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

A Compilation of our 2019 Hup Squad Members

Maia Castro-Santos

My favorite circus-related experience from this year was definitely performing with Circus Smirkus. I am so fortunate to have been able to travel across New England, sharing my passion with an audience that extended beyond just family and local community members. The best part of Tour was meeting and befriending 29 other teenagers who shared my interests and weren’t afraid to embrace their eccentricities. Over the three months spent preparing and performing the show, I made friends that I know will last me a lifetime. As cliché as it sounds, Smirkus really is a family, and I am so honored to be involved with this organization.

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Maia Casto-Santos


Julaine Hall

This has been a crazy, fun, circus-opportunity-filled-year for me! I don’t think I could pick a favorite activity or moment so here is one of my many favorites! This autumn, I auditioned for Acrobatic Conundrum’s one weekend show, “Unraveling.” It is a show about rope and rope artists… It’s an all-rope opus! The creation process has been incredibly fun and I have already been working with several super talented rope artists. The show has pushed me to do more rope, gain more skills, and be more explorative in my skills and pathways. Working with others is always a special treat, especially when we’re all working together on one of my favorite apparatuses. If you are interested… You can click this link for more info on the show and tickets. http://www.acrobaticconundrum.com/unraveling


Carleigh Saberton

There have been so many amazing circus moments I’ve gotten to experience this year. From being a mermaid on aerial hammock to going to circus camp and taking classes and coaching at My Nose Turns Red to performing all over, my favorite has to be going to and performing at the American Youth Circus Festival in San Diego with my circus friends! I loved all of the workshops and the performances were amazing. A very close second would be when I went to Disney before the festival with one of my circus friends, David, and took the opportunity to get awesome partner acrobatic pictures! (Apologies to Disney because they told us we couldn’t do that after we did it, oops!) I’m very much looking forward to making many more circus memories with all of my great friends!

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Carleigh Saberton and David


Tessa Wallington

This year has been a circus rollercoaster ride! After recovering from a severe injury, I have achieved many goals. Beginning my professional career, I joined the Los Angeles-based troupe Le PeTiT CiRqUe while also continuing to grow as an artist at my home studio, Trapeze Las Vegas. Some highlights include performing with my acro group at the amazing Baobab Theater in a  gothic cabaret, doing ambiance at the Youth Artist Awards in Hollywood, and doing work at the Larger than Life gala held at the world famous Beverly Hilton. This year has taught me to never give up when things get challenging. Without my teammates, coaches, parents, and friends, I would never have been able to achieve what I did this year. I can’t wait to see where this ride takes me next. 

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Tessa Wallington


Nathalie Morton

My favourite circus moment of 2019 was very recently at the November Regional AYCO festival at Circus Warehouse. I had never been to an AYCO event before and I had even more fun than I expected. It was an all day event where we took several different hour long classes and concluded with a showcase. I learned so many new skills and was really forced out of my comfort zone in the best way while trying out all sorts of different aparati, such as aerial cube and chinese pole. My favourite class of the day was called invisible transitions on silks where I was able to learn seamless ways to execute sequences that I’ve known for years. I would recommend trying out AYCO festivals to any young circus artist looking to advance their skills and to have a blast meeting new people just like them.


Chelsea McIntosh

One great circus experience I had this year was seeing the show A Magical Cirque Christmas at the Aronoff with my friend Carleigh. There were many entertaining acts including partner straps, lyra, partner acrobatics, diablo, and many more. The show really showed me what could come from my circus activities if I work hard and continue with my circus journey. It was encouraging to see that I had performed some of the tricks the performers in the show did. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had with circus.

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Chelsea McIntosh and Carleigh Saberton


Bronyn Mazlo

This summer I decided to challenge myself physically and mentally by applying for the San Diego Circus School’s Master Youth Intensive. It consisted of five grueling weeks of pain, sweat, and sore muscles, but I loved every second of it. It pushed me as both an artist and a person. The community at SDCC is so exceptional. From the moment you step through their door, you are welcomed into a family. The people I met at this intensive became my best friends, and not a day goes by when I don’t miss them all. To top it off, at the end of the intensive I was able to participate in the 2019 AYCO Festival in San Diego, which was a fantastic finale to an unforgettable summer. 


