Sideshow 101

with Josh Routh

Sign up

Bally Hoo! Bally Hoo! Here is your chance to learn sword swallowing from one of only one hundred sword swallowers in the world!

Gather the secrets of the human blockhead and the knowledge to walk on broken glass, eat light bulbs, break a cinder block on your head, put your hand in a trap, read minds and much more.

Also included will be plans for bed of nails construction and everyone will receive the tools for handcuff escapes. So come one come all and join Josh Routh as he takes you behind the curtain for Sideshow 101!

Joshua Routh is a nationally recognized entertainer, and a founding member of the performing troupe, Circus Kaput. He has performed in 42 states, for thousands of people in many diverse venues, including the Smithsonian Museum and Ripley's Believe it Or Not!

Josh has performed with The New Pickle Circus, The San Francisco Youth Circus, The Famous Reynold’s Circus, The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival and many others. Joshua has been on the small screen in TV commercials for Maxwell House, Ameren UE, H & R Block, and many others. He has been featured on the TV shows ‘Best of California’ and ‘House Calls’, and seen on NBC, FOX, ABC, PBS and UPN. When he is not performing Joshua is busy directing, consulting and teaching circus, theater and the related arts for many corporations like Google, Wells Fargo, and Edward Jones. He also lectures for universities, theater companies, magic societies and circus organizations.

  • Cost: $25
  • Monday February 27th, 2017 | From 6:30-8:30pm
  • Suitable for beginners

We will cover skills such as:

  • Sword swallowing
  • Walking on broken glass
  • Human blockhead
  • Cinderblock breaks
  • Mentalism
  • Feats of pain resistance and strength
  • Bed of Nails construction
  • Escapes and more!

Jen Crane | Workshop | Circus Center


Shoulder Injury Prevention for Circus Artists

With Jen Crane


Sunday March 12th, 2017 | 11am to 1pm

Price: $65

Minimum age: 16 years old (no maximum)

No pre-requisites

Are you at risk for shoulder injury?

This highly interactive, two-hour workshop will lead you through a battery of circus-specific strength and flexibility tests to determine your injury risk during participation in circus activities. You will receive either a pass/ fail score on each part of the test, and will be instructed in specific exercises for the components that you did not pass. At the end of the workshop, you will have a comprehensive injury-prevention plan of exercises, mobility drills, and stretches that is specific to YOU and your body! You will also be instructed in the BEST warm up and cool down routine that will both optimize your athletic performance AND prevent future injuries!
Jen Crane |
Dr. Jennifer Crane is a physical therapist, athletic trainer, board certified orthopedic specialist, and published author. She has been a sports medicine professional for eight years, and has worked with a wide variety of athletes and performing artists throughout that time. Most recently, she worked as a physiotherapist living in China with the Chinese Olympic Teams in preparation for the Rio 2016 Olympics. While in China, she worked with multiple sports teams: diving, weight-lifting, fencing, gymnastics, synchronized swimming, and track and field. Of the athletes she worked with, 18 of them went on to get an Olympic gold medal in Rio. Now happily back in San Francisco, Jen’s practice is based at Circus Center, where she specializes in injury prevention and treatment of circus artists. She works closely with performing artists of all specialties and all levels, from the brand new aerial student to professional acrobats, aerialists, hand-balancers, and contortionists. When she’s not working with circus artists, she can usually be found standing on her hands, swinging on flying trapeze, or spinning on a single point trapeze.

Chinese Pole Intensive

with Will Underwood

This 2-hour intensive is for all of those who want to push their abilities on the Chinese Pole.  A rubber pole will be used, allowing for people who train primarily on painted steel poles to expand their repertoire and discover the creative possibilities a rubber pole can give.

Class will touch on improving climbing techniques, locks and slides, moving progressively through a number of existing tricks and combinations, and on to creation and collaboration to expand your vocabulary on the pole.

As an award winning duo pole specialist, Will would like to allow time to partner up and discover the endless possibilities and pleasure of duo pole work.

This supportive intensive is perfect for pole artists wishing to throw some new moves, get some inspiration from a master chinese pole performer, or just have a fresh pair of eyes for that nagging problem you’ve been working on!

Feb 19th | from 2:30pm to 4:30pm
Cost: $80 
Age minimum: 16 years old


Must have either proficient chinese pole experience and be able to monkey climb comfortably up and down the pole, or dance pole intermediate or advanced level with 2 years minimum experience.

