Residents who attend morning and early afternoon focus concerts at Powell River Festival of the Performing Arts on Monday, February 24, will be treated to a demonstration of circus arts, as two young women ascend up richly coloured silks to perform several metres above the ground.
“Gymnastics generally takes place on the ground, while circus arts are generally in the air,” said Keely Sills, instructor for the circus arts program at Powell River Gymnastics Society. “That can include silks, hoops, trapeze, harness dancing, ropes and bungee, as well as acrobatics. We spend a lot of time upside down,” she added with a laugh.
Sills started the circus arts program a couple of years ago when she moved to Powell River, and the response from the community has been good.
“We initially offered six-week sessions, but circus arts require a lot of strength and a lot of repetition to perform safely and well,” she said. “Now we run a year-long program, and the students are getting to the point where they feel comfortable performing. It’s a better fit for them and me.”
Sills teaches aerial silks to both youth and adults, and her students have started to perform both ground-based and aerial routines at events around Powell River.
The focus concerts are a new addition to the festival.
“We have replaced the traditional Band and Instrumental category with three variety concerts on Monday, February 24,” said festival treasurer Jan Gisborne. “When we were approached about something completely different, our committee felt the aerials would fit into those new offerings.”
The word is getting out about circus arts in Powell River, according to Sills.
“I’ve been getting more and more requests for performances,” she said. “We did a ground-based act at Town Centre Mall over Christmas, and we’ll be doing another ground-based opening number for the upcoming Powell Riviera: The Musical, as well as possibly some aerials.”
Sills is passionate about circus arts and what it gives to people.
“My students get a huge self-confidence boost, because most people can’t do this,” she said. “You have to like a challenge, and you have to be tenacious, because it takes a lot of practice.
“When you do partner and teamwork, you have to have good rapport and communication with each other, as well as trust that the others are going to catch you. With circus, you’re always surpassing yourself; you’ll never get to the end.”
The focus concerts take place at Max Cameron Theatre on Monday, February 24. The circus arts segment will be part of the 10:30 am and 1 pm shows. The concerts are free, although donations to the festival will be accepted.
“After 75 years, we were looking for changes and this fit perfectly,” said Gisborne. “It is something new for our audiences.”
Anyone with questions about circus arts can contact Sills at 778.960.3215.
Powell River Festival of the Performing Arts begins on Saturday, February 22, and continues until Friday, March 6.