About 150 people of all ages try to learn the ropes — and the trapezes and lyras — at Circus Atlantic’s open house.
t’s never too late to join the circus.
That’s what Liz Trice of Portland learned after enrolling in a Circus Atlantic tumbling class at age 39. She also learned to do backward hand springs, to her amazement.
Trice was among the Circus Atlantic students and staff on hand for an open house Saturday at the Reiche Community School gym in Portland to show off the program’s offerings. About 150 people of all ages participated in the free event, learning how to juggle bowling pins and other objects, twirl on a trapeze and climb a 30-foot swath of fabric while performing acrobatic feats.
“I’ve wanted to do flips and cartwheels for years,” Trice said.
She said while gymnastic classes are widely available for children in Greater Portland, she could never find any classes for adults.
“When I heard about Circus Atlantic, I was very excited,” Trice said.
Circus Atlantic is the recreational program of the Circus Conservatory of America. The conservatory is working to open a college-level school for contemporary circus arts, complete with accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, at Thompson’s Point by the fall of 2015.
The organizers have been offering the recreational program to children and adults at different locations in Greater Portland since last summer. Saturday’s open house was also designed to drum up recruits for a Circus Atlantic production at this year’s Old Port Festival in June, said Peter Nielsen, president of the Circus Conservatory of America.
Nielsen said about 30 percent of the people enrolled in the recreational program are adults. The classes in aerial skills are the most popular, closely followed by learning to juggle the diabolo, which operates a bit like a yo-yo and looks like a double-ended egg cup.
Lang Towl, 10, of South Portland said practicing his circus skills has become his preferred athletic activity since he enrolled in classes a few months ago. He said juggling is much more fun than football or basketball and something not a lot of other people know how to do.
“I think I will stick with this forever,” said Lang.
His father, Nat Towl, said Lang was disappointed to learn he couldn’t join the Gym Dandies, a group of child unicycle-riding circus performers open only to Scarborough residents. But he said his son was thrilled when Circus Atlantic, which is open to students from any community, came along.
Towl said now he is thrilled that Lang wants to someday enroll in the circus conservatory in Portland.
“He can ride his bike over the bridge rather than running away to join the circus,” Towl said.
JoJo Zeitlin, 15, of Cape Elizabeth signed up for circus classes after spending six summers at a circus camp. She is particularly interested in doing aerial acrobatics while hanging from a 30-foot swath of silk-like fabric.
“It gives you confidence,” JoJo said.
She said it is hard to explain what fabric acrobatics are to her non-circus friends. Usually only a video of her performance can explain it, she said.
JoJo said she expects circus arts to remain a part of her life in the future.
“I want to be a neuroscientist and I am going to do circus until I am in my 90s,” she said.
Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: [email protected]