Evolution of the circus-scene provides opportunity for students to explore unique crafts

Alisha Soni | Staff Writer

 When most people today hear the word “circus,” images of a bygone era filled with animated clowns, sword swallowers, and performers catapulting through hoops of fire come to mind. 

Despite circus performers attaining the ability to thrill audiences through dangerous or tricky stunts, the circus has been rapidly decreasing in popularity. Nowadays, many people seem to have never seen a real life circus, as if it is only part of television and movies. However, against the struggling popularity, some students at Mason High School (MHS) are dedicated to keeping the big top alive.

Freshman Max Yuchasaz has been learning acrobatics for three years, which consists mainly of aerial silks and sometimes trapeze. The acts utilize props, such as aerial silks and bars which allow him to impress audiences with flips, twists, and jumps — all from 50 to 70 feet up in the air.

After discovering circus performances online, Yuchasaz decided to attend a Circus Camp hosted by the Cincinnati Circus in 2018. It motivated him to continue taking classes since he possessed some natural talent for the acts taught in the camp. He had chosen acrobats because it was the only act that allowed him to experience the thrill of falling from high heights. Yuchasaz quickly learned that acrobatics brought him an adrenaline rush that he now constantly craves.

“I was never super afraid of the heights or drops but I thought I would never do anything super crazy,” Yuchasaz said. “But I learned that I get really excited doing that, going 50 feet in the air and just falling. It seemed scary at first, but I think the more you do it, the more fun it gets.”

Regardless of Yuchasaz’s talent for acrobats, learning had still provided him with challenges. He soon learned that acrobatics is not as simple as just falling. Practicing and performing comes with the consequence of physically over-exerting himself and the dangers of possibly withstanding injuries.

“The biggest challenge in my opinion was learning the technique,” Yuchasaz said. “You have to make sure you get every loop right. You need to have enough strength to hold yourself upside down for long periods of time. If you’re not willing to be patient in learning, You’re going to get hurt, and it’s gonna suck.”

Before COVID, Yuchasaz had performed at the ends of summer camps at the Cincinnati circus where he had started at. Although they had decent-sized crowds, to him, “it was less about how many people show up and more of getting the ability to show off to anyone.” An arrangement had been set so he could become one of the performers for the Cincinnati Circus, an opportunity he unfortunately lost due to the pandemic. 

Instead, Yuchasaz had migrated to a small yoga studio to teach on a much smaller scale. He shows teachers new skills to teach classes and occasionally visits to assist them and their students. Yuchasaz’s initial curiosity surrounding the circus has been cultivated into a true passion for the circus. He lists becoming one of the acrobats of a big circus as a significant overall goal and would even consider a long-term career doing so. 

Sophomore Alia Morris also entered the circus world through a summer camp she had taken three years ago. She is now associated with the Evendale Cultural Arts Center where she juggles, rides the unicycle, and does german wheel — a large hoop in which she can perform tricks with.

In the beginning, Morris said that she often felt challenged while learning her acts. German wheel is usually three to six inches taller than the performer. This includes high altitude when standing towards the top of the hoop, and requires Morris to face her fear of heights. No matter her level of experience when facing high ground, Morris says that German wheel “always makes her feel nauseous inside.” When learning the unicycle, she said that she had constant anxiety about falling off and had even fractured a growth plate in her ankle her first year.

During each semester of Morris’ class at the Arts Center, Morris’ class hosts a performance to raise money which displays their learning progress. At the end of the year, they arrange an extravaganza that showcases all of the skill sets they’ve completed. 

Contrary to Yuchasaz, Morris admits that she performs more for herself rather than a crowd. Performing allows her to tame her fear of being in the spotlight.

“I like being in front of people, but I don’t like being on a big stage and performing,” Morris said. “But I think it’s helped me overcome things like that recently. I would like to keep the circus in my life, even when I am in college, to learn new skills and overcome fears.”

Despite the dwindling popularity of circuses, Yuchasaz and Morris show no signs of quitting. To them, the circus has become a sacred place where they have been able to develop new skills and abilities from their circus acts.

“The Circus is not what it used to be at all,” Yuchasaz said. “Circuses are made of people who’ve converted their tricks into storytelling. And if anyone thinks they want to try it then they should go check it out because it’s worth it.”

Photos by Alisha Soni

Graphics by Aadrija Biswas