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San Francisco's Circus Center Gives Everyone a Chance to Fly the Trapeze

By S. Mathur

Do you still secretly cherish your childhood dream of running away to join the circus? Maybe the Circus Center can help you! Founded in 1984 to train artists of the legendary Pickle Family Circus, it offers classes to all. Whether your goal is fitness, fun or a career in the circus, you can learn to swing on the flying trapeze, acrobatics, aerial arts, contortion, juggling and much more. Classes are open to children and adults, at all fitness levels.

Executive Director Barry Kendall says that "circus is a wide door, which means that no matter your body type or natural skill set, you can come into our training facility and find something that suits you. The core components of circus fitness are strength, flexibility, and balance, and training in acrobatics, aerial arts, and flying trapeze is a unique, creative, and fun way to improve on all three fronts."

For those who build strength quickly, he recommends trying the aerial arts. Great hand-eye coordination lends itself to juggling balls and clubs. Tightwire or trampoline are suggested for someone who has great body awareness in space.

Many alumni have gone on to featured roles in elite circuses like Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, Big Apple Circus, Teatro ZinZanni, and others. Kendall recalls that "Some of our brightest stars started out as children in our youth programs. Others came to us as young adults, graduating from our professional training programs like Clown Conservatory and going on to win leading roles on stage and under the big top."

There's a scholarship to help talented youngsters, and workshops and residencies that create spectacular new works. The summer camp is a lot of fun and much loved. The winter showcase offers performances by adult students, youth program participants, faculty, and community members. This year's program, Holiday Dash, is "all about the joy and the agony of holiday travel," says Kendall. And in keeping with the holiday spirit, the shows are Pay-What-You-Can.

The Circus Center is also a great place to host a party, whether it's a kids' birthday party or a retirement, or bachelor/ bachelorette bash. Guests can learn the trapeze, trampoline, juggling and even how to be a clown. For special occasions, you can also hire the talented performers from the Circus Center to bring the show to your location.

The circus always has an international flair and the Circus Center values those connections. In fact a film screening of the life of Master Lu Yi, trapeze artist and Artistic Director Emeritus, proudly recalls its history when it brought a Chinese troupe to perform in the United States at the height of the Cold War.

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