Announcing a New In-School Inclusive Circus Outreach Program


Circus Center is happy to announce that this January we launched a new community outreach program offering a progressive circus curriculum for children with learning differences and developmental disabilities.

This exciting new project is an 8-month pilot program developed in partnership with Open Mind School, a private school on the peninsula for students facing these sorts of challenges, and a private funder.

Our expert instructors offering a range of circus activities like juggling, tightwire, balance, clowning, stretching, and acrobatics in a small school setting with support from the school's expert staff. The school administration has been extremely supportive and excited to be bringing circus arts to their students for the first time, and the students have been very enthusiastic so far!

We are thrilled to be expanding Circus Center's outreach this way. Circus Center’s mission is to spread the joy of circus through training, performance, and community outreach, and the chance for us to build an inclusive circus program that any kid can enjoy is both great privilege and a service to our mission. We are looking forward to building on this project and giving even more kids the chance to explore the joys of circus arts.

Thank you to the project’s funders; Barry Kendall and Sarah Bruhns whose hard work made this project possible; Board Members Kristin Urquiza and Leo Harris for their advice and support; the administration and staff of Open Mind School; our expert instructors; and for your well wishes as we embark on this exciting new program!

Kufer OMS

Call for Directors for Fall Adult Rec Show

In the last three years, Circus Center has begun once again producing unique, innovative circus productions featuring our adult recreational students, faculty, and community members. Shows like Cabaret Metamorphoses and Guilty as Sin have played to packed houses and given our students invaluable opportunities to learn from creating and performing a show.

Now, we will produce another show drawing on the talents of our amazing community, this fall in the Theater. Our renovated Theater space offers directors much greater control over production elements than is possible in the gym, and our recent successful fundraising campaign ensures that we will have adequate resources to help directors realize their vision for a compelling circus-theater production.

We invite interested directors to submit brief proposals: tell us what kind of show you would like to create! Spell out as much as possible about things like concept/story, cast requirements, music, crew, production elements, and so on.

Exact dates are TBD, but we expect the show to run September 7–17. Main rehearsal period would take place over the summer, although directors are welcome to hold auditions and begin work earlier.

Interested directors should submit proposals to Barry Kendall, Executive Director, no later than Sunday, February 19.

Show Love Success! Thanks to You, We Are...


Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, to every one of you who gave to SHOW LOVE!

Together, over this campaign, we raised just over $17,400 for Circus Center's coming season of free, low-cost, and pay-what-you-can community shows. That's $2,400 over our original goal - thank you!

Your contributions have made several important things possible already:

  • We're hiring a Technical Director, an important step in our commitment to bring you professional-quality shows and performing experiences (by the way, we're accepting applications now - full job posting here).
  • We are also hiring a lighting designer, stage manager, and costume designer for the SF Youth Circus Show (interested? See the job postings here).
  • We built at ½ inch scale working model of the Theater, an essential tool for designing shows.
  • Soon we'll be putting out a call for directors for September's Adult Recreational Student Show in the Theater.
And this is just the beginning!

Your support reminds us how special, strong, and generous the Circus Center community is. Thank you so much for partnering with us to bring the joy of circus arts to our community, and give a spotlight to the next generation of circus artists.

Besides donating, there's another incredibly important way you can support Circus Center's community shows: come see them! Here's what's coming up:

  • Mar 23-25 & Mar 30-Apr 1: Clown Conservatory's show, The Supers
  • Apr 29-30, May 5-9 & May 12-13: The San Francisco Youth Circus' Show
  • May 20: Flying Trapeze & Adult Rec Student Spring Showcase
  • September (dates TBD): Fall Adult Rec Student Show
So subscribe to the Circus Center newsletter and watch the blog for news throughout the year about our upcoming shows, and how your gift to SHOW LOVE is making a difference.

Thank you - we can't wait to see you at the shows!

