7 local places to learn and practice circus skills

Run away with the circus without leaving Chicago! If your child prefers to hang upside down while swinging from the monkey bars or tries to jump off a kitchen cabinet to reach the kitchen fan, he belongs in the circus. He’ll be able to squeeze out every last ounce of that energy, and it’s the one place where jumping, swinging, swirling and balancing on one foot is encouraged.

Here are some fabulous places where your child can juggle, balance and hang upside down.

CircEsteem

Where: 4730 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago

Ages: 3-18

Circus classes and camps for kids ranging from silks to trapeze to a general circus buffet. Their mission is to unite youth from diverse racial, social and economic backgrounds in order to raise their self-esteem. Sixty percent of the students attend free of charge. Some families can apply for a scholarship through the website.

MSA & Circus Arts

Ages: 3 and up

Where: 1934 N. Campbell Ave., Chicago

Learn skills such as juggling, clowning, rolling globe, sports acrobatics, trampoline, stilts, unicycle and stage presentation. The founder of the circus arts program, Nourbol Meirmanov, is a graduate of the Moscow State Circus school and has recruited trained circus performers and teachers to work here.

The Actors Gymnasium

Where: 927 Noyes St., Evanston

Ages: 3 through adult 

What it offers: Kids can try everything from gymnastics-based circus classes to the real thing: stilt walking, juggling, trapeze, Spanish web, lyra, contortion and silk knot. Classes are taught by teachers who graduated from theater, musical theater and circus schools. They also offer programs for kids with disabilities and special needs.

TSNY Chicago

Where: 3158 Lakefront Trail, Chicago

Ages: 6 and up

This is the only flying trapeze school in Chicago (others teach trapeze, but this one offers the same experience you’d see in the actual circus). Fly through the air on the flying trapeze, or do something a little tamer like the tight wire or the silks. They have beginner to advanced circus classes.

The Runaway Circus

Where: Various locations

Ages: 2 and up (the average age is 3-10)

It’s a traveling enrichment program. Bring the circus to your child’s school or hire them for a birthday party. They’ll come anywhere in Chicago or the surrounding suburbs for school, parties, special events, workshops or camp.

Triton Troupers Circus

Where: 2000 5th Ave., River Grove

Ages: 16 and up

This real circus invites anyone to join and practice twice a week from 7-10 p.m., and then perform in a real show (with cotton candy and popcorn and paying audience members!). This is a volunteer-based program, but the circus is extraordinary, and they have music, lighting and costumes. Acts include juggling, globes, clowns, trapeze, web and cradle.

Aloft Loft Circus Arts

Where: 2000 W. Fulton, Chicago

Ages: Adults

You can step out of mommy mode—and clown around for a few hours in an adult-only space. Take trapeze, aerial skills, rope or aerial conditioning and technique. Not sure if you’ll like it? Take a two-hour drop-in beginner class to try aerial conditioning, beginning stretching or flexibility. Once you’re taking classes and have an instructor’s permission, you can pop in for open gym.

This article was originally published on March 31, 2016. It has been updated with the most recent information.

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