Learning Circus – Part 1: London

Many people these days want to learn circus, whether it’s just for fun or fitness, or professionally because they want to be a performer.

Regardless of why you want to learn circus, the circus arts are a fantastic set of skills to have and to learn. Training in circus skills is great for strength, flexibility, stamina, dexterity and coordination, and is also incredibly social. Circus skills are used to develop physical, mental and social skills in young children are used around the world as a tool for social change with disadvantaged youth.

Depending on your age, experience and your intention (do you want to be a professional performer or do you just want to do it for fun/fitness?) there are many skills you can learn and lots of places you can learn them.

Through a short series of posts I’ll direct you to a variety of places where you can learn them. Rather than trying to list every place or circus company in the world that offers circus skills training (which I’m pretty sure would be close to impossible) I’m going to try to point you in the right direction.

Being a Londoner, I thought I’d start with circus training in London. So if you’re in London and want to learn circus skills either professionally or for fun and fitness read on…

I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible but I can’t promise that everything here is 100% accurate. If I got something wrong about you, I apologise. Please let me know and I’ll correct it. To cover my own ass I’m not vouching for any of the following schools, groups, classes or organisations (with one exception). I’m just letting you know what I know about. As ever you should check them out for yourself. 

circus

Greater London (and close enough for jazz)

Circus Space – the UK’s biggest circus school

Circus Space runs classes for everyone from 2 years old and up, both recreationally and professionally. If you want to learn flying trapeze, acrobatics, tightwire or handstands check them out. They also run workshops for companies or groups as team building or purely for fun. If you head to Circus Space you may end up with me teaching you so watch out!

AirCraft Circus @ The Hangar – London’s other big training space

Located in south east London, the Hangar is London’s other major circus training centre. They offer a 15 week full-time course as well as evening and weekend classes for adults and children. Their AirTime programme also allows adults to train and practice their disciplines in a less formal setting.

Albert & Friends Instant Circus – Circus for Everyone

Albert & Friends have been around for yonks. Based in Hammersmith, they run classes for young people irrespective of their socio-economic environment or physical ability at a couple of locations in west London.

Jacksons Lane – Circus with So & So

Jacksons Lane associate artists, So & So Circus, run weekly Jacksons Lane Youth Circus as well as acrobalance classes for adults 16+ in this converted church in Highgate.

Airborne Circus – Getting circus off the ground

This is the one I’m allowed to vouch for. From this November, I’ll be running regular circus classes in partnership with Finchley Youth Theatre at their converted church in East Finchley. Classes are currently available for young people aged 8-19 and cover acrobatics, juggling, diabolo, stilt walking and trapeze.

Highgate Newtown Community Centre – North London Trapeze

Highgate Newtown Community Centre have aerial classes for children and adults a couple of times a week.

Circus Suburbia – Circus in Surbiton

Some of the brightest young circus artists around have gotten together and are running classes in aerial, acrobatics and juggling for young people aged 10-19 and adults at a local school. If you’re south of the river check them out.

My Aerial Home – Aerial, aerial, aerial

My Aerial Home run classes in static trapeze, corde lisse, aerial dance and the aerial arts out of a sports centre in Beckenham.

Gorilla Circus – Circus in the park

Often found in one of the parks Gorilla Circus offers classes in Flying Trapeze to anyone that can fit into a safety harness! Sometimes they can also be found running flying trapeze indoors at the Hangar.

Cirque Nova – Circus & Street Arts

Cirque Nova specialise in circus for people with physical, learning and mental health disabilities, homeless and offending backgrounds as well as children and local schools.

Circus Glory – Trapeze for Kids

Circus Glory run classes and workshops in trapeze for children and young people.

Circus practice

Do you know any other circus groups or organisations in and around London? Let everyone know in the comments below.

9 thoughts on “Learning Circus – Part 1: London”

  1. Thanks for this list! I’ve been reading your blog for a while, you seem to know what the average circus student keeno wants to know about circus!

    I’ve been taking flying trapeze class once a week at Circus Space, which is nowhere enough if you’re addicted! So I’ve been looking into Gorilla Circus and Hangar.

    One question for you as an Aerial teacher – could you recommend any tutorials/guidance notes on flying trapeze? Specifically, I really struggle to dismount correctly as per the “one (at back), two (tiny swing to front), three (kick back or vertical legs depending on who you ask), let go” method taught at Circus Space which seems to be used nowhere else (other schools use the backflip or the bullet drop to dismount). Until recently, I thought I was supposed to let go on three, but another teacher told me it’s a “one, two, three, wait, let go”. I ask if I let go on four and am told “there is no four”. Can you tell me if I’m supposed to let go when I’m at the lowest point or… yeah, any guidance would be much appreciated!

    1. Hi Jen – thanks for your comments! I’m very happy you’re getting something from our blog!

      The tempo I teach is a “temp passe simple dismount” (which is what I think you’re describing) and is the tempo you’d use on a petit volant (small fly) rig to land on your feet. If you do that tempo and let go on three you’ll rotate forward and land on your face. After the three movements (beat back on one, do a small “block” forward on two, put your feet underneath you on three) you’ll get a moment where you float upwards in a vertical position (which you can use for a number of tricks including the titular simple pass) but have to wait for the peak of the swing to let go, otherwise you’ll travel forward (which you don’t want as if you were passing to a catcher you’d collide with them).

      There are many different dismounts you could do – forward, backward, somersaulting, from above/below the bar, etc – but I find the temp passe simple dismount is the safest, simplest, and most effective method if you want to be able to properly execute any of the tricks that require that timing at a later stage (turns, pirouettes, somersaults, comedy tricks).

      Of course, if you are flying on a rig (big or small) with a net you’d need to land on your back so would dismount differently.

      I think you may have already seen it but I recently posted on my personal blog a video that shows me dismounting (albeit not perfectly). You can find it here: http://iamadamcohen.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/getting-back-in-the-air/

  2. Ohh, that makes so much sense. So when you’re putting your feet underneath you on three, you are actually still travelling towards the highest point, which is why you wait, and then you let go when you reach the highest point. I kind of got that from watching the video over and over, but very nice to have it spelt out so clearly. Thank you Adam!

  3. Hello, I have just found your blog here and was wondering if you had any insider knowledge you could share about training space in London. I want/need to practise aerial hoop as much as possible, I’ve recently finished the CiP course at Greentop and have gotten so used to the amazing training space there and the cost of it, that coming back to London has been a bit of a shock. The courses at Circus Space and the Hanger would be great but once a week is not enough, my ideal is to have a private lesson once or twice a month and then a space to practise throughout the week at a reasonable price.

    Any help would much appreciated, thank you, Grace x

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