Features

AYCO Board Member Interview: Anne Boock Miller

Interview by Carleigh Saberton

Photo Credit: Jenna Guzman, Lowery Photography

How did you get into circus?

I got into circus as a modern dancer, vertical dance became an extension of the ground based performing I had been doing at the time.

Are you an active circus artist yourself?

I am the owner of a circus studio, and I also coach and perform. 

What are some of your favorite skills to do and what skills do you like to watch others do?

I love spinning, and working on keeping an even spin while on an apparatus. I enjoy watching anything where the performer looks like they are really enjoying themselves, and doing it for the joy of it.

If you could learn any new circus skill what would it be and why?

I have had several individuals work very hard on teaching me to juggle. I still struggle to juggle with 3 balls. I’m going to keep working on it!

What inspired you to get involved with AYCO?

I wanted to be more actively involved in the broader community, outside my local area.

What are your roles and responsibilities being a board member?

I don’t have a specific position that I hold on the board, currently. I am the board member who sits on the Health and Wellness and the Safety committees. 

What kinds of things do you like to do outside of circus? 

I enjoy spending time with my kids and my partner. We like to hike, watch anime, and visit new places together. 

Are there any circus artists or people in your life you find inspiring? 

Jesse Alford, the former president of the board, always serves as a great inspiration for me.

The First-Ever Circus International Film Fest

Emily Fulton

Last February, I was given the extraordinary opportunity to be the Festival Assistant for the first-ever Circus International Film Festival (CIFF). This was a volunteer position where I was a key team member in the inner workings of this revolutionary festival. Let me just say, it was an amazing experience.

CIFF was founded by Marisa Diamond in early 2021. Marisa is an inspirational circus professional and filmmaker, on top of being one of the first youth to hold a leadership role at AYCO. She founded the Circus International Film Festival because she felt strongly that circus films deserved proper recognition by the film industry and they were simply not receiving the attention they deserved at other film festivals.

In February, I started my duties as Festival Assistant. In the beginning, my main responsibility was to review the 95 submitted films. This was a mammoth task because we needed to make sure that only films that met our criteria were accepted. It was incredible that, in our inaugural year, films were submitted from 25 different countries!

Next, I helped notify the creators’ of the accepted films. I really enjoyed this part because the filmmakers were all so thrilled when they were notified of their acceptance! Then I had to upload the 84 selected films to our official YouTube channel. I was surprised that this took me a super long time to do because many of our awesome films were quite long and very high quality. It took me what seemed like forever, but I did finish the task in time for each film to be screened!

Next came the actual screenings. These started on March 14th and ran until World Circus Day, April 18th. Each film was screened for 24 hours via a private YouTube link sent out to our ~1,100 audience members each morning. I was amazed at how many people watched the fantastic films we were showcasing each day!

There were four competing categories this year; Under 18, Shorts – Documentary, Shorts – Performance, and Full-Length. To allow even more filmmakers to participate, we also had an exhibition only category this year. CIFF had 12 total jury members who selected the winning films in each category, and we even had audience choice voting!

And the 2021 Circus International Film Festival’s winning films are: 

**drumroll please**

Jury Selected Awards:

Roses and Thorns by US based youth circus creator Izzi Kessner (Under 18)

New Horizons by French based circus professional Antoine Menard (Short – Documentary)

Wake by UK based circus professional Tamzen Moulding (Short – Performance)

Cirque Du Cambodia by US based film professional Joel Gershon (Full-Length)

Audience Choice Awards:

Isla Bonita by Puerto Rican youth circus company ENC Puerto Rico (Under 18)

Fer Sumundo by Mexican based circus professional Arelly Cantellano (Short – Documentary)

Zéro Vulnérablité by French based circus professional Antoine Menard (Short – Performance)

TEN by Canadian based circus professional Katelyn Ryan (Full-Length)

Next came my favorite part: Interviewing the creators of the winning films! We hosted four Instagram Lives on April 17th. I had the amazing opportunity to interview Joel Gershon, the winner of the Full-Length category. It was awesome to hear about his inspiration for and experience creating his film Cirque Du Cambodia! That was definitely the highlight of my CIFF volunteer work!


CIFF is always looking for more volunteers! If you are interested, shoot an email over to circusinternationalfilmfest@gmail.com. We love volunteers of all ages and I would encourage you to reach out if you are interested. I assure you that it will be a rewarding experience, and who knows what great opportunities you will get through your volunteer work!