Nola Millet

This year I was lucky enough to have an abundance of wonderful circus experiences. I got to see a couple of really great shows, choreograph and perform many acts, and attend lots of interesting circus events. My favorite thing to do is go to workshops and learn new ways of executing tricks. I definitely learned a lot this year, especially in regards to strengthening and contortion techniques. One workshop that I really enjoyed was a stretching class taught by Micah Walters. 

I think my favorite experience overall was the AYCO Festival in San Diego. Fortunately I got to miss school so that I could attend, and it was a really great experience. I took some valuable workshops that taught new skills, and I got to try new apparatuses, which I really enjoyed. My favorite thing was working on straps, because we don’t do that much at our studio. I also really liked how there were student performances at the festival because it was amazing to see how impressive everybody was, especially in the acro field. I’m grateful that I got to see and be in the festival this year, because there were so many inspiring performers, and I hope that I can go next year too.


Ava Kapelczak

I have had many amazing moments as a circus performer but one of my favorite circus moments ever was when I performed for San Diego’s Feeding America. This was among my first paid gig for San Diego Circus Center and it was a great experience for me as an aerialist. I performed a duo Lyra routine to a very mysterious yet upbeat song. The place in which I performed was beautiful and full of vivid colors like pink, orange and purple. Backstage there were also a bunch of other performers that were extremely talented and they were very inspiring to watch. I performed with a girl named Linsey and we had such a great time creating the routine a few weeks before. Backstage we were both so nervous, especially when we had to get set on different sides for the routine. It was so cool that I was able to perform beside all of the seasoned professionals. A few moments later it was showtime. While I was backstage I was super nervous but as soon as I stepped out I felt right where I was meant to be. We performed our routine and got plenty of applause. After I walked off Linsey and I met up backstage and talked about how much fun we had. We were both so proud of each other and we were also so sad that it was all over so fast. This was a very memorable moment in my circus career that I will never forget.

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Ava Kapelczak


Cora Williams

This summer I went to the Montréal Circus Festival and saw a show called Finale. Finale was an upbeat and energetic show by Analog. Analog is a circus company based in Germany. They were founded in 2013 and are all about telling real-life stories in their shows.  

Finale was so different than all the other shows I had ever seen. There was lots of live music like a drummer and a vocalist who added to the excitement of the show. It had me at the edge of my seat the whole time. Something about it was so fresh and different. All the acts were amazing, and they were all so unique and exciting. The clowning moments were hilarious and the drumming and singing was stunning. There was a variety of acts including Lyra, Handstands, and Hoop Diving. I think that the differences in all the acts made them so much better. They all told a different story, but they came together. 

I think that one of the reasons I liked the show so much was that I have always wanted to create a show that had that kind of energy to it. A show that got people excited and left them blown away. In the end, all the different elements fit together to make an amazing performance that I still love and remember to this day.


Finale by Analog (photo via montrealcompletementcirque.com)


A note from the AYCO staff – Thank you SO MUCH to our incredible Hup Squad this year for all of your hard work and contributions to our blog! Interested in joining the Hup Squad in 2020? Click here to fill out the application (due January 1, 2020)!

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! 




An Interview with Tara Jacob, Executive Director of the American Youth Circus Organization

By Bronyn Mazlo


Tara Jacob, AYCO Executive Director

As a teenegaer, Tara Jacob first fell in love with the fun, creativity, and community she discovered in the circus at The Circus Space in London. Over the years, she founded the Circus Folk Unite! collective at Hampshire College, along with completing the 2012-2013 Professional Track program at the New England Center for the Circus Arts in Vermont. She is currently an instructor at SHOW Circus Studio in Easthampton, Massachusetts, instilling her love of circus in the youth of her community. Jacob now holds the exceptional role of Executive Director of AYCO (American Youth Circus Organization), but prior to her promotion she served on the AYCO Board of Directors and worked as AYCO’s Operations Manager.

