Students at Anderson Valley Elementary School are enjoying a special treat this summer, learning acrobatic skills firsthand from members of Mendocino County’s own Flynn Creek Circus.
Louise Simson, superintendent of the Anderson Valley School District in Boonville, said that “creating a fun and engaging summer program was a priority after students have suffered two years of Covid-related losses in their life.”
Simson credited lead teacher Charlotte Triplett with the idea of partnering with Flynn Creek Circus, which was founded in 2002 by Blaze Birge and David Jones, and offering “district-enrolled students in grades K-7 a unique learning opportunity.”
Simson said “circus staff have erected a tent on the back playground grass and are instructing students for three weeks in silks, trapeze, and trampoline.”
When explaining why she felt such activities were important, Simson said, “Students need to find out their ‘why’ to come to school. School is, of course, the place of learning, but it’s also a place of relationships and motivation and art.”
Flynn Creek Circus has been hosting such camps for about a decade, often in the town of Mendocino.
During a camp in 2016, Birge explained what it takes to become a circus performer as she watched about 60 kids run around the tent she and her crew set up in Mendocino’s Friendship Park.
“People think it’s all physical, that you need to have the right body for this,” she said. “But really, it’s all in your head. Your head, and your heart.”
And while you can’t teach passion, you can teach a few basic circus skills to just about anyone, even 6-year-olds. You just have to make things simple.
Want to climb a rope? Wrap the rope around one leg and make a “rope sandwich” with your feet, then use your legs as much as possible to move up the rope.
Want to climb the Chinese Pole? Use your “tiger paw,” which is a strong grip that activates the strength of your fingers and your forearms.
Even if no camp participants ever actually become circus performers, Birge will consider the camps she and Jones host as successes.
“This is our way of giving back to the community that supports us,” said Birge, who performs with Jones as the Daring Jones Duo. “This is what inspires me, and I want to share that with people, because maybe it will inspire them, too.”
Flynn Creek Circus is also now on tour with their latest show, “Balloons, birds and other flying things.” Currently playing in Mendocino, the show comes to Ukiah in mid-August. For more information, go to www.flynncreekcircus.com.