When Salt Spring Island Middle School (SIMS) shuttered after the last school year, one might have been forgiven for fearing the curtain was also closing on the island’s renowned circus instruction and performance program practising within its walls.
No so, according to former Tsunami Circus volunteer administrator and newly minted Salt Spring Island Circus and Gymnastics spokesperson Michelle Bennett. A new partnership with what was Salt Spring Gymnastics — which ran for decades out of Fulford Hall — and access to the gymnasium at the former middle school space has enabled both groups to expand offerings.
“There is a lot of crossover between gymnastics and circus training,” said Bennett, “and the two disciplines are very complementary. Salt Spring Gymnastics was kind enough to consider joining with us so that we could offer expanded programs for all ages.”
“All ages” isn’t an exaggeration; preschool gymnastics programs begin at age one, and circus at age six. In addition, there will be adult courses, separate courses for teens, and courses broken out for beginners and the more advanced.
“So we’ll have programs for kids from age six to 106,” said Bennett. “Whoever wants to join!”
Bennett said there had been so much demand for circus programming, and with the significant investment in time — and money — setting up rigging at the SIMS space, it’s gratifying to be able to continue to use it.
“There’s a great deal of engineering and skill involved in all that needs to be done for the aerials,” said Bennett. “Making it happen and making it safe.”
The new combined program will feature many familiar faces. Bennett said Sarah Robinson will be returning as head gymnastics coach, and several circus coaches are signing back on — as well as a number of talented new members of the combined coaching team. In addition to specialty courses running in four-week sessions — unicycling, hoop, juggling and other circus arts — Salt Spring Island Circus and Gymnastics hopes to offer a hybrid gymnastics/circus class that is accessible to children who might benefit from a smaller lesson size, a quieter room and the flexibility of having a supportive adult join.
“We’d like to hear from the community about what else they might be interested in doing with us, too,” said Bennett, “and from anyone interested in joining the coaching team. We offer training to those who have an interest, even if they don’t have a lot of experience.”
Bennett said while no longer free of cost, gymnastics and circus classes are eligible for funding through Jumpstart and KidSport.
Families and potential coaches can email: firstname.lastname@example.org and find details soon on the Salt Spring Island Circus and Gymnastics Facebook group page.