Steph’s Day Out – The Rising!

by Stephanie Staples | photos by Leah Gray – 

Pieta had loved the circus since she was a little girl – so much so that at the age of 12 she convinced her dad to build her a trapeze hung from a sturdy branch of a big tree in front of their house. She would spend hours swinging or hanging upside down from it. Time passed and the upside-down days faded away to make room for adulthood responsibilities, competing priorities and the realities of daily life.

Fast forward many decades – she may now be a senior on paper but that little girl inside still loves the circus, so when she saw an ad for a circus workshop right here on the Peninsula she contacted me right away and asked me to join her!

Welcome to The Rising! Based out of the Westshore, this Centre for Circus Arts was founded in 2017 by professional circus artist and coach, Sarah Scheunhage (left), who had the business acumen to partner with Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse to bring a Beginner Circus and Cider workshop to the Peninsula.

Between the orchards and the ocean view, you couldn’t have asked for a more lovely backdrop for this interesting, challenging and fun afternoon. Expertly and patiently coached by Sarah and fellow instructor Sierra Tanner, eight of us circus newbies learned entry level, modifiable and accessible moves. Our group ranged from people in their 20s to their 70s, and everyone was able to participate although some of us (yes, me!) needed more of a “boost” than others. They had props available to help and while encouraged to stretch your limits, no one was pushed beyond where they were comfortable.

At our event, there were two apparatuses – silks and lollipop lyras – on which to practise our “grace.” We were shown many moves with fun names such as “man on the moon” and “the secretary.” Detailed instructions were given before we attempted each move and we would all dutifully nod, but I don’t think it was just me that forgot every single instruction as soon as we approached the apparatus. Our ridiculously strong coaches deployed award-winning patience with us and what I really enjoyed was watching the camaraderie of a group of strangers quickly becoming fans and supporters, cheering each other on, clapping, encouraging, whooping and hollering!

Some came with a friend and some came solo. One woman came because her husband signed her up, and one came because her kids are signed up in the regular classes and it looked like so much fun, she wanted to try it herself! All are welcome to these non-competitive classes, which incidentally are not divided by gender.

Sarah says one of the common concerns is believing it’s too late to get started – she says “no way” and they have a Master’s Program for 55+ to prove it! She loves teaching beginners and says: “Aerial Circus has a magic to it. Seeing students’ faces when they get on the apparatus and learn their first skills and feel empowered is very rewarding. We love their positivity!”

After our training was complete, we were encouraged to sign up for Cirque de Soleil. Just kidding: we were actually turned over to the kind staff at Sea Cider, brought to our reserved table on the patio and enjoyed a flight of cider (alcohol or non) to debrief our awesomeness and get to know each other better. Each and everyone there had a blast and would happily recommend the afternoon to a friend.

And as for Pieta, the little girl with the long-time love of the circus, she has since signed up for time at the gym to build her strength so that so will be able to hoist herself up farther next time!

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