The intention of the interview below is to introduce Jacob and to share her passion for her new role in the circus community. This interview was conducted by Bronyn Mazlo, a member of AYCO’s Hup Squad.

How did you discover circus and what has your journey been like?

I first discovered circus as a teenager when an outreach program came to my school and taught us stilt walking, juggling, and acrobatics. I was totally hooked – it was so much fun! I moved and there wasn’t a circus school near me, but I did as much circus as I could; gymnastics classes to learn acrobatics, flying trapeze classes, and self-taught juggling. When I got to college, I started a circus club there: Circus Folk Unite! at Hampshire College in MA. I realized I wanted to do everything I could to spread circus arts to others. After college, I did the ProTrack program at the New England Center for the Circus Arts (NECCA), and started teaching youth and adults at SHOW Circus Studio in Easthampton, MA. Then I began volunteering with AYCO/ACE, then served as a board member, and then came on as administrative staff. I am very excited to have been named executive director!

How has circus impacted your life?

Doing circus makes me happy! It has also become my career, through teaching circus to others as a coach and helping to advocate for, support, and grow circus arts through my involvement with AYCO/ACE. It’s a part of who I am and how I interact with the world. Circus has also led me to many human connections with new friends and colleagues, and taught me to be tenacious and flexible at the same time.

 You became a part of the AYCO family in 2015. And you became the Operations Manager in 2017. How did those roles prepare you to be the executive director of AYCO?

I have really seen AYCO/ACE from all sides – as a member, event attendee, volunteer, board member, and staff person. I’m familiar with the work and history of the organization. This has given me a lot of insight, and being involved over several years, I’ve seen the organization evolve and grow. I’ve made strong connections with many of our community members and gotten an idea of the challenges we all face, and also know firsthand the passion and resilience of the circus education community.

 As an executive director, what are your responsibilities?

There’s always a lot to do! The executive director represents AYCO/ACE as a whole, balancing big picture visioning with micro tasks and planning. This means that among other  responsibilities, I meet with the Board of Directors, do financial management like budgeting and reporting, manage staff members, supervise programs and communications, help produce events like AYCOfest, EdCon, and regional festivals, engage with board committees, and interface with our members, press and the public! 

What do you find to be the greatest challenges?

Running a non-profit like AYCO/ACE means that there is always a balance of what you want to do and what you can do with limited resources. Our events, programs, and the connections we support are important to the community. Though we always have big dreams, we need to take small steps and raise the support to keep going and growing.

  What’s the best thing about your job?

I love getting to talk to our members — the people and organizations all over the USA who are doing circus in so many different ways. It’s incredibly inspiring to hear about the variety and also the common threads through people’s experiences and the work they’re doing to spread circus arts.

 What do you think makes AYCO unique?

AYCO and ACE’s success is because we are for and by the community. As a non-profit, we have always been motivated by our mission to “promote the participation of youth in circus arts and support circus educators”. It is the passion and creativity of our members that keeps us going – especially youth circus members like you!

The article was originally published at CircusTalk.com, the international online resource for circus professionals


Jenna Lowery, Circus Runaway Photography

Top Ten College Circus Clubs

By Nathalie Morton

Attention senior circus artists! Are you excited and ready to head to college, but do not want to give up your passion for the air? If that answer is yes, then worry no more, there are plenty of choices for you. Here is a list of the top 10 American circus clubs, but don’t forget to take a look at the list below the article for many more options.

#1: Flying High – Florida State University

The FSU circus tradition has been around since 1947 and the Flying High Circus is one of the most serious collegiate circus clubs in the country. A great place to continue your acrobatic education!

#2: Circus Folk Unite – Hampshire College

 A collective of acrobats, jugglers, unicyclers, and other admirers of circus arts who come together in a very collaborative environment. All levels welcomed.

#3: CirqueWes – Wesleyan University

Another great club at a great school. This new group practice and teach circus arts including acro, juggling, handstands, and aerials. Who wouldn’t want to join?

#4: Olin Aerials and Circus – Olin University

A student run club that focuses on general health and wellness through circus exploration. Learn more about yourself with Olin!

