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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Bending Over Backwards for Circus Success

If you’re thinking about running away to join the circus, you won’t have to go far.

If you’re thinking about running away to join the circus, you won’t have to go far.

Kinetic Theory Circus Arts is a local studio where kids, teens and adults train every day, some hoping to make it big in the circus world.

Teens train at Kinetic Theory Circus Arts (ATVN).
Teens train at Kinetic Theory Circus Arts (ATVN).

More than 200 students train in the 10,000 sq. ft. studio on Holdrege Ave, right on the edge of Culver City.

“This is the circus!” exclaimed 19-year-old Julian Callari. “People have a saying, like, ‘Oh, it’s a circus in here!’ And it’s like, heck yeah, it’s a circus in here and we all love it!”

Five months ago, Callari moved from his home on the island of Maui all the way across the Pacific Ocean to Los Angeles just to pursue a circus career.

Like many other circus performers, Callari started out as a gymnast, but longed for something less structured and more creative.

“It was just a random hunch that I found them and I came all the way out from across an ocean just to train here,” he said.

The popularity of the world-famous Cirque du Soleil is just one example of the booming circus industry.

When Cirque du Soleil was founded in 1984, it had only 73 employees. Today, the company employs 5,000 people worldwide, including more then 1,300 performers.

The company estimates that 15 million people will see one of their shows in 2012 alone.

Because of this, many young people are putting their circus training on center stage, in hopes of one day touring with a big-name troupe.

“Basically, there’s no place that I’d rather be,” said Callari.

16-year-old Sydney Bernard left regular high school to train.

“I have to come here every day,” she said. “I need to be here all day, training, hanging out. It’s like my place.”

Bernard says taking online classes is just one way she’s, yes, bending over backwards to become a professional contortionist.

“It’s not as easy at it looks,” Bernard said. “Especially for contortion. People think, ‘Oh, she’s naturally flexible. Oh, it’s not that bad.’ But oh, it takes a lot of work to get the certain body control that you need for a lot of the moves.”

The students learn acrobatic skills like tumbling, trapeze and juggling, but program director Stephanie Abrams explained that modern circus takes more than just physical talent.

“The theatrical element that we bring into our shows here is very strong,” Abrams said. “We create theater, that’s what we do. And we use circus as a tool to do that.”

Being a part of the tight-knit circus community is invaluable, especially for the teens and young adults.

Juggling is just one of the tricks mastered by these young circus artists.
Juggling is just one of the tricks mastered by these young circus artists.
“It’s a positive outlet,” Abrams explained. “It’s creative. They build confidence. Whether they choose to do circus professionally or not, they’re going to be stronger people with strong character.”

“I wouldn’t be anywhere without Kinetic Theory,” Callari admitted.

“Everyone’s really close,” added Bernard. “We’re all like a family in our performance troupe. It’s really great.”

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