Circus is a Chosen Family

Revely Rothschild

Our hands were linked wrist to wrist, pulse to pulse, as I held my trapeze partner in the air. The stage lights illuminated the contrast between dark and light skin as we moved through our act in unity. As our feet touched the ground, we took a bow and joyfully scampered into the wings, where a dozen friends fell upon us with jokes and hugs. Like squirming puppies of the same litter, we all collapsed into a laughing dog pile on the polka dotted floor.  

Those friends are my circus family. Though we come from different backgrounds, we love each other deeply and openly. When we hold each other up physically while practicing circus arts, we learn to lift each other emotionally as well. In an unparalleled and nearly breathtaking way, our mutual trust and shared vulnerability reinforce each other to build bonds stronger than the aerialists who form them. 

So when members of my circus family are hurt because society marginalizes them in some way– whether that be their race, gender identity, religion, or mental health– my blood boils for them. I want to support them, so I listen. I make myself available and willing to hear and validate their stories. And when they trust me with their perspectives, no matter how greatly these differ from my own, I honor their experiences and use them as motivation to educate myself. My circus family has made me aware of my privileges, but I have also learned that privilege is not an excuse for me to blindly disregard discrimination. Rather, it is a cause for me to defend others, love them fiercely, and lift them up with me.

The Media Behind the MainStage

By Tessa Wallington

The phrase social media may be a little different for everyone, but we all know that today, it’s the leading source of the spread of information. Whether it’s a cat meme on Instagram, or a breaking news story on twitter, we rapidly spread information through our social networking pages. Luckily enough for the circus community, social media has increased the knowledge of the art dramatically. Circus has been around a whole lot longer than social media, but not everyone was aware of the modern practice of aerial arts and acrobatics before the convenience and ease of socials. The dramatic rise in TikTok challenges, Instagram reels, and snapchat spotlight stories allows for people to spread their work at a dramatic rate. Modern circus and traditional circus are very different, and one of the large differences may be that modern circus relies heavily on social media. The last twenty years there has seen a large increase in awareness of the circus community, and the access to which beginners can get involved in recreational circus. Hashtags such as “circuseverydamnday” have become a universal bond that brings posts from across the world together into one explore page. The rapid increase of posting of new tricks or upcoming circus festivals has also created a stronger bond within the circus community. It is easier to connect with people who live far away, with the modern forms of social media. The social network phenomenon has changed a lot of things this past decade, and one of the most unexpected may be the new light being shined on the art of circus. As always, follow the American Youth Circus Organization on social networks.

AYCO Festival Review

This year, the American Youth Circus Festival was a two-day virtual event April 17th and April 18th! Online activities include workshops, social events, youth-led activities, and more.


Emily Fulton:

Wow! This year’s Virtual AYCO Fest, equipped with a scavenger hunt, panels with circus professionals, a performance showcase, and lots of other great opportunities, was so much fun that it is hard to choose a favorite activity! If I had to choose, though, I think that my favorite activity would have to be the afternoon hangouts lead by my fellow Hup Squad Representative Carleigh. Now I have to admit; I had my doubts when I signed up for the hangouts because I was nervous that I wouldn’t have anything in common with the other attendees. Gosh, was I wrong! I enjoyed getting to chat with circus youth from around the country, and it was really interesting how much we had in common. I can’t wait to get together with my new friends at the next AYCO Fest!

Another really cool opportunity that I had at this year’s AYCO Fest was moderating the From Youth Circus To Professional Performance panel. I loved asking professional circus artists Kia Eastman, Tristan Nielsen, Spencer Mathey, Ariana Ferber-Carter, and Kerren McKeeman questions about their circus journeys. They all had such interesting stories to share, and I especially enjoyed their answers to “What is the weirdest circus creation that you have been a part of?” I made that question up on the spot, and I was super impressed with all of the unique experiences that had been made available to them through their circus careers!


Carleigh Saberton:

The American Youth Circus Festival looked a little different this year, but it was still a great time! We got to do circus with people around the U.S. from the comfort of our own home which I though was pretty cool. I hosted the hangouts and they were really fun! We had a lot of great conversations about our favorite things inside and out of circus and how our circus community is wonderful in so many ways. My favorite workshops that I attended were probably both of the juggling ones. I love to juggle; I’ve been working on numbers which is why Sean Petric’s 5 ball juggling was super helpful. I also learned cool 3 and 4 ball variations and partner tricks with my mom from Eva Rowland’s workshop! Thanks to everyone that made the festival possible during these crazy times!