#5: Gamma Phi – Illinois State University

Since 1929, Gamma Phi has existed at Illinois State, making it the oldest collegiate circus in the country. It also performs regularly so you’ll get to show off your skills. So much fun mixed with a whole lot of history!

#6: Brown Aerial Arts Society – Brown University

Brown AAS is a student run club that also performs. You can catch some of their shows on youtube to see where you could be next year!

#7: Violet Circus Arts – New York University

The only club in New York City devoted to circus arts. They practice everything from juggling to acro to aerials. 

#8: Elon Circus Club – Elon University

Although this club is mostly ground skill focused, it is a great place to try new things. 

#9: ICircus – Ithaca College

Another serious place to continue your circus training after high school, accompanied by plenty of performance opportunities.

#10: Bates Circus Arts Club – Bates College

Bates CAC is focused on Aerials and is a relaxed place to go and keep up with your acrobatic knowledge. This club also comes with a ton of performance opportunities.

For the full alphabetical list click here! 

Don’t see a club on the list that you know of? Email claire@americanyouthcircus.org and we’ll add it!

Book Review: Body Talk, Basic Mime by Mario Diamond

By Julaine Hall


Body Talk, Basic Mime by Mario Diamond is a fabulous guide for anyone interested in learning about mime. I read it having very little mime, basic theater, and some clown knowledge and benefited from it very much. Sure, one can do impressive athletic feats on stage and their audience will clap, but as artists it is our duty to give the audience the best possible experience while still being true to ourselves. Adding a bit of mime, clown, more intention with your movements, or simply thinking about proven techniques to make sure the audience can read your message well can be a great way to elevate your act to the next level. In the beginning, both the forward and introduction had me hungry for more knowledge on the art of mime. After this was a small section of definitions all for the  very same word: mime! Very detailed chapters filled with thoughtful exercises for each body part will cause you to consider the intention you give your movements with a new light. Also included was a thorough portion filled with information on The Seven Axes of mime (The Axes are a way of dividing the body into smaller expressive sections which you will learn more about if you read this book!) We then dive deeper into postures, energy and movement, general exercises such as imitating Chaplin and animals, visual effects, pantomime, and finally, improvisation. From this book, I gained an array of ideas to try to add to some of my old acts or incorporate into my new ones. It is a wonderful resource and I highly recommend it for anyone even the slightest bit interested in anything that has to do with the stage! Or as the dedication in the front says, “To anyone with a need to express themselves and cannot find the words.”

Staying Fit During The Summer

By Carleigh Saberton

If your circus is like mine, there is a time where there are no classes or camps to attend! Circus is my main way of staying active throughout the year so what should I do when I can’t do circus? With the American Youth Circus Festival coming up, we need to make sure we are keeping up with our strength and skills. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to stay in shape when circus isn’t an option.

First, you could go to a gym to get a good workout. Fitness centers like Planet Fitness, YMCA, LA Fitness, and Crunch Fitness all have locations all over the U.S. that you could attend. Some gyms, like Planet Fitness, even offer FREE summer memberships for teens! Fitness centers have so many different machines and equipment that you can use during your workouts. If you don’t want to go alone, find a gym buddy! They could be a family member or even a circus friend. Gym buddies help you stay motivated and can help make you more comfortable going to a gym. 

Sometimes going to a gym can get expensive so you can always find ways to workout at home. You can start by turning everyday things into exercises. For example, choose to take the stairs or if you don’t have weights use everyday things such as books, heavy boxes, or even your dog!

Workouts don’t always include pushups, squats, and sit ups. It’s good to have diverse workouts to work all different parts of your body. You can switch between things like yoga, stretching and regular workouts. Also, you don’t have to set a specific time that you must work out, you can just workout or stretch while watching tv, listening to music, or even while scrolling through social media.


A good thing to remember is you need to rest between workouts. Working out breaks down your muscles so they can grow back stronger but if you constantly have tough workouts, your muscles don’t have time to grow back stronger which can lead to injuries if you aren’t careful. 

