Many people may not be aware there’s a place in Jamaica Plain that you can practice superhuman feats — the Commonwealth Circus Center. Co-founder/co-manager/co-owner Steve Minnihan answered questions about the circus, what classes are like and whether knife throwing is taught (spoiler: it’s not).
Q: What is the Commonwealth Circus Center?
Minnihan: Commonwealth Circus Center (C3) is a recreational circus arts studio for youth and adults. Our mission at Commonwealth is to build an inclusive community where students of any age, experience level, and ability come together to learn self expression, movement arts, and healthy risk-taking through the joy of circus!
Q: When did it open? How long has it been in Jamaica Plain?
Minnihan: C3 opened in September 2017, and we’ve very happy to have JP as our home!
Q: Can anyone take a class? How old do you need to be?
Minnihan: C3 offers youth classes for children as young as 18 months. Adult classes are for anyone over the age of 16. Yes, absolutely anyone is invited to take a class!
Q: What’s a beginner class like?
Minnihan: No prior experience is needed for any of our beginner classes. At C3, we focus on developing fundamental strength, body awareness, injury prevention and skill progressions. By progressing through the fundamentals, students gain the confidence, understanding, and technique needed to allow them to explore safely while managing the inherent risks.
Q: What are more advanced classes like?
Minnihan: Advanced classes can vary widely depending on the specific circus discipline — that is part of the beauty of the circus! Of course, advanced classes focus on higher-level skills, often incorporating dynamic movement, dramatic drops and descents, and awe-inspiring grace and power. Beyond skills, our advanced classes explore creativity, improvisation, physical theater, dance, act creation, and more. A well-rounded circus artist needs many more tools in their toolbox than simply a list of crazy tricks!
Q: Are there any classes that involve fire or other death-defying circus kind of stuff? Knives being thrown at you?
Minnihan: Not at C3! Circus organization like ours focus on circus arts for learning, community building, empowerment, and self expression. As a result, we aim to distance modern circus from the “death-defying” nature of traditional circuses. Rather than defying death, we focus on educating and inspiring students to achieve superhuman feats through control and conscious movement. Of course, fire spinning and knife throwing can be trained and performed in a safe manner, but we choose to focus on other disciplines!
Q: What are the instructors backgrounds?
Minnihan: We have a large and diverse staff of instructors, in order to cover a wide rage of different circus disciplines. Many of our instructors have been teaching and performing circus arts throughout the New England area for the better part of a decade. Most of our youth instructors have Bachelors and/or Masters Degrees in education.
Q: What else would you like people to know?
Minnihan: C3 is committed to making circus instruction available to students from any social background. Towards this goal, we have partnered with several organizations in the Jamaica Plan and Boston area in order to make circus as affordable, welcoming, and inclusive as possible. For example, we are partnered with the Mission Hill School in JP to integrate circus instruction into the school’s curriculum. Additionally, C3 is partnered with Circus Up, a non-profit social circus organization, to offer low-cost circus instruction and after school programming for youth students from all economic backgrounds.
The Commonwealth Circus Center is located at 8 Brookley Road in Jamaica Plain. Click here for more information about C3.