Lyra Gross:

The AYCO festival was amazing! I got to meet so many new people! I learned so much from it and thought it was a great experience for circus lovers!


Sounds like the Festival was a great time and hope to see you at the next one!

Interview with AYCO Board Member Jens Larson

By Lyra Gross

“When given the choice to join the circus, I automatically took the opportunity.”
-Jens Larson, circus performer

Jens Larson is a circus coach and AYCO board member. He performed in the circus from 1981 – 2000, taught math for 14 years, and then decided to return to circus as a coach. He has been teaching circus ever since. He specializes in hand balancing and aerial rings, but is also always willing to try new forms of circus arts. I was lucky enough to be able to interview him and hear about all his amazing experiences as a circus artist. Here are a few of the questions that led to some incredibly inspiring stories.

What is one of the craziest things you’ve done or witnessed as a circus artist?

I’d say maybe the easiest one to describe is Roman riding on two Percheron horses through Cortlandt Park in the Bronx! Roman riding is standing astride two horses that are bridled together, and Percheron are a type of draft horse so they’re really big and easy to stand on, but also very imposing and quite noticeable when going by women with strollers! Now, of course, the people most likely knew the Big Apple Circus was in town, so they probably put two and two together, but we were not right next to the tent either, so that also added to the peculiarities of the situation. 

Have you ever made an act that you felt emotionally connected to?

Well, when I joined my first circus I got to see Dali Jacobs perform on the rings. When I watched her I was thinking, “that’s a beautiful act.” But I was in men’s gymnastics at the time and they did the rings totally different. So I decided to create a whole different act. It took every, every last bit of energy out of me each time I did it. It was my own creation, and it was scary, because I was swinging very high in the air. But the effort it took made it even more meaningful.

Have you ever had an act with animals in the circus?

I helped out with some of the animal acts, and I helped get the animals ready for shows at times. I also substituted in Circus Flora as a patron who was served things by an elephant. I had to be sure that I wasn’t too goofy, though, when I performed the act. If I was, I would lose control over the elephant, which could be really dangerous. I also at one point had to introduce a bear act and move props around during the act!  I also remember one time I was getting this horse all bridled up and ready, and then just as I was supposed to bring the horse out it ran in the complete opposite direction! So as the curtain drew back to present the horse the audience just saw me chasing after the horse out the back.

What is your favorite act that you got to do in the circus?

The chair balancing act with my wife was my favorite act. It allowed me to do my full on hand balancing skills, but it was also part of a comedy act, and just worked really nicely. My wife got to be my assistant because she was also really funny. It was a fun act to do because we got to be a little goofy, and I still got to show off my hand balancing skills.

Do you have any hobbies outside of the circus?

Well, before I started Phoenix Youth Circus Arts I got back into juggling . . . as a hobby. There was a local juggling club that met in the park and I would just show up with them and juggle for fun.

How do you motivate / push yourself in Circus?

I guess it is just part of my personality that I always want to get better. Doing the same old thing isn’t as much fun, so I am always pushing myself and asking myself what I could do to get better.

Do you have any advice for a circus performer like me?

Shoot for the very best training available. There is a constant balance between having kids explore many different acts, because versatility is always valued in the circus. But also not spreading yourself too thin so you don’t hurt yourself. It’s also good to have a backup plan if you end up not being able to perform as you get older or are out due to injury. 

I had so much fun interviewing Jens Larson and hearing about all his amazing stories! He shows us that really anything is possible if you have the determination and bravery. He  inspires us to live a bold and fearless life!

Review: Omnium

Review by Carleigh Saberton

I had the amazing opportunity to attend Omnium’s virtual show this March! Omnium circus is all about diversity and inclusivity. This nonprofit organization features “multi-talented, multi-racial, and multi-abled performers” and has given the opportunity to all people and families to enjoy the show. Although I had a bit of trouble logging onto the show, I received help from a lovely representative and once I was there, it was very user friendly. There were 4 options that you could choose from. The Typical video included the hosts talking and signing as well as captions. The ASL video was very similar to the Typical video, both always had a way for the deaf and hearing to enjoy. They also had an audio description, where the audience can hear the dramatic music as well as a narrative of the people, actions and events taking place, and a plain language video, where the narrator spoke in a simple language that made everything very easy to understand. 