Other good ways to stay in shape are to take up other activities or sports. Running and swimming are great easy ways to get a good cardio workout in. But if other activities haven’t interested you, you can find other circus things to do at home. One thing to do would be to get your own props so you can practice whenever you want. Unicycle, juggling, hooping, diablo, poi and so many others are all circus activities that you can do at a local park or even in your backyard.

Although, some things such as aerials or German wheel can’t always be done whenever or where ever you want. By doing some research, you can easily find other gyms nearby where you can go to practice those things or even take more classes. For example, there is a gym that focuses on aerial arts near me and I occasionally go to open gym there to practice what I have already learned at my circus, My Nose Turns Red.


Eating healthy is also a very important aspect of staying in shape. Starting a diet can be rough sometimes so it is best to ease into it. Start avoiding foods high in sugar or calories and don’t snack on things too much. Cheating is also a must when on a diet because if you don’t cheat you are more likely to stop dieting. Don’t forget to stay hydrated especially before, during and after working out! Getting enough sleep is also very important because your body needs rest. Not getting enough sleep can be bad for you and will affect your performance when working out or doing circus.

The very most important thing when trying to stay fit is to have fun! If you are miserable then you will lose motivation to keep going. Also, don’t compare yourself to others. Yes, there will always be people better than you but there will also always be people who look up to you. Its very easy to get jealous but with hard work you can become even more amazing than you are now.

Injuries in Circus

By Tessa Wallington and Bronyn Mazlo

Injuries. The thing in the back of everyone’s mind when playing a sport. Accidents happen, but there are ways to prevent and treat injuries. Keeping your body in shape, fueling before training, and doing tricks you are qualified to do can help to prevent injuries in the first place. Sometimes though, doing everything you can to prevent injuries isn’t enough, and accidents happen. When recovering from an injury, it’s important to stay positive, and help to keep the other parts of your body in shape, even when one part is injured. Based on personal experience, we know just how it feels to have to recover from an injury, and there are a few things you must always remember to help you get back to the thing you love that much faster. 

When first injured, it’s normal to fall into a star of frustration, anxiety, or depression. We get it. Injuries trap you in a place where you want to keep continuing to train, but there’s that internal voice whispering, “what’s the point?” Why bother training if you’re not going to be healed for a year? While it can be easy to fall into that mindset, keep training throughout an injury, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem. Even if you’re just pumping out a few squats, holding a few hollow bodies, or pushing through a couple of pull-ups, every little bit of strength will make your comeback easier when it is time to ease into physical therapy and, eventually, circus. It’s also very important to keep an optimistic mindset on your body during an injury. Be careful not to let losing muscle and gaining some weight affect your self confidence and grit to return to your passion. Stay in contact with friends from training, no matter how tempting it can be to isolate yourself and cut off connections to everyone. 

After an injury has passed, it’s time to get back to training! Once you’ve been cleared to begin exercising again, you must ease yourself back into your regular training. Going to classes even if you aren’t back to your full strength yet can help your brain mentally get back to your old mindset. I went to most of my regular classes, and when I wasn’t able to do something, I sat in oversplits or did sit ups. Although, one part of your body may not be one hundred percent, your other muscles could be better than before! Repetition may be your best friend when recovering from an injury, muscles will start to come back, and new and old tricks alike will begin to get better after exercises and tricks have been done many times. When dealing with an injury, it’s important to understand the difference between pain and soreness. My biggest problem was figuring out if I had pain and needed to stop, or if I felt sore, and had to push through to get better. Overall, the most important thing when recovering from an injury is listening to doctors, physical therapists, and your body.


