Hey, Hup Squad – What was your favorite circus related moment or experience of this year?

In our final post of the year, we’ve asked the entire Hup Squad to come together to tell us their favorite moments of this year!

Interested in being on AYCO’s Hup Squad? Applications for our 2021 Squad are open now until January 1, 2021. Click here to learn more and apply! Questions? Email claire@americanyouthcircus.org

Calista Faragalli: Looking back on 2020 I was very lucky because I was able to still have some training, even though it was limited. I have two favorite memories. The first is attending Joffrey Cirque Arts in Las Vegas. They were able to manage a performance where parents were screened, escorted to a seat six feet from the next seat, and everyone wore masks. However, it was my only performance of the whole year! I learned my first routine on the straps and I was introduced to the teeterboard by the Cirque artists.

My second memory will be of all of the amazing circus companies that opened up online classes. I was able to take classes from The Circus Project in Portland, OR and Cirque LA. I was even able to get my sister to take a class and now she is learning to juggle! (I’m so proud of her). These are experiences I would not have had if this was a normal year. It also taught me to try and find opportunities and make the best of things. As my state is now in our second “lockdown,” I am busy trying to see what other classes I can pop into online. Although I benefit from the classes, supporting current artists is very important as someday I hope to be working as an artist, too!

Calista Faragalli

Carleigh Saberton: 2020 was not a very eventful year in my circus world but the small things that did happen were awesome! Everything was shut down for a little while and I was dying to get back to doing circus in person and, finally, I got to attend the advanced summer camp at my circus! I learned so many awesome things with my circus friends for 2 weeks and we had so much fun doing hoop tosses outside and unicycling in the rain and then we ended it with an amazing virtual performance. Having everything virtual is very new but so far, it’s worked out pretty well! There are some things that don’t work very well online so I was really excited to get back into german wheel at MNTR and start taking aerial classes at Elevated Aerials! I can’t wait to continue making circus memories both big and small.

Carleigh Saberton

Emily Fulton: I spent this year like I’m sure many of you did: Zoom training and, eventually, outdoor classes. Masks and sanitizer were the new norm at my studio. I should probably mention that my studio was either the top of a hill or a sheep field (plentifully covered in manure and fully equipped with electric fencing) depending on the day. I certainly had my fair share of pandemic circus trials and tribulations, but I also had a host of meaningful experiences that I probably never would have had the opportunity to experience had there been no pandemic. 

One of those experiences happened when I was practicing my newly minted (outdoor) slackwire skills. So, it was a windy, cold day, and my feet were freezing on the steel wire. I was pretty new to slackwire, so I was constantly falling and I was making mistakes all of the time. Anyway, I was practicing when a car pulled up, with a maybe five-year-old little girl inside. The car stopped and the girl excitedly yelled “hi” to me, and I waved to her. Then, I did the only slackwire tricks that I knew: stand up on the wire, stay on for maybe five seconds, lose my balance and fall down. But, the little girl, she was so excited! She started enthusiastically yelling something like, “Daddy, look, that’s the really hard trick,” and, “Wow, nice job, that’s amazing!”  It was obvious that she was thoroughly enjoying my beginner tricks, and my heart was warmed by her happiness. After maybe five minutes, we yelled goodbye, and the car pulled away. I think that was when I truly realized that the whole point of circus and performance is to make people happy, to fill their hearts with joy, even if only for a few minutes. Through circus you can make connections with strangers, you can bring happiness even during a pandemic. Thank you to circus coaches everywhere for all of the great COVID adapted training, it has sustained the bodies of many young performers during these…weird…times.  2020 definitely hasn’t been easy for the performance community, but circus still brings us together!

Emily Fulton

 Julaine Hall: This year has been FuNkY to say the least, but amidst all the inconveniences the year threw at me, I was still able to train and have circus in my life. My parents installed a Chinese Pole and aerial rig for me in the backyard (I am so incredibly lucky!), I got to be a part of the San Diego Circus Center’s Annual MYI program through virtual connections, I got to train a lot with a friend and major inspiration of mine, Terry Crane, and continued to keep all the skills I could as well as learn new ones. Throughout all this, I have learned the value of having a community to train with, that pushing yourself when alone is a different type of grit, and that quality over quantity is key to improving. Even though we are cooped up, that doesn’t mean we can’t collaborate! I was able to participate in a “rope relay” which will be featured in Acrobatic Conundrum’s online show this winter and premiers on December 26th at 7pm and will be available until midnight on New Year’s day.  Here’s the link if you would like to get tickets!