Onwards and upwards,


Barry Kendall
Executive Director, and

The Board of Directors, Steve, Sara M, Jennings, Xiaohong, Elena, Felicity, Texas, Katie, Tracey, Sarah B, Phoenix, Fernando, Sarah H, the Student Services Team, and all the staff and students of Circus Center

P.S. It's never too late to help bring free/low-cost/PWYC circus in your community - any donation throughout the year helps Circus Center share the magic of circus arts with you! You can support the circus arts at any time by giving here:

Thoughts from Steve on Ringling Closure

From the Desk of Creative Director Steve Smith

As the news of the demise of the Big Apple Circus was finally finding a place of uncomfortable compromise in my psyche, came the thunderbolt announcement that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus would also more.

To some, these are just sad but true realities at the level of difficult business decisions - hard to make but necessary. To others, just another news story of yet another shop that has to shutter its doors. But for some of us, this is news that shakes the very foundation of our souls. This hits at the level of who we are, what we do and why we’re here. This is devastating.

For me, these were more than just places of employment. These were the incubators of my dreams;
These were the classrooms for my creative spirit;
These were the playgrounds for my imagination;
These were the places that gave me purpose. They gave my life purpose.

For 45 of my 65 years on the planet, this is what has forged my love & passion for performance art with all the different parts and pieces of who I am - This is what has

And so...where to from here? How do I make sense of it all? How do I unbreak my heart?

    I.    Get.    Up.

I feel the full force of my loss. I wail and howl and weep with grief. I fall to my knees asking why & how and cursing the cruel, heartless fickleness of fate...but, I.   Get.   Up.

I honor my teachers and my colleagues and my friends and my family by not giving in to despair. I salute all those who came before me by not giving up. I reach down into the depths of my shattered soul to find the strength to give this life my absolute best.

And I am painfully aware that this will take more than strength...this will require courage. There is a terrific quote from Mary Anne Radmacher that says:

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.”

And so, I must get up; I must try...again and again and again. It will most certainly not be easy...but it will be worth it. Because the alternative is not acceptable.

The circus ring is a circle...a symbol of unity. It is continuous - it has no beginning, it has no end. A great and glorious part of circus history has come to an end, but the circus, as an art form, didn’t die today. It is evolving. It is up to us to pick up the dimmed & tattered torch that has traveled across time and through the ages; to dust it off; to reignite the fire of wonder and awe and to fan that spark into an unquenchable flame that is the future of the circus. To do anything less is simply unthinkable.

And so, get up.

Onward,...ever onward!

~ steve ~

What's New Around the Gym: January 2017

New Instructor: Kiebpoli Calnek!

Kiebpoli Calnek | Faculty | Circus Center | San Francisco

Circus Center is proud to welcome Kiebpoli (pronounced KAY-po-lee) Calnek to the Aerial Faculty! Kiebpoli comes to us from New York City, where she has been a fixture in the circus training and performing scene for many years. She is no stranger to the Bay Area, however, as she has flown in to perform with Topsy Turvy for the last few years.

Kiebpoli is an aerialist, actor, educator, and producer of compelling, politically awakening performance events through her company Black*Acrobat. Read more about her impressive background here. As a teacher, she prides herself on utilizing constructive feedback, motivation, and patience while focusing on technique, form, and dramatic flourishes.

In the winter session, Kiebpoli is teaching Aerial Conditioning Level 1, Intro to Mixed Aerials Level 1, and Tissu 1. Her classes are already drawing strong interest, so we encourage you to check her out!

New Classes

We also have several new classes for you to explore:
  • Bending Backwards with Jim Donak:This class is aimed at developing back bending skills for acrobatic and aerial applications. It is intended to augment the current programs by offering a class that works specifically on the dynamic application of back bending skills for inversions, limbers, walkovers, tumbling, partner acrobatics and the like. This class will include various learning methods with regard to increasing strength and stability, and range of motion throughout the “backend.”
  • Intro to Mixed Aerials: Level 1 with Miriam Telles
  • The return of Flying 2 on Thursday nights at 6:30p
  • The ever-popular Jeremy Sheets is now teaching a section of Rope 1 and two sections of Rope 2
  • The Contortion program under Catie Brier continues to grow with the addition of a new level, Advanced Stretching
  • The return of Xiaohong's Wednesday daytime Acro 1 class, 12:30-2p
  • And more – check out our Schedule page for full info

New Open Gym Offerings and PRICE!