Injuries are painful and problematic, but they are also a reminder to take care of our bodies. The months of agony, tears, and physical therapy allow us to learn how our bodies work and ways to cope through inability. Returning from an injury is like returning from hibernation. Everything is tight, groggy, and weak. Conditioning, stretching, and relearning skills are frustrating, but once you push through the initial struggle, you break free of those long months and emerge strong and powerful. Remember, what happened happened. Don’t dwell on the “what if’s”. The recovery process may seem like forever, but it is only a small part of your circus journey. Stay positive and keep going. As Lao Tzu remarked, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Expressing Yourself Through Circus: How To Convey Different Emotions Through Performance

By Maia Castro-Santos

“Artistic expression” is a term that is often heard and used in the worlds of both performing and visual art. Expression can mean portraying a certain thought or feeling to the viewer/audience, or it can be a more introspective method for an artist to explore their own emotions. Often times, these two definitions overlap, and the artist’s portrayal of their internal emotions is what captivates the audience. In both traditional and contemporary circus styles, the art of performance is enhanced by the performer’s ability to express or convey some type of emotion to the audience. Whether the act draws laughter, tears, anger, or any other emotional response from the audience, this emotional connection enhances the audience’s experience of the performance. But how do you create an act that effectively conveys a certain feeling to the viewers? The following techniques are a few that have helped me with this question:

1. Music Choice:

Music choice is one of the hardest parts of act creation for me. The song sets the tone of the act and carries through the entire performance. A piece of music that compliments the style and mood of an act can clarify the choreographer’s desired message or theme. You could choose a up-tempo, bright, jazzy song, or maybe a slow, violin based, instrumental piece of music; maybe you want the song accompanying your act to have a soaring melody, or maybe you want a steady down beat. When I am choreographing an act, the song that I choose greatly influences the quality of movement and the emotion that I try to channel through my act. The way that a song builds and rises and falls in intensity can also influence the order in which you decide to sequence tricks. If there is a large build up, towards the end of the song, maybe you would decide to save a particularly crowd pleasing trick for that moment.

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2. Color and Lighting:

In visual as well as performing arts, different colors often evoke specific emotions. The psychology of colors has a very influential role in an audience’s experience of a work of art. Generally, the warm half of the color wheel (red, orange, and yellow) evokes more energetic feelings, while the cool colors (blue, green, and purple) generate calmer emotions. Red is a very intense color. Some of the many emotions that it can represent include love, anger, and power. Yellow and orange are typically joyful and energetic. Blue can represent sadness or loneliness as well as tranquility. Purple is also a calm color and can signify mystery. Green often connects the audience with nature and the earth. All of these assumptions about the emotions associated with colors are generalizations, but they can be helpful guidelines when costuming and lighting an act. The two pictures (one above and one below) are from the performances at the end of two circus camps I was a part of last summer. The theme of the lyra act in the photo above was sunshine (our showcase was themed “weather”). My partner in the act is not shown, but we decided to both wear yellow shirts and each wear one yellow leg warmer. The song we chose was “Blue Skies” by Frank Sinatra. The bright sound of this song, combined with the positive lyrics and yellow costumes helped us to convey the joy of sunshine to the audience. The second picture (shown below) is from a latin themed solo lyra act. The song I chose was a jazz song with elements of tango, and I wore a red leotard with a red flower braided into my hair. The color red worked with the music to create the happy and sassy character that I was hoping to portray in this act.

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3. Movement Quality:

Movement quality is another technique that can be used to create the mood for an act. Sharp movements usually have a higher level of energy and intensity, while slower, smoother movements are often beautiful and calming. The Laban effort actions can be a useful tool for identifying what type of movement will have the desired effect in your act. The Laban effort actions categorize different types of movement based on different qualities of weight, space, and time. These qualities are:

heavy / light

direct / indirect

bound / free

sustained / sudden

Different combinations of these qualities create eight movement types: glide, flick, float, slash, wring, punch, press, and dab. The chart below is helpful for understanding how these movements are categorized.

Of course these movement types are just guidelines, and you can create your own versions and combinations of all of them. An exercise that I find helpful when creating an act is picking one of these movement types to practice my choreography to. Then I pick a completely different movement type and see how that one feels. This exercise helps me explore different “feels” for my act that I might not otherwise have pursued.



4. Facial Expressions:

Facial expressions are probably the most obvious way to express emotion in an act… but this is often easier said than done. “Concentration face” is definitely something to be aware of. When you are tired, sweating, and nervous about hitting your next big trick, it can be really difficult to remember to smile! Your eyes are critical for expressing emotions and connecting with the audience. You don’t need to make eye contact with your audience, but if you choose to, be intentional about it! Choreograph moments into your act where you can open out your focus to include the audience. These moments of connection are just as important as performing really difficult skills.

