The Trenton Circus Squad is a nonprofit organization that works to better the Trenton, New Jersey community via circus. Squad members train at a newly renovated warehouse that was once part of the Roebling Wire Factory. The program is run by Executive Director Zoe Brookes and Program Director Thomas von Oehson, as well as the lead coach Liam Quat and instructors Natasha Shatzkin and Sky Jaffe.
The Trenton Circus Squad itself is a group of teens ages twelve to eighteen from Trenton, Princeton, and surrounding areas who train together, perform, and teach workshops at the Factory. The Squad meets multiple times a week for four hours a day throughout the school year. A typical day begins with a snack and a quick meeting in the ring before the Squad members disperse to lead workshops for the Squad-in-Training. The Squad-in-Training is a group of younger aspiring Squad members who learn skills and perform in a show at the end of the session. After dinner, once the Squad-in-Training workshops have ended, Squad members train disciplines of their choice; German Wheel, acrobatics, clowning, and aerials are among the most popular. Group act creation takes place as the Squad’s end-of-session show approaches.
During the summer, the Squad offers three ten-day community service-oriented projects. The projects are structured so that Squad members train for the first week and work on acts to perform and lead workshops for the public during the second week. Sometimes shows and workshops are open to the public, other times, a specific group will come for the program, i.e. a YMCA camp group or a HomeFront group. For these programs, the Squad puts on a short show followed by rotating workshops, such as aerials, balance (tightwire, Rolla Bolla, rolling globe), acrobatics, prop manipulation, and occasionally break dancing. Sometimes the Squad travels off site to assisted living facilities to do a show and chat with the patrons, or perform for other youth groups.
Although it is young yet, the Trenton Circus Squad has already begun to make an impression in the circus world and in the community. The Social Circus Program of Cirque du Soleil officially partnered with the Trenton Circus Squad this year. The Squad performed at the AYCO National Festival this past year. The Squad is making an impact in Trenton, bringing hundreds of kids through its doors for workshops. Elizabeth Forrey, a member of the Squad, explains that she has “made a lot of new friends that I wouldn’t have met otherwise” through the program. The Squad brings people together through teaching, performing, and learning, which is part of what makes it so rewarding. Elizabeth says that when “you teach a little kid a trick and then they get in on the first try… I always just feel so proud and happy.”
Suffice to say, the Trenton Circus Squad is one to watch.