Circus Center is pleased to announce some changes that will help you progress faster toward your training goals. We have modified the pricing of Supervised Open Gym time to make it more affordable, and we have added Supervised Acro Open Gym to our schedule. For $12.50, you can attend a two-hour open gym time to work on your strength, conditioning, flexibility and the disciplines of your choice:
  • Acro Open Gym: Saturdays 10am-12pm under the supervision of Aidan Sigman
  • Aerial Open Gym: Sundays 3-5pm, under the supervision of Heidi Button
Open Gym is a chance for you to take advantage of Circus Center space and equipment, and the rigging knowledge and safety supervision of our team. This is perfect for students not quite ready to pursue Individual User approval but is also an opportunity for Individual Users to work on other disciplines/apparatus that they might not have approval to train on alone.

The Impact of the New Net & Equipment Campaign

Last spring, we ran The New Net and Equipment Campaign, a fundraiser that started out as a $10,000 campaign to replace, install, and maintain our flying trapeze net. Thanks to a tremendous outpouring of support from you, our community, we ended up raising almost $26,000 - $16,000 over our original goal! - to support your equipment needs and the maintenance of our historic building.

As we announced in our October newsletter, your contributions have had a tremendous impact on Circus Center. Here’s a further breakdown of what donations to the New Net and Equipment Campaign have accomplished since the campaign ended in May:

Total raised during New Net & Equipment Campaign: $25,923

$2,800 - Purchasing and shipping the New Flying Trapeze Net - installed in September.
$2,500 - Net installation + maintenance for two years
$1,603 - Specialized tape and gauze for trapeze bar, replacement of eye bolts for travelling lines, flying gloves, and chalk
$1,500 - Gym deep clean & equipment room reorganization in September
$2,000 - Slightly used grey rolling mats in Theater, installed in September
$2,375 - 3 new toilets in both restrooms, installed in September
$1,953 - 13 pairs of new custom-made stilts, purchased in December
$390 - 1 new aerial hoop & taping, purchased in October
$200 - New lighting in lobby, installed in December
$3,586 - various small purchases like bands, shoes, rope and rope covers, velcro for mats, and building contortion platforms
$3,000 - Rigging maintenance and minor facility repairs

Total: $21,907
Remaining: $4,016 in reserve for upcoming equipment and maintenance needs.



Circus Center’s mission is to spread the joy of circus through performance, training, and community outreach. Our total budget for this fiscal year is over $1.4 million dollars. That includes instructors, administration, and staff for the dozens of classes a week we offer, professional-track and recreational youth programs, the professional training program Clown Conservatory, a production season with 12+ shows a year, our adaptive circus outreach program, and maintenance and repair costs for our building and equipment.

Most of the revenue to cover these costs – about 85%, in fact – comes from tuition for classes, group events, and summer camps. So why bother raising money at all? The basic answer is, we run fundraising campaigns so we can better serve our community and pursue our mission. More specifically, we raise funds to make major investments in our operation, and in order to do the things that make us more than another gym, but a non-profit center for the circus arts.

When it comes to investments, we look at two kinds: new and deferred. If we hadn’t run the New Net and Equipment campaign, we still would have replaced the flying trapeze net. After all, it was time for it to be replaced. But without your support, we might not have been able to do everything else for months, maybe years, while we saved up: upgrade all the toilets, or purchase new stilts, or replace the lights in the lobby, or make other vital purchases and repairs. What’s more, our facility is almost 100 years old, and has had many of its maintenance and repair needs deferred over the years. Your phenomenal outpouring of support from the New Net & Equipment Campaign gave us the freedom and flexibility to begin to catch up on 20 years of much-needed repairs, purchase more equipment, and fix more things, faster, to give you a better circus training experience.