The show consisted of a variety of skills from cyr wheel to juggling, aerialists to acrobats and hoops to horses! All of the performers, from all over the world share a love of circus and have a strong appreciation of this organization. They strive to break the brand of society and embrace diversity. Watching the acts from my living room felt like being at a live performance but more exciting because we got to enjoy the incredible feats of strength from awesome camera angles and transitions. My personal favorite was Jen Bricker Bauer, an aerialist with no legs, who performed on aerial silks with her husband. Not only did she showcase her amazing aerial skills, she shared a touching moment dancing with her husband with her aerial silk ballgown. Overall, I really enjoyed the show. It was so inspiring, and I can’t wait to see how they continue to inspire people of all ages and abilities to pursue their dreams.  

Review: Artistes of Colour: Ethnic Diversity and Representation in the Victorian Circus by Steve Ward

Review by Revely Rothschild

To some, history books may seem boring– everything they discuss has already happened, so what’s the point? But from the moment I picked up Steve Ward’s Artistes of Colour: Ethnic Diversity and Representation in the Victorian Circus, I knew this wasn’t the case: the rich details and approachable writing make it a valuable and enjoyable read. Whether you know the ins and outs of Victorian circus as well as Ward, or whether this is as new of a subject to you as it was to me, you will find Artistes of Colour to be a compelling and accessible take on a largely unexplored aspect of circus history. 

Artistes of Colour is Ward’s way to celebrate those circus artists who have been unjustly forgotten, and to honor the memories of those who experienced racial discrimination during life. While the book does an excellent job of covering such a deep and important theme, it’s also a very accessible read. Each chapter covers one performer, so whether you intend to read the book cover to cover, or would prefer to read the chapters individually, you will find yourself immersed in a narrative that’s compelling for a variety of reasons. 

For one, he paints an awe-inspiring picture of all these artistes and their terrific skills (for example, one woman, Leona Dare, hung from her teeth from a hot air balloon). But it’s by using interviews, press clippings, and posters or photographs from the time that Ward really brings the performers (and society’s response to them) to life. Not only does Ward use media about the artistes, he also investigates their personal lives, and through that, these admirable circus heroes become lively, complex individuals in their own right.

Ward pays great attention to detail, not only in the lives of each individual performer, but also in the connections between all of them. One of my favorite elements of this book was the way that Ward makes references to previously-discussed performers in later chapters and describes the interactions or relationships between all the artistes. By drawing unifying ties between all the artistes, Ward reminds us of something that has always, and still is true about the circus community: no matter who you are, it can be your home.

Review by Stacy Gubar:

One may think that a non-fiction, historical novel would be overly dense and boring, but Artistes of Colour: Ethnic Diversity and Representation in the Victorian Circus by Steve Ward is anything but that. This work contains fascinating personal stories accompanied by broad overviews of the time period which creates a beautiful balance between entertaining anecdotes and important historical context. For this reason, I really enjoyed reading this book and did not find it overbearing in content at all. I also loved looking at the included timelines and pictures because they provide wonderful visuals of the discussed people and events. Additionally, they further dilute any possible insipidness and make the book very entertaining to explore. The timelines also work to contextualize and chronologize the book’s events, which ensures the work is accessible and easily comprehensible to a varied audience including adolescents like myself. In fact, the entire text is extremely well organized in a clear, logical order and includes a glossary at the end which allows readers to quickly locate sections they might wish to re-read. Furthermore, each chapter is concluded by a list of cited works which can be an invaluable resource for those wishing to learn more about the subject. I personally admire the citations because they allowed me to trust the information I was reading, and feel confident about the author’s integrity. In conclusion, I feel everyone would enjoy perusing this brilliant, accessible, and trustworthy look into the history of POC representation within the circus, and I highly recommend you give it a try.

Purchase your copy here!

Review: NECCA’s Circus Spectacular

By Stacy Gubar

Recently I had the pleasure of attending NECCA’s 11th annual Circus Spectacular show. The performance was truly incredible despite being virtual this year. NECCA admirably adapted to the current circumstances to create a beautiful programme for an admirable purpose. The board chair, Elizabeth Wohl, and Jenna Struble explained that the Circus Spectacular is the main source of fundraising for NECCA students needing financial aid, and that NECCA has recently been able to fund a blood drive, food drive, LGBTQIA+ scholarship, and BIPOC scholarship in addition to that. Additionally, the speakers acknowledged that NECCA is located on Native land and that all their work would not be possible without the sacrifice of the native people. I knew very little about the organization beforehand, but found NECCA to be a very admirable, responsible, and humble one. 