Julaine Hall

Lacy Gragg: This year has been full of ups and downs, and sometimes it’s hard to look on the bright side. Circus for me has changed drastically. I went from seeing my friends and circus family almost every day to barely talking to people outside of my family, that made me feel very alone. But circus has given me the ability to set concrete goals and commitments, and something to work on and look forward to. It created a different kind of outlet than it was before the pandemic. This year I performed in a show called The Balancing Act where I created a solo unicycle act. This was quite a daunting task for me. I have never done an act on my own before and, at first, I felt very lost; I wasn’t sure what I wanted my act to look like. Eventually I decided it should reflect my feelings toward the pandemic. Most of the act I rode around in a small figure eight occasionally stopping in the middle to do tricks. I am a very social person and quarantining away from people has been really hard for me. I feel almost as though I am wandering around in circles. I look forward to circus going back to something similar to what it was before but I think that everyone learned something valuable this year, and as a community we have learned to adapt and change.

Lacy Gragg

Mags Farrell: 2020 has been a crazy year, and with it came some crazy experiences. In this past fall, I got to perform in Wise Fool NM’s first ever virtual show, CircAspire: Press Play! 2020 has been a rocky year, to say the least. In light of the recent pandemic, most extra curricular activities were (and some still are) canceled, including Circus. Our biannual show, CircAspire, was set to be performed live at the end of April. But due to quarantine, we did the show in November! In the show, I performed various skills. And let me tell you, the process wasn’t easy by any means. Constructing acts, ideas, and scenes exclusively through a few zoom calls a month was challenging. But to no surprise, our amazing cast and crew pulled through to get the job done! By doing it virtually instead of canceling it all together, it was a great opportunity to flip a negative situation into a positive, and I’m glad I was a part of it!

Mags Farrell

Maia Castro-Santos: 2020 was undoubtedly a year of new challenges, but it was also a year of new solutions. As studios shut down and limited their students, I realized that I would not be able to train as frequently as I had in the past. One of the most inspiring parts of this year for me was watching my friends and family adapt to constantly changing circumstances, and I tried my best to do the same. Even though we were physically separate, my circus community stayed close to me through the isolating months of social distancing. Although it was difficult, I was able to find new places outdoors to practice and perform. My audience became a video camera. Applause became comments, views, and likes. The parking garage, the cemetery, and the rooftop became my stage. I look forward to the day when stages and circus rings will open again, but in the meantime, it’s comforting to know that even a pandemic won’t stop us from creating the art that we love. 

Maia Castro-Santos

Mira Gurock: This year has been absolutely bananas for my circus community. Realizing the privilege of aspects of circus that I thought to be given has been eye-opening. Being able to perform with a crowd of more than 15 people (or performing at all!), going to practice without worrying about leaving a mask at home, watching a demonstration rather than listening to my coaches explain the instructions for a sequence, etc. The list goes on. This year has presented numerous unforeseen challenges for my circus community. Having to switch to online lessons without the use of rigging was a tough transition and one that felt fruitless for a long time. However, I am endlessly grateful for the time, energy, and hard work that my coaches and staff have put in to keep us moving, safe, and passionate. I was even able to perform in a small fundraiser in early November. I will forever feel thankful for the little things I took for granted because of my experiences this year and am wishing a huge thank you to all my community members that made this year of circus-ing possible. 

Mira Gurock at a fundraising event in November

Rachel Ostrow: This year was certainly unexpected and challenging, but luckily it has still been circus-filled. My favorite moment this year has been producing a virtual winter fundraiser for the San Francisco Circus Center. I have been able to work with such a wide variety of people thus far (from youth circus members/professional circus performers who are alumni of our very program to amazing other circus artists willing to participate). It has been so fun to explore these different avenues of circus and take on such an amazing role in my community.

Rachel Ostrow

Tessa Wallington: To say this year has been different for everyone, would be a wild understatement. Like the rest of the world, Covid-19 has affected everyone in the circus community in some way or another. I have been extremely lucky during this time and able to continue my training at both my studios — in a safe and socially distanced manner. Both Le PeTiT CiRqUe and Trapeze Las Vegas have offered me an escape during this challenging time. In fact, I have found two of my new favorite specialties! My studio in Las Vegas moved their space to an outside circus lot this year, and through this change, I have been able to train new things I never would have been able to try if we were still inside. I have trained an act on both the Wheel of Death and the flying trapeze. My favorite moment from this year would definitely be achieving my double on the flying trapeze. I worked so hard to reach my goals in flying trapeze, and although I have such a long way to go, I am seeing amazing progress and look forward to continuing my flying trapeze career along my circus journey.

Tessa Wallington

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