Other fundraising efforts, like our current campaign and our recent major donor work, enable us to do important things that don’t cover their own costs, like our community productions, outreach programs, and more. In this way, we’re much like any other non-profit out there. Our current campaign, SHOW LOVE, supports our community production fund. The costs of putting on community shows, like the Winter and Spring Showcases, is not covered by class tuition or by ticket sales. With your support, together we’ll create 5+ original circus shows next year, starring our talented community: professional-track youth, Clown Conservatory trainees, and advanced adult students. Sharing the magic of live circus, and creating valuable opportunities for our talented community to perform and share their art with their community, is a vital part of our mission.

With your donations, partnership, and advocacy, we can bring the same professional quality shows, training, and outreach to the community we have loved and served for over 30 years. Thank you for your support, past and present, and for being part of the Circus Center family.

A Sneak Peek at the SF Youth Circus' Upcoming Original Show

This April and May, the young artists of Circus Center's pre-professional performance troupe, the San Francisco Youth Circus, will produce an original, full-length circus production. This year, it's something new: an intimate, story-driven show in the Circus Center Theater.

Inspired by the classic "dance battle" story, the show follows two competing schools heading to a circus competition, when suddenly their bus breaks down on a farm that just happens to house a mischievous young sprite. Can the competitors work together to get their acts to the competition in time? Or will they get SERVED? It's on!

"There's nothing better than hearing the audience react!" - Eli

Under the guidance of Steve Smith, the show's director and Circus Center's Creative Director, SFYC's young artists have been involved in every aspect of the show's development. Building on their in-class intensives on act-building and their years of circus training, they'll be doing everything from deciding on the theme to creating a storyline and characters to staging. There will even be a set painting party.

"Shows are a way to show off your talent, and bond and work as a team." - Mia

Director Smith adds: "The discipline of putting on a theatrical production like this helps our young artists in every avenue of life. Our two biggest values are respect - of yourself, your audience, and your craft - and focus. They learn to manage time, collaborate, and work and create as a team."

"Circus is really good for acceptance. You don't have to hide your quirks to fit in." - Klara

This show is one of the low-cost/pay-what-you-can community productions the SHOW LOVE campaign is all about: creating high-quality, original work by our pre-professional student artists that celebrates their talent, creativity, and years of hard work training.

"It's nice knowing you made someone's day because they saw your performance."- Montie

By supporting SHOW LOVE, you help give Circus Center's young and dedicated performers the chance to grow and create more excellent original and low-cost shows - for you. Please consider giving to SHOW LOVE today. Thank you!

Are those Circus Center alums in those Luzia ads?

Luzia and Back Pocket Acrobat Maya Kesselman shares her Circus Center story

Just who are those colorful hummingbirds we're seeing all over town in Cirque du Soleil's Luzia posters? They're Circus Center alums Maya Kesselman, Marta Henderson, Devin Henderson, and Dominic Cruz, and their troupe, Back Pocket! They've been on tour with Luzia since last May, where you can see them performing an electrifying hoop diving act on a speeding treadmill.

Maya started training in Circus Center's youth program at age 10, along with future troupe members Marta, Devin, and Dom. She's since graduated from L'Ecole Superieure des Arts du Cirque in Brussels, Belgium, toured (and won a gold medal at the 34th Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain) with Trio Anneaux, and formed Back Pocket (follow them here!). Needless to say, we're impressed, and absolutely thrilled to see her and the rest of Back Pocket back in town.

Maya graciously took time out of her busy training and performance schedule to share why she thinks circus is worth supporting, and how performing as a youth at Circus Center built her love of circus into a career:

"What inspired you to train with such dedication when you were young?
It was the challenge. I really liked that it was something you had to be disciplined about. Circus was not something that came easily to me...this wasn't just about strength, it was performance and adrenaline and working in a team. And performing is amazing, I love performing.
The best part is the people I get to work with. Obviously, I'm still working with them! Circus has a really good community backing it up. The community is the reason why I stuck with it all these years.

Why should someone donate to support performances at Circus Center?
Let's say I'm a circus artist, and I practice 5 days a week, and can do a back flip or whatever - I'm practicing the technique of circus, but that is not the only thing it's about.

