Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 23, 2024

Student acrobats unite in Circus Club

By NATHAN BICK | April 2, 2015

The Johns Hopkins Circus Club was founded last year to further awareness of circus arts at Homewood and in the greater community.

Generally, the term “circus arts” refers to the practice of gymnastic-style and performance-oriented events and skills. There are pedagogical systems to categorize circus skills, including the Gurevich system, practiced in Russia, and the Hovey Burgess system.

The Hovey Burgess system divides circus skills into the following broad categories: juggling, equilibristics and vaulting. The events are not usually the same as gymnastic events.

The Circus Club was jointly founded by juniors Marni Epstein and Gwen Martin. Epstein has been involved with circus arts since she was 13 years old. She attended summer camps and flying trapeze school.She has always been focused on flying trapeze and other aerial skills such as silks, in which a person performs aerial acrobatics while hanging from silks attached to the ceiling.

During a gap year between high school and Hopkins, Epstein spent five months at a youth circus club in South Africa. She met Martin at Hopkins and discovered they shared a love for circus. They decided to start the club in order to continue practicing circus arts in college.

The 12 club members meet once a week at the Mobtown Ballroom in downtown Baltimore for a two-hour training session. These training sessions are led by Epstein and Martin, as well as the Mobtown Ballroom’s in-house professional aerial teacher.

In addition to this once-per-week aerial-focused training session downtown, the Circus Club also has a weekly session on the Homewood campus in the Ralph S. O’Connor Recreation Center, where they practice handstands, acrobatics and human pyramids.

The aerial-focused sessions have limited space, and new members are accepted as spaces open up. The sessions held on campus at the Rec Center are open to the public.

“The club is a lot of fun,” Epstein wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “It’s definitely challenging but extremely rewarding to see how much people have improved over the past year,”

The club strives to build a strong sense of trust among its members, a trust that is essential for safe and successful team-based circus.

They also try to share relevant news and attend local circus events, such as a Washington, D.C. performance of the Zip Zap Circus, a South African social circus, or the upcoming performance of Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai in Baltimore this summer.

“It’s been great for me to get to teach these skills to my peers and spread my love and passion for circus,” Epstein wrote.

The Circus Club will be hosting a free show at the Mobtown Ballroom on April 30. The show will feature the club’s members performing acts such as aerial silks, acroyoga, human pyramids, cyr and German wheels and juggling. Free transportation to the event will be provided.

“It’s a lot about body control and is super great,” club member Veronica Reardon said. “It can be very frustrating but that makes getting new tricks that much more exciting. Circus Club is a great group of people to spend time with.”

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