There are many more tips and tricks to creating a more emotionally authentic act then I have listed here, but I have found these four techniques to be a good starting place.

Chinese Pole for Beginners: A Guide

By Julaine Hall

If you are reading this article, you probably have some circus background or you are interested in circus and/or acrobatics of some sort. My guess is that you probably know what a Chinese Pole is. In case you don’t know, the Chinese Pole is a tall rubberized (but sometimes powder coated) pole that is in the ground acrobatics family. It hurts, it gives you bruises, it eats your clothing, but in my opinion, it is one of the coolest disciplines circus has to offer.

As an example, here is my performance from the SANCA Annual Spring Showcase: https://youtu.be/PE1zssvuA1o



So…. leotard, leggings, and/or a tank top, sweatpants, and I’m good, right? *BUZZER* WRONG! That will hurt a lot! In pole there is a lot of friction on your knee pits, inner thighs, arm pits, shoulders, and stomach. What I usually wear is a pair of leggings under a pair of super high-wasted shorts under a pair of Jeans that I am okay with ripping, A tank top that is long enough for me to tuck in, a thick sweater or long sleeve over top of that, then a pair of “Bushidos” with the soles sanded down until there is no traction on the bottom. Another accessory that is nice to have is shoulder pads. I have a shirt with some neoprene sheets sewn on the shoulders for a bit more protection for things like shoulder hops and Fungees. This is just what I wear. I’ve seen many people wear shorts, rain boots, crop-tops, but as a beginner, I think something along the lines of what I wear will cause you the least amount of pain.


To do anything cool we have to learn to get up the pole, so the very first thing you’ll learn is how to climb.


Monkey Climb


The most common used climb is “Monkey Climb.” As you can see, it looks pretty natural in comparison to other kinds of climbs. It is reminiscent of a toe climb on the rope with a lot less pain in the toes.

Climbing is difficult when it is your first time or when you have bad form, however, as you get better and you climb with your shoulders back and core tight… you should be able to whiz right up the pole! Like any discipline, pole takes a lot of….. you guessed it! PRACTICE. *whispers: and conditioning but shhhhhhhhh*


The three next skills are arguably the most important skills for a beginner to learn: Sit, Fish, and 1st Position




This is sit. This is where things get pinchy. Sit is a very traditional trick and look nice when done in synchronicity with others on the pole. Here you are pressing both feet into the pole with toes pointed at the ground. You take your shoulder around to either side of the pole and present both arms straight out. After this, you may take off the same side foot as the shouler that is in front of the pole. Great job! You have your first trick!





This is fish. I think this is sort of like your first test in strength and form. Without good form it is terribly hard to have enough strength, and without the strength, it is terribly hard to find good from. Quite a spiral! Start from sit. When you get there, put your foot back on the pole, put your same hand as shoulder that is in front of the pole under that same armpit. Now, with your free hand, brace the pole and put your feet straight behind you like superman. After this, you can take off your bracing arm and just hold with one hand.



1st Position


This is 1st position. This is your home now. Your bottom foot should be pressing into the pole and the pole should be caressed in the arch of your foot. Your top leg should be squeezing the pole and pressing down so that you can stand more comfortably. Your legs should be straight, toes pointed, and mouth smiling! Look how far you’ve made it! 1st Position is a safe zone where you can gather yourself and take a bit of a break without looking like you’re taking a break. It is one skill you should do every single time you get on the pole. I haven’t seen every single pole act on the planet but, I have never seen an act where someone didn’t at least pass through 1st position.





This is a handstand. This will get you ripped arms. To get into the handstand, place one hand at forehead height in a cup shape with no thumb wrapping and place one hand at the bottom right below your belly button. Kick the same leg as hand on top and drive that heal back as you pull with your top arm and push with your bottom arm. This should be enough to get you up to handstand.