Circus is about sharing what you do with an audience, and having that kind of connection with an audience, and being onstage and connecting with the people you're performing with. It's not the same as just practicing offstage. It gives you a whole different feeling...It opens our community's eyes to what circus is.

Together we can give Circus Center's dedicated students, young and adult, the chance to discover and share their love of performance like Maya, Marta, Dom, and Devin did.

Show your circus love. Donate here today:

You can support us while you shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday! Shop through Amazon Smile and Amazon will donate to Circus Center, just click the link:

SHOW LOVE with Circus Center this Winter!

Show Love: donate to support Circus Center’s community productions!

Circus Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has been spreading the joy of circus through performance, training, and outreach since 1984. This year, we ask you to join our mission and support our season of free/low-cost/pay-what-you-can performances.

Giving is easy! Just click here:


In 2016, we produced 4 high-quality free/low-cost/PWYC shows (not including the Cabaret!) They featured our spectacularly talented youth, adult recreational students, Clown Conservatory students, and instructors displaying all the circus arts we teach here, including hoop, aerial straps, clowning, juggling, diabolo, hand-balancing, rope, Chinese Pole, flying on San Francisco’s only permanent flying trapeze, and more.


Donations make it possible for Circus Center to continue to offer multiple free/low cost/PWYC shows by and for our community every year. They cover things like:

$25 - Rental of one lighting cable (a show can use anywhere from 20-25 cables)

$50 - Base costume pieces for one performer (a show usually has 20-30 costumes)

$100 - Follow-spot rental (we use 2 per show so you can be seen!)

$200 - Extra speakers (we rent 2-4 per show so you can hear!)

$500 - Makeup for a full cast (So they can be beautiful! Or spooky, or funny...whatever the show requires.)

$1000 - A basic set piece

Not to mention essential items like compensation for talented directors and creative staff to develop shows, design and printing costs for our beautiful posters, flyers, and programs, increased building cleaning and utility costs, food for performers...


In 2017, we have at least 4 more full-length community shows planned:

March: Clown Conservatory’s full-length clown show
May: The San Francisco Youth Circus’ annual Spring production
September: The Adult Recreational Student Show in the Theater (more on that soon!)
December: The beloved annual Winter Showcase

All community shows will continue to be low-cost, free, or Pay What You Can, so everyone can experience the joy of circus.


You know that nothing compares to the magic of live circus performance, up close and personal. By producing a regular season of student performances, Circus Center gives our students a spotlight that honors the dedication and love they pour into training, and gives valuable experience for those pursuing professional circus dreams.

But most importantly, performances let us share the wonder of live circus with our beloved community - YOU!


Circus performance is important, now more than ever. Performance is an essential part of sharing everything that circus means to us.

With your continued support, we can invest in our student performers and the artists that develop new circus works every day here at Circus Center, and share the delight and majesty of circus performance with our beloved circus community.

Thank you - and see you at the show!

Click here to give:

Can I donate offline (check or cash)?
Definitely! All donations made this winter will go to support our community productions. Simply mail or drop off your donation at 755 Frederick St, SF, CA 94117

I’m having trouble with donating on Generosity, help!
Check with the Generosity help desk here, or email Sarah directly:

Is this tax-deductible?
You betcha! Circus Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and all donations are fully tax-deductible.

How do I find out if my employer does gift matching?
Employer gift matching is a super easy way to double the impact of your donation! Check here to see if your employer has a program:
We are always ready to help in any way we can!

Can I get a receipt?
In addition to your receipt from Generosity, we send all our donors a donation receipt and thank you letter after the campaign closes. Thank you so much for your support!

What is your tax ID?

Where can I learn more about Circus Center?
Check our website: or email the Student Services Team:

I have a question, concern, or comment.
Let Sarah know at

This winter, help us Show Love - donate to support affordable, accessible circus by and for our community.

Recent Mention for Circus Center in the Press

Bay Area for Sale recently featured us in an article: San Francisco's Circus Center Gives Everyone a Chance to Fly the Trapeze. See what they have to offer for San Francisco, CA Real Estate

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