Sunday, July 19, 2009

SF Circus at Giants County Fair

The Giants County Fair came tumbling to an acrobatic end today with performers from the San Francisco Youth Circus.

First they did circus games with children. Eight-year-old Kayla was 'doing my best' to spin a plate on the end of a stick.

'It's really nice being here and it's really hard to do the plate,' she said, accepting a little help from mum, Sheena.

Other children were grappling with balls on strings and arm-sized hula hoops by the stage. Behind them were the swinging, circling rides and blaring fair music on a hot, sunny afternoon. It was all great fun before the circus troupe limbered up for their performance.

They say the circus is a family, and the San Francisco Circus Center clearly juggles, tumbles and balances in that tradition.

In the troupe were 18-year-old twins, Molly and Aviva, sisters, 19-year-old Oriana and 15-year-old Sofia, and 19-year-old Maya, there with dad, Mike Kesselmen, Executive Director of of the circus, and mum, Rachel.

The twins do acrobatics, Chinese pole - 'handstands on it, it's cool! said Molly - and juggle as a duo.

They enjoy the hard work of training three times a week.

'It's fun to work out. In the youth circus, our trainer has us do things that at first seem impossible, but we're able to motivate each other and we use each others strengths to make it work,' she said.

'I love acrobatics,' said Aviva. 'Juggling is frustrating, because it's like 99 per cent failure and one per cent success!'

'It's all or nothing!' added Molly. 'Either you do it and you catch it, or you drop.'

Both girls, who live in the Bay Area, did recreation circus when they were in their early teens and later had some training with Master Trainer Lu Yi who saw their potential and invited them to join the Youth Circus.

Molly isn't yet sure where her training will take her but Aviva has set her sights on the National Circus School in Montreal, which is the only school in North America for advanced circus arts training.

'I honestly don't know where I want to go with this, but it's the one thing in life that makes me happy,' Aviva said. 'I'm aiming to go to international school but I don't know where it will lead.'

Someone who is just stepping onto the path of professional training is Maya. She has recently been accepted for the Ecole Superieure des Arts du Cirque in Brussels, where she will study for three years for a degree in stage arts and communication techniques, and a major in circus arts.

'I'm moving there next September, so I'm pretty excited about it,' she said, before warming up for an acrobatic chair duo.

Oriana and Sofia, who are also from the Bay Area, do tumbling, Chinese acrobatics and hoop diving, and perform together in a rolla bolla - a balancing board - and kickballs act. For the sisters, the thrill of the circus is in performing.

For Oriana it's 'performing on stage and being able to show off what you've been training really hard to do,' while for Sofia it's 'just the adrenaline rush you get from being on stage, and I just like being able to show what you can really do in a circus.'

The circus has truly got into their blood. Sofia would love to be accepted by the Montreal school, 'that's my circus dream,' she said, while Oriana, who is currently working for a Bachelor's degree, said, 'When I'm finished, I'd like to audition for any circus group and keep performing until I can't do it any more. And then I'd like to teach circus.'

How do their parents feel about having two circus performers in the family?!

'They love it, they are always bragging about it,' beamed Oriana. 'They really like to support us at every show.'

This is the first year for the Giants County Fair which opened, with its 19 rides including the Zipper from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch, food stalls, live music and events program, on July 8.

pics show: Molly and Aviva practising their juggling act; a bustling fair; mum Sheena and Kayla; Sofia and Oriana; Oriana, Sofia, Maya, Molly, Aviva

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