Master Youth Intensive Program Review

By Julaine Hall

This summer, I had an experience of a lifetime! I went to the San Diego Circus Center (“SDCC”) and I trained for five weeks, 40+ hours a week along with 14 other circus youth from North America. SDCC put on the Master Youth Intensive (“MYI”) program this year with the help of Cirque du Soleil! This opportunity is one I will never forget and I wanted to share it with all the circus youth out there. So… here’s my experience this year!



First off, a little background information. The MYI is a program for youth ages 15-19 with intermediate to advanced circus skill wanting to improve and grow as athletes and artists. SDCC opens its doors to fifteen eager youth from all around North America for 5 weeks and trains us hard!  Week 6 was prepping and performing for the opening show of the Bi-annual AYCO festival hosted there. It’s fun, it’s hard, it’s sweaty, and I wouldn’t change it for a thing. I auditioned by sending in a video application. After I sent in my video, I waited for not very long and they sent me an email confirming my acceptance to the program. 

Next, I had to try and find a place to stay while I trained. I emailed with the program director and he found me a family willing to host me and a few other kids for the summer. We got it squared away for me to stay with them. It was a blast! My house mates consisted of the  host family who’s daughters regularly attend SDCC (one of them was in the intensive with me), their son who is learning tramp-wall, and two other girls – one from Canada and one from the East Coast. It was such fun to share meals, commute together, sing, laugh and have rest days together…. be exhausted together. HAHA! Thanks to my awesome homestay family for opening up their home and being so kind. Thanks to my other roomies for being so friendly and level-headed. 

I feel that by coming to this intensive I opened a lot of doors. I was able to train with coaches from SDCC, recent ENC students and graduates, Cirque du Soleil performers, Cirque du Soleil coaches, and many other knowledgeable guest coaches. All of them had something different and helpful to give to us. Along with fabulous coaching, we got to attend a very informative talk by one of the cirque casting directors. Every day I learned something new. Our leaders, coaches, and role models were fantastic, talented, and very kind people. It was so great to work with other students from all over North America with the same circus goals as me.  As the weeks progressed we all had each others’ backs and we quickly became friends. As I’m writing this, I miss the friends I made there. From training days to rest days it was always a good time. There was never a dull day!  




For our schedule, we had lots going on and something exciting happening all the time. Our days were jam packed! For the first three weeks, we really focused on skill building in apparatuses we knew and some we didn’t. I felt that I gained the most skills in Teeterboard/Korean Plank this summer. I went from just basic knowledge of the apparatus to doing a back tuck return to board out of lines in a show. I also often got placed in the Handstand, Chinese Pole, Rope, Tumbling, Straps, and Trapeze training blocks. As a group, we would have intense sessions of active flex or conditioning usually at the beginning or end of the day. We would always get Sunday off to rest and recover for the next big week. Often, I would spend time with my homestay family or my California-based aunt and uncle on those rest days.  Some Sundays there were group outings to the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park or the beach. For the next two weeks I felt our focus really shifted to preparing the show. We got cast into acts and then created them and ran them through several times. Our director also chose a specific theme we kept in mind while making each act. We also got to work with a stellar clowning coach to make fun group acts and transitions. We had a tech and dress rehearsal then it felt like it came so quick; the grand AYCO fest was upon us! We performed with all of our new-found skills, alongside our now very close friends. I’m certain it is a night than none of us will ever forget! It was magical seeing my and my friends’ hard work culminate into a polished show! 

Now, I bet you’re saying Cirque du Soleil? SDCC? Training in beautiful SoCal? Sign me up! But before you sign up, like any program, you should make sure it’s a good fit for you! Training 6 days a week for hours (M-F, 9-5 and Sat, 10-5) is not for the faint of heart.  It’s a lot of work but well worth it! Anyone willing to put in the work and wanting to devote their summer to bolstering their abilities as circus performers would love this intensive and I would highly recommend it for them. This was a summer I will never forget. I grew and improved in so many ways, met so many amazing people, and had more fun than I could possibly imagine! 




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