This summer I was invited to perform and teach a workshop at a ten day circus festival called, “SANCA is Ten!,” hosted by the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts in Seattle. This was a particularly special opportunity for me, because I had been among the first students and instructors at SANCA when it was just beginning, well, ten years ago. Since that time it has gone on to be easily the largest circus school in the United States, housing a Flying Trapeze tent and occupying nearly a full industrial block in South Seattle.
SANCA is an important place, not only because of its size, but also its mission. It was founded by (real life superhero) Jo Montgomery, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Seattle Children’s Hospital, with an eye on combating childhood obesity. SANCA has gone far beyond merely addressing childhood obesity, though, and enriches the lives of children and adults of all shapes, sizes, and levels of ability and disability on a daily basis. Additionally, on any given day, world class circus artists, both emerging and established, can be found training or teaching (or both).
After a performance one evening, a family introduced themselves and said that about eight years ago at a SANCA outreach program, I taught their two year old daughter (who has a disability) to throw a ball. She’s been going to SANCA ever since and has even taken up the German Wheel, far surpassing her Dr.’s expectations! It was very nice of them to let me know. It is easy for things like that to get lost in the shuffle, but it is a great reminder of the power of circus, both physically and psychologically.
While I was there, I was fortunate to be living at the Museum of Curious Things founded and curated by my longtime friend Matt Baker. It is a well put together exhibition, and houses, among many other strange things, a teddy bear made of belly button lint and a beak of a dodo bird. Waking up every morning next to a Jackalope was an adventure, even by my standards!
After a show on another night, I received a great comment from the critically acclaimed dancer and choreographer, KT Niehoff. She said, “I liked it because you went one step too far, and then went a giant leap further.” A few nights later she brought her God-son to the show and gave me another memorable comment. She said, ”Thanks for rocking my God-son’s world. I’m never going to hear the end of it.”
You’re welcome, KT. You are welcome!
I also celebrated my birthday while I was there, and it was a treat to spend it with some old dear friends, Chuck Johnson (my first and greatest Coach) and Jo Montgomery, as well as Ben and Rachel (Duo Madrona), Mick Holsbeke, and Matt Baker, who have all gone on to be the toast of the Cabaret, Circus, and Variety scenes.
Duo Madrona and I were once in a small troupe called the Banana Moon Circus, and Rachel whipped up a Banana Cream pie for old time’s sake.
It was an opportunity to see new work from both old friends and new friends; It was a treat to see “A Book is not a Ladder,” the new show by The Acrobatic Conundrum (which really got me thinking about the role of text in contemporary circus) and “BONKERS!!” by IMPulse Circus Collective (which lived up to its title, allowing their quirky personalities to shine). I also had a memorable experience collaborating a bit with a promising (and always up for anything) young clown named Zach Holmberg.
I’d also like to thank Chelsea & Co, John Cornicello, and Circus Now Seattle (a wonderful Circus Advocacy group), for the photographs and support, in general. And a special thanks to magican Louie Foxx, for (just like the old days) saving me at the last minute with his knowledge, generosity, and awesome collection of stuff!
Looking back on the whole festival experience brings to mind the famous line from one of my favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life. ”Remember, no man is poor who has friends.” So, congratulations SANCA, and thank you, for enriching my life, and the lives of so many others, for ten years. And, thanks for the wings!