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A New Form of Cultural Experience: Circus Culture

Students in the Intro to Aerial Class.
By Tiarra Braddock and Sharon Mejia

When one thinks of circus, the thought of animals and people performing in large arenas probably comes to mind. But, the scenario is different here in Ithaca where Circus Culture is known to be a central gathering place, a community hub, and a source of inspiration.

Opened just about a year ago, the Circus Culture gym aims for inclusivity in their space to help those who are interested in taking part in circus education and opportunities.

Circus Culture offers classes for kids and adults in many different areas such as: partner acrobatics, separate juggling, stretching, conditioning and aerial practice. Circus Culture not only includes people of varied skills and abilities, but actually requires the diversity to be whole.

Circus Culture is located in Press Bay Alley and the gym space was renovated from an ordinary storage space to a circus practice area. There are about nine teachers that have previous experience with circus life, or knowledge of the athletics offered at the gym.

Students and trainer, Copper Santiago, right, in the Intro to Aerial class

Claire Dehm is an instructor at Circus Culture and teaches adult, kids and outreach classes. Dehm previously taught at a circus school in St. Louis, Missouri where she also performed in small showcases.

“I just think that there is so much that circus in general has to offer. Circus Culture really establishes so many different things that allow for creativity to flow…So all these props and just being in an environment where we say yes and we continue to say yes is really helpful and really gets people engaged.”

Dehm explained how teaching both younger kids and older adults opens up the floor to creative elements, while also maintaining a balance between both.

“Kids are actually inspired and they come up with some really cool things I wouldn’t have thought of,” Dehm said. “But the adult classes balance it out because you can actually explain things like techniques, and how and why things are done.”

A student in the Intro to Aerial class.
A student in the Intro to Aerial class.

The classes at Circus Culture, however, come at a price. The prices vary depending on the different level classes that are offered.

A 12-week session course at Circus Culture costs around $220 each, so people can pay $220 for 12 weeks of general classes. Circus Culture also offers community drop-in classes which are $10 each. There is a $100 community session pass that offers 12 classes for $10 each. They also offer unlimited community passes which are $75 per month for interested people.

Emily Howes, a student in the Introduction to Aerial class explained what attracted her to Circus Culture.

 “I’ve been looking to take circus classes, especially Aerial classes, for years so the fact that this is in Ithaca is amazing. It’s really easy to get to and they’re really helpful. It sounded really expensive but they let you do payment plans, which makes it so much easier. It’s a really good community… and they all want you to succeed and have fun.”

Emily Howes in the Intro to Aerial Class.
Emily Howes in the Intro to Aerial Class.

Howes also mentioned what her experience has been like at Circus Culture.

“They’re really good about teaching it at a level that you can do things,” she said. “This is our third class and I’m already so much better than I was the first class.”

If you’re interested in trying a new kind of culture in the form of art, physicality and education, then Circus Culture could possibly be your next stop.

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