Circus Center: Where BatKid & Other Heroes Train!

As almost everyone knows by now, on Friday, November 15, San Francisco turned itself into Gotham City to support Miles, a Make-a-Wish child with leukemia whose wish was to become “BatKid.” The outpouring of support from the local community spread quickly across the internet, resulting in four hundred tweets per minute. All the traffic eventually crashed the Make-a-Wish website! A success by any measure, Circus Center was fortunate enough to play a large role in making Miles’ wish come true, both before and during the big day.

Miles’ advocate was one of Circus Center’s own, Eric Johnston. “EJ” has been coming to Circus Center for years. He’s very active in the flying trapeze program and he even met his wife at the Center! Naturally, anybody who wants to go out and fight crime needs training, and what better place to work on your superpowers than Circus Center?

On Thursday, November 14, before Gotham called on Miles (ahem… BatKid), he came to Circus Center to work on some of his moves. When he arrived, he was greeted by dozens of other superheroes going about their regular training regimens. Miles saw Wonder Woman flying through the air on the flying trapeze, Spiderman on the trapeze netting, Catwoman climbing the Chinese poles, the Green Lantern basing for another Catwoman, Superman working on his tumbling and stretching, and more!

Our instructors Xiaohong and Jennings worked with EJ to arrange an obstacle course for Miles to develop his agility. He bounced off minitramps onto stacked mats, tiptoed across the tightwire, crawled through tunnels, and held on tight to a rolling wheel mat! But that wasn’t all…

BatKid got to fly.

With Xiaohong in tow, Miles climbed the ladder to the flying trapeze platform and clipped in. The smile on his face reached from ear to ear. We could describe the BatKid’s first flight, or you could just watch it…

It was official. BatKid was now ready to fight crime, and Circus Center would be there with him every step of the way.

Whether he was bouncing on the mini-tramp to save the Damsel in Distress from an evil ticking device or maneuvering his way through the Penguin’s booby-trapped obstacle course in AT&T Park to save Lou Seal, Circus Center gave Miles the tools he needed to succeed in saving the day.

Click through the gallery below to see pictures of BatKid at Circus Center!

The Urban School Physics Classes

For the past ten years, The Urban School has been coming to Circus Center with their advanced Physics students to collect data for their final projects. This past week, 45 students donned vests equipped with accelerometers as they took turns on the Flying Trapeze.

The accelerometers in their vests record acceleration in 3 directions and the student’s altitude. The recording starts before they climb up the ladder, triggering a camera located in the bleachers to start recording their movement all the way through the swing, into the catch, and eventually dropping into the net. The students will then take all of the recorded data, paired with the videotape, and put together a comprehensive report for their final Physics project.

We’ll be sure to let you know what the students discovered!  

The Power of Performance

I’ve been a performer since I was a little kid. The earliest performance I can remember is when I played the starring role in a play called “The Littlest Angel” at my family’s church. I had more lines than any other character — learning them all was a daunting task for a 9-year-old! In addition to rehearsals, I spent hours with my mom running my lines and blocking. I worked so hard because I knew that in a matter of first weeks, then days, I would be on stage in front of a live audience. I wanted to be ready to shine, and I definitely wanted to avoid screwing up!

For many of our students, performance is the point of circus training — their goal is to strut their stuff onstage, here at Circus Center and/or elsewhere. Even if performance is not your primary goal, however, it has a unique power that can make it a vital part of your training.

I was reminded of the pedagogical importance of performance at last weekend’s Halloween Haunted House & Carnival here at Circus Center. Our Youth Circus students performed single-point trapeze, tissu, hoop, and acrobatics routines four times over two nights. Everyone did a terrific job. These students train hard every week, but because they knew they had a performance coming up, they trained even harder. They also learned things in performance that are hard to learn otherwise:

  • the difference between rehearsal quality and performance quality
  • the stamina and focus required to perform multiple times in one weekend
  • the importance of stage presence, especially in their entrances, bows, and exits
  • which skills they know well, and which need more practice
  • how to adapt their routines to different pieces of music
  • how to cope with wardrobe mishaps and other little surprises
  • how to support their fellow performers
  • and much more.

There really is nothing like a performance to focus your mind and push you to raise your game. That’s why I encourage everyone who trains at Circus Center — from our greenest beginners to our seasoned pros and even our instructors — to audition this Sunday (2 – 6 p.m.) for the Winter Showcase. Come show us which tricks you’ve mastered, and which ones you’re still working on. We will work with you to make the process both positive and instructive. To sign up, fill out this application; for more information, contact Erin Brothers at

Be part of the Winter Showcase, and experience for yourself the power of performance! Barry Kendall, Executive Director