Not clowning around: 5C circus club combines athletic feats with artistry

(Two members of the Circus Club perform handstands, creating an arch with their legs.
Two members of the Five Circus club perform handstands, creating an arch with their legs. (Courtesy: Clara Meyers)

Juggling school work at the 5Cs can be stressful, but juggling at the Five Circus may provide a much-needed outlet for that stress. 

Back for its eighth year, the 5C circus club offers activities such as aerial silks, lira, juggling, hand balancing, partner, acrobatics, also known as acro, and hoop dancing. 

For member Katie Stuart PO ’25, the skill she spends the most time on is her favorite part of Five Circus.

“I really enjoy doing the partner acro,” Stuart said. “It’s a lot of fun to come each week and try different tricks and see what we can come up with.”

Five Circus president Jacob Ligorria PO ’23 said the best word to describe the club’s vibe is spontaneous. 

“Most of the circus is two people never having met before coming into the circus and being interested in what the other person’s doing,” Ligorria said. “It was like, ‘Oh, can you teach me that?’ And the person who is teaching is really passionate about their art and is eager to teach that to someone else.”

The relaxed practices allow members more liberty in what they do, Ligorria said. 

“I would describe circus practices as an open gym where we have a skill-sharing session,” Ligorria said.  

Clara Meyers PO ’25, the social media coordinator for Five Circus, said she benefits from the liberal atmosphere of practices.

“I love that everyone is free to explore each apparatus as they wish, and the structure of each practice is very open-ended after a group warm-up and setting up the aerials for the day,” Meyers said. “We host workshops, too, and last year we brought in circus instructor Tyler Jacobsen to teach hand balancing and partner acro.”

Meyers said the collaborative community is her favorite part of the club.

“I really enjoy being a part of Five Circus because the environment is so collaborative and accepting of all levels,” Meyers said. “Everyone can exchange knowledge that they have in one area with those who have knowledge about another apparatus or area.”

Since the number of events offered in the realm of Circus can be daunting for new members, Meyers offered advice for prospective performers.  

“In terms of where the best place for a beginner to start is, I’d say literally anywhere on both of our aerial apparatus that we use or the silks in the Lyra,” Meyers said. “There are beginner moves to learn, as well as conditioning exercises that you can do with the apparatus to help build up strength, to attempt harder things — even if it’s your first day doing any kind of circus.”

Ligorria recommended juggling for entering the realm of Circus.

“Juggling was really helpful because it really enhanced my hand-eye coordination and got my mind to be in line with my body and to feel more than just think,” Ligorria said. “As long as you start from the very beginning, you can get good at whatever it is for most things.”

A combination of athletic and artistic qualities, Circus can be categorized as both a sport and art, according to Stuart.

“It definitely requires a degree of athletic ability and strength, but because it’s a performance-based sport, it also requires a degree of artistry as well,” Stuart said.

Ligorria agreed. 

“It can be physically draining, especially if you’re doing aerial work or partner acro,” Ligorria said. “However, I would say it’s an art because it is a manifestation of your creativity expressed through your body.”

Meyers added that Circus doesn’t need to be contained by a classification. 

“Ultimately, I don’t really think circus needs classification, and it can mean different things for different people,” Meyers said. “It can range from a workout to a passion to an art form, like dance, to a hobby.”

Although circus requires a level of athletic ability to perform some skills, Five Circus does not compete the same way as other sports. Instead, it performs for events around the 5Cs, which gives members a place to display their skills. Some events they have performed at include the Shakespeare Festival and the International Gala.

Ligorria’s favorite part of Five Circus is everyone pushing themselves to do things they never thought they could do, as achieving success in physically and mentally challenging skills not seen on an everyday basis is rewarding. 

“I never thought I could do juggling, and now I help teach juggling and circus,” Ligorria said. “I love getting exposed to different things that people are so passionate about because you get excited and want to learn as much as you can.”

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