A stressful school day, a tough job or a harsh gym teacher could give way to many people running away to the circus — and more people than you think have been doing just that.
Cirque Freaks is a place where kids, teens and adults come to learn the different apparatuses used in circus arts such as silks, cyr wheel, and trapeze. The company is home to all levels of circus performers from beginners to professionals.
“It’s not about being professional, it’s about having fun and doing what you love to do,” Daniel Stefek, a teacher at Cirque Freaks, said. “Cirque Freaks has an atmosphere filled with positive energy, and the training is not strict at all like many stereotypical gymnastics teachers.”
Stefek was among many teachers who started Cirque Freaks with Spencer Maxwell, the previous owner of the company. Bobby Cookson was also one of the teachers who started the company.
“It started as a place where a lot of my friends taught. The company has grown a lot since then, and faces have come and gone,” Cookson said. “However, the family environment has stayed the same.”
There are 120 students and 85 active families attending Cirque Freaks. Most students are beginners, but Cirque Freaks is home to some students striving to reach the professional level. Dallin Foskey, a 15 year old sophomore from Milton High School who plans to pursue a career in the circus arts, said Cirque Freaks inspired him to study circus arts in college.
“I was also inspired by how happy the circus arts made people when I performed at a conference the previous year,” Foskey said. “If people are looking for a fun, physically demanding, and exciting new way to exercise or to pursue a circus career, Cirque Freaks is the best place.”
Foskey said the teachers at Cirque Freaks are experienced and inspiring, and helped him reach his goals of perfecting his techniques on the cyr wheel and building up his core strength for other apparatuses.
The teachers at Cirque Freaks are all trained dancers and circus performers. Taylor Priday a 17-year-old senior at Westridge Christian Academy said, “Every teacher there truly cares about their students and helps them succeed.”
Priday said the teachers at Cirque Freaks make it a safe and supportive environment, but other students support and help each other succeed.
“The environment of Cirque Freaks feels like a family,” she said. “The students are so encouraging and constantly build each other up with kind words and high fives. It is so wonderful to be in an environment where everyone wants each other to succeed.”
Unlike Foskey, Priday came to Cirque Freaks with no circus experience, and now she is one of the company’s best students. “Through their classes and training at their open gyms, I have not only been able to build up a repertoire of tricks and routines, but I have built up my strength and flexibility which helps me live a healthier lifestyle,” she said.
Alyssa Yard, a 14-year-old freshman at Rivers Academy, said Cirque Freaks helped her gain strength in dance, which would help Yard pursue musical theatre as a career. Cirque Freaks gave her the chance to attend the French Woods Festival Performing Arts Camp in New York, which focuses on musical theatre and circus training.
Because of her training at Cirque Freaks, Yard was chosen to perform at the end of the camp session where only a handful of kids are given this honor. “Cirque Freaks is the best circus school around,” Yard said. “Whatever your skill level, they’ll help you improve and you will have fun doing it.”
Jen MacQueen, the new owner of Cirque Freaks, has set goals in mind for the future of Cirque Freaks. MacQueen hopes Cirque Freaks will become a stepping stone for young people who are professionally minded on their path to pursuing the circus arts. She also hopes the company continues to send passionate kids to circus colleges like the National Circus School in Montreal and the National Institute of Circus Arts in Australia.
“The circus arts change people’s lives,” MacQueen said. “Our students come to Cirque Freaks as a healthy outlet, and some even use it to find their artistic voice.”