CAC and Sarasota High Unveil Circus Magnet Program

Todays News

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY SEP 20, 2019

Popular culture is littered with fictional schools for kids with special abilities—Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Now, the real, nonfictional city of Sarasota can claim its own special school with the creation of the nation’s only Circus Magnet Program. As part of a collaboration between the Circus Arts Conservatory and Sarasota County Schools, Sarasota High will offer students with an interest in circus arts the opportunity to incorporate the practice of traditional circus skills into their academic curriculum.

The curriculum relies heavily on existing state-approved physical education programs, but the course material has been augmented and adapted to the specific requirements of circus arts. “We try to cover everything,” says Andres Leon, Training Programs Coach for the first class of students. “We teach the proper way to stretch, what body parts are being used for each performance, how to take care of your hands; we even talk about nutrition a little bit.” Leon believes the ideal student would, like him, be someone who maybe has experience playing high school sports but has never felt excited by throwing or kicking a ball.

That doesn’t mean the skills cultivated by the program are limited to physical aptitudes. “Circus performers aren’t just physical performers,” says Leon. “They’re worried about stage direction, lighting, costumes, rigging and safety.” And it’s in these other areas where the program sees the most potential for growth in the future. Proponents of the program, like Leon, hope that they can eventually entice students interested in learning the production, business and marketing side of the circus in addition to the performance realm. These other facets of the circus can give students applied knowledge of how productions are managed and lead to jobs in any field where selling tickets is paramount.

For now, the program will only be available to Sarasota High students because of their proximity to the CAC facility. “Transportation is one of the biggest issues for us to figure out,” says Leon, “but the plan is for the program to be available to more schools.” The first class of students is split into two groups, with each group attending a double-block period of an hour and 45 minutes. At the moment, students in any grade can apply, though the program hopes to enroll mostly freshmen who can develop over the full four years of their high school education. The goal is to have students graduate with a portfolio of professional skills and performances that they can leverage into auditions and careers. Most importantly, the program promises to instill the self-assuredness that comes with physical mastery and the behind-the-scenes knowledge of what it takes to produce one of the greatest shows on earth.

Pictured: Andres Leon leads a class on the circus arts. Photo by Cliff Roles.

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