Michigan circus school trains how to become a performer
DETROIT (AP) – Sarah Penney entwines her legs around long swaths of bright silk hung from the ceiling.
She climbs up the fabric with both hands, then dramatically drops into an upside-down flip, suspended in the air.
“Oh, my God, I love that drop,” she said breathlessly, still in the air. “It makes me feel so alive!”
Penney, 27, of Detroit, was among 13 students practicing circus acts with four instructors on a recent evening at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School, one of the city’s more surprising establishments.
Located on the edge of Eastern Market, the lime green building on Watson houses suspended aerial hoops, also called lyra, and yards of purple, scarlet and emerald green silk, along with other circus equipment, including a trapeze. It is a training ground for those seeking to run away and join the circus, escape the monotony of the gym or for those who just get a rush while testing their agility and bravery, The Detroit News reported.
On that particular evening, they included, among others, a mix of millennials, an 11-year-old girl, a Ford Motor Co. engineer, an electrical engineer, an architectural designer and a 53-year-old semi-retired student who commutes from East Lansing.
And later in the month, students can decide whether to sign up for the next student circus performance to be held July 10 at the Eastern on Russell Street, a warehouse event venue. Performances take place four times a year.
Penney, a wife, mom and part-time bartender, has been coming to the school for the past five years, only taking off a few months after the birth of her son, River, now 3.
“I would love to perform one day, but at this point, I’m just gaining more confidence,” she said. “I feel so amazing after class. I drive home with the music up loud because I’m so pumped.”
The circus school is owned by husband and wife team Matt Buss and Micha Adams Buss. They live on a farm and animal sanctuary in Jackson County and have operated the school for 10 years. It started out in Corktown, then moved to Eastern Market. Their first class enrolled about four students, and they now have 21 classes.
It was a natural to open a circus school in Detroit, they said. The wife is a former circus performer and her husband continues to perform with Detroit Circus and teach at their circus school.
“I am a Detroit native and love being a part of the city,” said Adams Buss, who runs the business from home and is at the school a few times a month. Her husband is among the instructors and runs things on-site. “Once I started teaching, I knew Detroit would be the perfect home for our school. We wanted to be a part of the city’s growth, to be a hub for Detroiters and those outside the city limits to come downtown and enjoy what Detroit has to offer.”
As for what he gets out of performing and teaching circus acts, Buss replied: “Beyond the fact that we enjoy what we do, we know that our business has a positive effect on our students. The world needs more places where people can challenge themselves while being supported.”
For Adams Buss, “I wanted to create a place where people, kids and adults alike, could play, grow and learn amazing skills at their own pace. Being the first circus school in Metro Detroit, and watching the community grow, has been a dream come true. “
Azaria LeJeune-Woloszyn, 11, of Livonia is part of that dream. She kept up with the older students and executed the moves on the silks and the lyra with ease. She twisted her body inside the suspended aerial hoop, extending her legs, pointing her toes and gripping its sides to the applause of her fellow students. But joining the circus is not yet on her radar.
“I want to be a robotics engineer when I grow up, but it would be fun to do this on the side,” she said.
Her mom, Rebecca Woloszyn, waited patiently throughout the hour-and-a-half class.
“She saw the Cirque du Soleil and wanted to know if there was somewhere around Detroit that offered circus classes, so I Googled it and found this school,” Woloszyn said. “She loves it.”
Larry Currie, 38, of Garden City was the only male student in the class on Wednesday. The electrical engineer has been attending classes for the past year.
He said he “did some trapeze stuff” in a past student performance.
“I like the trapeze, the lyra and the silks, but they’re all difficult,” he said. “I don’t try to go very high, and I feel pretty securely wrapped up in the silks so I make sure I’m not hanging too loose inside of it.”
The classes, which include beginner mixed aerial, lyra choreography, fabric and hammock choreography and intermediate silks, among others, begin with a 20-minute workout.
Following the workout, Mary Hanson grabs the outside of the suspended-from-the-ceiling lyra, hoists herself up inside the hoop and extends her arms as if performing for an audience. The semi-retiree has been attending classes for three years.
“I’ve had a lifelong love of the circus and thought it would be a more interesting way of pursuing fitness than in a gym,” said Hanson, 53, of East Lansing.
“I want to perform, and I think I’m at the point where I feel I can perform.”