The Secret Circus Mission
Secret Circus is a Philadelphia based institution for instruction in aerial, circus arts, aerial yoga and mobility training.
We strive for safe, smart and skilled instruction taught by trained and seasoned coaches, in fact, we are some of the region's highest level and experienced coaches in aerial instruction.
Our classes are 1 hour to 1 hour 30 mins depending on level. We offer introductory classes, short intro sessions, and full sessions in which classes meet weekly for 6 to 9 weeks. Class apparatus changes week to week from static trapeze, aerial rope, and silk. Some classes also offer aerial sling and lyra, but all classes have a focus on performance and choreography.
We offer more than just a skill based instruction. We teach how to put skills together in creative, useful ways that allow each student to understand the WHYs behind wraps, drops, and skills. Our knowledgeable teachers are invested in making each class a new, interesting, and challenging experience for everyone. We meet each student where they are and help them to grow each week.
Why don't we offer class cards for our Aerial classes or unscheduled drop-ins like dance classes or yoga? At Secret Circus we believe in teaching linear progressions: each week we build on skills we learned in previous weeks. This helps us get stronger, as we start to understand each apparatus and how to move through it and with it.
Why we think you should study on vertical, as well as bar apparatus, when starting your aerial journey.
I’ve been teaching Aerials for almost a decade, and one thing I've seen from teaching students from all over the world is that students who started aerials and only focused on the study of one apparatus are very limited in their skill base and a lot weaker in different areas.
I’ll give you some examples: Students I know who are mainly silk artists have great grip, but struggle with lat strength in power moves. They also seem to move a lot slower through transitions than those who also study on trapeze, and tend to have weaker hamstrings and stronger quads.
Only, trapeze students are not as comfortable in the ropes as they could be if they studied in the ropes on silk or rope. They have weaker knee grip strength in the quads than hamstring and much weaker adductors (those muscles you use to grip a rope or silk between your legs.)
Starting out learning on each apparatus allows students to get comfortable in the air—build work different muscle groups, give a wider variety to their skill knowledge, find successes sooner, and then draw from each apparatus when it's time to create an act.
Even climbing a rope can really help those working high in the trapeze ropes (it's one of the best workouts for your upper body!) understand how to wrap their feet, roll up one rope, and things like hip locks and drops can all transfer from silks or rope to the trapeze. What's also awesome about these apparatus crossovers is, you can practice wrapping the legs and body very near the ground on silks—learn skills like how to cross the silks behind your back and how to exit wraps—before you try it higher in the ropes of the trapeze.
Learning a hip key on rope without the pull of the bar and two ropes can make it much less confusing and easier to understand, so when you take it to the trapeze ropes it will already be in your muscle memory!
Of course, once we have studied and developed a firm foundation, individual preference for an apparatus becomes clear. For that reason, advanced students may want to focus on one apparatus to improve faster, but without the vertical knowledge getting to an advanced place could, in my opinion, take a lot longer due to many more gaps, especially when it comes to choreography and creativity. Not to mention, that once you want to try and make a living teaching or performing as a professional, it makes you much more marketable! The more things you do the more likely you will get hired.
Training over, and over on one apparatus can get discouraging, and can leave us feeling uninspired. Having more choices can help us to avoid burnout as an artist when one’s focus is too narrow.
Another great point to remember is that cross training (for any athlete) will also help prevent injury... If you do one particular thing over and over, you are more likely to get hurt than if you vary it and work other areas and range of motion. Along those lines, aerials are a great thing for non-circus people to use for cross training.
The biggest thing I draw from, is that after ten years, I still don't have a favorite. I love getting to discover and translate movement from one apparatus to another. I find that trapeze is definitely where I am the most comfortable, but I wouldn't be half as good and comfortable as I am without my skills and practice on silks and rope. And let's not forget about all other apparatuses invented or traditional, like dance trapeze, aerial ladder, cube, chair, straps, duo slings, and all other duo work!
Why limit yourself?
What some happy students have said:
"Circus is a means of self-expression, showcasing the beauty and power of the human body and the limitless of the human spirit. It is creative physicality, unique from dance, theater, or visual arts, yet combines all three art forms into one."
- Allison W
"We are challenged both physically and creatively, and I'm proud to be a part of a community that contributes something of beauty to our world."
- Laurie L.
"I have had to challenge my perfectionism and face my fears. With the support of my teachers and classmates, I have been able to try things I never thought I would do."
- Andrea M.