The AYCO 2017 Festival was an amazing adventure that I think about often. From my first look at the cool old factory that was our campus, to the awesome lunches and performances, the entire festival is full of wonderful memories. And, on top of all of that, the AYCO Festival was a great learning experience that gave me encouragement and confidence in my circus dreams.
On the plane ride home from the festival I realized I had learned a lot of new tricks and drills in just a few short days. I took a notebook with me to the festival, and wrote down every scrap of information I could during each class and lecture. I had started off the week with Handstands 101, so the first page was full of new drills and notes like, “Ribs in!” But, being an aerialist at heart, I had spent a lot of my time in the air learning dynamic trapeze tricks and new combinations on lyra, so I had many pages on that, too. As I flipped through my notebook on the plane, I felt excited about all the new things I had learned, how I could integrate them into my practice, and how I could introduce these new ideas to my troupe back in Portland Oregon.
The AYCO Festival gave me something even more valuable than new tricks, it encouraged me to think about how I might shape my future around circus. I attended a lecture about the various options in circus education and about how I could make my future in circus possible. I learned about the different kinds of circus schools, about how to supplement performing income with teaching income, about how to audition effectively, and I learned that I got to decide how I wanted to do it! That lecture gave me the inspiration and information I needed to start talking with my parents about the how and why of a circus education. Being at the festival I realized there was a community of young people, just like me, who want to be circus artists and don’t think it’s impossible! I firmly believe that without the AYCO Festival I would never have found other youth who have circus dreams like mine, and I would still think that being part of a circus as an adult was impossible.
For me though, the best thing about the AYCO Festival is the new friends I made. They made everything fun! When we were in classes together we trained and created with each other; when we ate meals we talked about the way circus worked in our hometowns; when we watched each others’ performances we clapped as loud as we could for each other; and when we went back to the hotel to “sleep” we spent hours in the pool and chatting in the hallway between our rooms. On the last day of the festival we said goodbye again and again until our coaches had to drag us to our cars. We exchanged information so we could keep in touch, even though we live half a country away from each other. So, thank you to every single person I met for making the AYCO Festival awesome — and that includes every AYCO staff member and volunteer who made it possible! Your hard work and dedication to putting on a great festival made it possible for me to learn new tricks, discover circus around the US, and make new circus friends, all in just a few days! I miss you all, and I miss the AYCO festival. Until 2019 everybody!