s Kurios. It was my fifth Cirque show and one that I had heard absolutely raving reviews about from all of my friends, so my expectations were set high.
It was immediately apparent to me that it would not be difficult for Kurios to meet and exceed these expectations. I was captivated from the moment I took my seat and watched a clown gag play out in the row in front of me involving three performers handing a fleece sleeping cap, a pillow, and a mobile to an audience member and instructing him to take a nap on his girlfriend’s shoulder.
The show opened with a cradle act, which was masterfully choreographed to the music and had a clear, engaging storyline. As an aerialist, I loved this act because it was one of the most technically perfect performances I’ve ever seen. The flyer’s form was simply impeccable and each skill, from the basic to the ridiculously advanced and complicated, was executed flawlessly.
Some other acts that stood out were the hand balancing and rola bola acts. The hand balancing act, led by acrobat Andrii Bondarenko, was as technically impressive as cradle — Andrii did not wobble once, even in a one arm handstand thirty feet above the stage on a stack of chairs without a safety line — but (without giving anything away) the act also had a clever and entertaining ending that, in typical Cirque fashion, pushed conceptual and physical boundaries with its creativity and ability to surprise an audience who are convinced they know what’s coming.
The rola bola act, in short, was the most nail-bitingly terrifying act I’ve ever watched in any theatrical production. I was on the literal edge of my seat the entire act. With the combination of the level of difficulty of the tricks performed and the exceptional, suspenseful presentation of them by the lead artist in the act, I truly could not believe what I was seeing. Even several weeks removed from seeing the show, I still cannot comprehend how it is possible to balance on five rola bola tubes thirty feet above the stage.
My favorite part by far, though, was the Acronet routine that opened the second act. Essentially an extra bouncy flying trapeze net, Acronet seemed, to put it plainly, like a trampoline artist’s dream come true. The artists, wearing brightly colored fish outfits with fins framing their faces, helped bounce each other up all the way to the cupola of the tent, doing some of the most complicated tricks I’ve ever seen. The act was fast-paced and high-energy, the perfect second act opener.
Overall, Kurios was by far the best Cirque show I’ve seen so far — thanks in part to the creativity, artistry, and amazing skill of the performers in their acts but also to the beautiful bright costumes, diverse and engaging but not overpowering music, and the seamless choreography of group numbers and especially of the transitions between acts (the juggler and yoyo man were phenomenal!). Kurios was, to put it plainly, as close to perfect as you can get in absolutely every aspect.
– Marzi