I was equally impressed and inspired by all the stunning performances the evening included. The Advanced Youth Troupe performed beautifully to the poem “Freaks” by Moo Butler. The poem was incredibly powerful and fit well with both the occasion and the choreography. The routine included fluid group dance, trapeze, ribbon (silks), German wheel, acrobatics, straps, and webs which proved to be a wonderful, varied display of circus skill. The group’s choice to wear mismatched costumes further highlighted the individuality of the performers and matched well with the poem’s message regarding inclusivity in circus. 

The next act, performed by the incredibly experienced and talented Joel Herzfeld, was simply breathtaking. It was a very creative hand balancing routine with clever theatrical aspects. Herzfeld demonstrated exemplary strength, balance, flexibility, and aptitude for fluid motion throughout the whole incredibly active routine. It was a mesmerizing and rare experience to view a hand balancing routine with so much motion and I was entranced the whole way through. 

Another very unique and seemingly gravity-defying performance was carried out by the incredible Eric Bates. This particular routine was no exception to Bates’ admirable use of performing arts to bring awareness to climate change, since the items being juggled were cigar boxes. I found this to be a very interesting choice, and one that created a juggling act unlike anything I had seen before. The routine was very active and upbeat and demonstrated such skillfulness that, in the hands of Bates, the nearly impossible feats seemed effortless. 

The next routine seemed to be equally effortless for the spectacular founder of Droplet Dance, Molly Gawlerl. It was a very beautiful, fluid routine with the Cyr wheel. Gawler and the wheel seemed to be one and the same, and were truly mesmerizing to watch. The incredible, heartfelt facial expressions Gawler displayed throughout the routine matched the music very well and added a beautiful theatrical aspect to an already stunning performance. 

Another very theatrical act was presented by Micah Ellinger and Sylvian Ramseier. They were an incredible acrobatic duo with a beautiful, highly emotional routine that I simply could not look away from. The dance elements blended wonderfully with the awe-inspiring acrobatic feats the pair displayed. Having experience with partner acrobatics myself, I was absolutely astonished by the ease with which they completed such advanced tricks. Their talent and strength made each feat seem effortless. Furthermore, they were so impossibly in sync with each other that I found it difficult to believe these incredible performers were regular humans. 

Another artist that must be extraterrestrial is the astonishing contortionist, Ariana Ferber-Carter. The routine Ferber-Carter presented at the Circus Spectacular was certainly spectacular and seemingly inhuman in the best possible way. The flexibility and fluidity demonstrated in this performance are unbeatable, and seemed so natural and effortless for this talented performer. I also really loved the shining body suit Ferber-Carter wore, and the way it emphasized the beautiful bendy positions demonstrated in the routine. 

The next routine, performed by Chloe Somers (Wailer), was a very creative, cheerful hula hoop act. I have not seen many hoop routines in my life, so I had no idea a childhood toy could be used in so many beautiful ways. Somers (Wailer)’s incredible coordination and creativity produced quite a spectacle that I could not stop staring and smiling at. I was particularly entranced when four, or perhaps it was even five, hoops were spun at once! That, as well as the entire routine, was truly incredible. 

Last but not least, Kevin Beverly and Gravity and Other Myths presented an incredible group acrobatic act. The seemingly impossible flips and leaps they performed convinced me that gravity truly is a myth for these talented artists. I also really loved the fact that the routine was performed alongside a band playing live music. As both a circus performer and ensemble flute player myself I really appreciated witnessing my two favorite things collide in such a beautiful, dynamic routine.

Despite being a virtual event this year, the 2021 NECCA Circus Spectacular was an amazing show. The combination of pre recorded acts and live, and very lively, ringmaster and emcee, Jeff Raz and Tristan Cunningham, allowed the evening to run smoothly, but feel personal as well. The concluding live Q&A with the featured performers also helped make the show feel more like an in-person experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole event, and lament the unfortunate fact that I missed Mario Diamond’s pre-show because I am certain it was wonderful as well. 

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