Shoulder Hold


This is a shoulder hold. This will get you ripped abs. Lean back on the pole and place your shoulder on the pole. Your head should be to one side. Next place both hands on the pole with the same side hand that has shoulder lower. Now engage your abs and lift your legs to a tuck. You did it!

These are HIGH-KEY crucial to becoming strong in the correct places for pole. It’s conditioning day my dudes. Conditioning is the most important part.

Are you intrigued by Chinese Pole? Does it sound more awesome than painful? Chinese pole has a very human element to it. It’s fascinating to watch and a joy to learn. I’m pretty sure my good life meter reading increased by 200% after I started Chinese Pole. I urge you to give it a try! I must thank my Coaches: Nick Lowery and Domitil Aillot for teaching me some of the coolest stuff ever and giving me some amazing opportunities!

What It’s Like To Start Circus Late and Why It Shouldn’t Hold You Back

By Bronyn Mazlo


Have you ever wanted to try a sport or activity, then thought, “It’s too late. I should have started years ago”? It can be discouraging seeing your peers so advanced and talented. Unfortunately, this mentality causes many people to continue with what they are currently pursuing out of fear of trying something they are not sure they will succeed in.

When I first started circus, I was completely overwhelmed. I had very little dance background, and no gymnastics experience. I didn’t even know the disciplines of circus, only aerial silks and iconic skills like juggling and trapeze. I remember driving to the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts thinking, “Bronyn, what have you gotten yourself into?” I was super nervous, thinking that I was going to be the worst in the class and that I had no idea what I was doing.

Three years later, I still have no idea what I am doing or how this one-time class suddenly became my life. I honestly can’t imagine my life without it, and it’s crazy to think what my life would be like if I didn’t have the courage to announce that I wanted to give aerial silks a try. Starting circus later than most of my peers has had its challenges such as not having a background in either martial arts or gymnastics. I hope my story is an encouragement to someone who is either dealing with the same situation or is contemplating trying a new activity.  

The first feeling I had when I started circus was being so far behind others. Even in a Level 1 Aerials class, I remember talking to some girls who had been in that class for 2 years. At the time, I remembered thinking, “wow, they know all these tricks and they’re younger than me. I don’t know anything yet, and I’m 13. I’m so behind.” It can be really frustrating learning basic skills and tricks while an 8 year old does a masterful drop on fabric in front of you. First you had to gather the courage to try circus, now you have to be discouraged by how skilled everyone is?

I believe it was this feeling that really made me push myself and build the drive and burning fire to keep proving myself. The tough part about starting something later than others is that it always feels like a constant game of catch up. But what I think is important is that it puts in perspective that there will always be someone who is younger, stronger, more flexible, or more talented than you. Even though striving to achieve goals and be the best you can be is important, letting go of perfection is the first step towards self love, which is a huge must-have in the world of entertainment, where rejection is more common than acceptance.

Starting circus later has also made me more of an advocate for myself. It can be hard to come in to a sport, decide you want to pursue it, and make that clear to coaches. It can be hard to make it clear that you are just as committed as someone who started 8 years before you. Even though this is frustrating, i have found that it really makes yourself your best supporter and cheerleader.

Trying a new activity can be nerve wracking. Trying a new activity as a teenager can be absolutely mortifying. However, if you shy away from an opportunity out of fear, you could be missing out on discovering a hobby or passion. Even if you end up not enjoying yourself, you still tried something new. Starting an activity late has also been very positive on my personality and attitude. I feel like I am more prone to trying new things, which I am hoping will stay with me in my future.

If you ever consider trying a new activity, no matter what your age, it’s really important not to shy away from interacting with others, no matter how tempting it may be. When I first started my natural instinct was to keep a low profile. But having confidence, even if you have no idea what you are doing, is both positive on your mentality and also makes you seem approachable to other people. Talking to other people, instead of staying in your own bubble, has really helped me meet people who have become my friends and helped guide me along my circus journey.

Circus is my life, which makes the idea of my life without circus foreign and strange. I am incredibly fortunate that my 13 year old self was willing to take a chance and try something new and unpredictable. I hope this article encourages somebody to take a leap into the unknown and unlock hidden possibilities. You never know what may come out of it!