Two Chinese pole artists performing a routine


Will Underwood | Headshot | Circus Center

Will was born and raised in San Francisco California. He began training Chinese acrobatics when he was 8 years old with master trainer Mr. Lu Yi. Over the years, his love for training and performing grew, and his passion for Circus eventually led him to Montreal, where he broadened his circus knowledge and skill at the "National Circus School". He graduated in 2005 as a Hand to Hand specialist with his partner Heloise Bourgeois, and began touring with "The 7 Fingers."

Will and Heloise eventually began working together on the Chinese pole, and won the gold medal for their Pole act in :Cirque de Demain" in Paris in 2012.  They have had continued success in international festivals around the world, including gold and silver medals in France, Russia, China and Japan. Will now performs with various companies, cabarets, and festivals worldwide. He is especially inspired to expand his limits as a performer, collaborate with new people, broaden his knowledge and experience in theater and music, and share it on the stage.


Each day students will take 2 classes, totaling 3-5 training hours.
Classes will be held between 12 - 9. Class times will vary from day to day.

Monday: Injury Prevention and Contortion
Tuesday: Hand Balancing and Acrobatics
Wednesday: Contortion and Specialty Workshops
Thursday: Acrobatics and Active Flexibility
Friday: Semi-Privates and Hand Balancing/Conditioning

Note: Most days will also have open gym time scheduled.

Dates: June 4 – 30, 2017
Applications and video submissions due by February 3
Acceptances will go out February 17th.
Ages 16 and up
Cost: $2400
Limited space. Students must be accepted in order to attend.

March 3: Deadline for $500 non-refundable deposit
April 14: Deadline for remaining balance


"It may sound cliche but Catie's Contortion Intensive changed my entire life. Before the Intensive, I was never quite sure how to train in order to make progress both safely and timely. That's not to say that progress always comes quickly in contortion, but with Catie's experience, knowledge, and hands-on guidance I was far more successful than I ever was on my own. 

The Intensive was incredibly well organized with just enough training to keep me focused and making progress but also keep me injury free. In addition to the alternating training and recovery time, there were many other great classes, like dance and acrobatics, that built onto and improved my contortion practice and performance.

All of the classes in the Contortion Intensive were small and specific to my training needs, which allowed me to set my own goals based on my ability, and made me feel like I could accomplish them. Not only did this makes for an excellent training experience, but it also incorporated me into a surprisingly supportive, loving, and motivating circus community. It was like I discovered the family I never had, but always dreamed of!"

- 2015 Contortion Intensive graduate. 


JUNE 4 - 30, 2017

Unlike anything offered in the US, this four-week intensive not only increases students' flexibility and knowledge in Mongolian contortion, but develops and creates well-rounded performers. The first three weeks will focus on perfecting technique, developing personalized tools, and learning new skills to add to students' repertoires, as well as weekly workshops. These speciality workshops will deal with nutrition, character development, resumes, and helping students navigate the professional circus world upon completion. The final week will focus primarily on developing an act for each individual student which will then be presented in a final showcase on the last day of the intensive. Any budding contortionists looking to enhance their technique while gaining knowledge of this business would significantly benefit from this intensive.

If you have any questions, you can contact our instructor Catie Brier at



Catie Brier | Senior Faculty | Circus Center

Catie has been a resident of San Francisco for over 11 years. She began her training at Dance and Circus Arts of Tampa Bay over 17 years ago, where she studied dance and contortion. During her time there she trained under choreographer Debra Brown and contortionist Laurence Racine. Upon moving to San Francisco she started training with Master Lu Yi at Circus Center. She went on to train with Mongolian contortionist Serchmaa Byamba and began performing all around the United States. She’s been seen performing with companies such as Quixotic Fusion, Circus Bella, Trapeze World and New Pickle Circus. Throughout her career Catie has developed a passion for not only teaching the art of contortion but also inspiring people to push the limits of their bodies. Over the last few years Catie has developed a thriving and entirely unique contortion program at Circus Center. This will be her 4th year directing the Contortion Intensive since establishing it in 2013.


Is this program suitable for beginners?

Short answer, no. This program is designed for students who have had previous flexibility or contortion training. That said, everyone is encouraged to apply!

Why don't you have a minimum skill level?

Everyone's body is different. Some skills that are considered standard contortion skills might be hard for certain people because of body type/proportions, training experience, etc. I don't want to discourage people to apply because of body type. We do hope that everyone who applies is able to go in and out of a chest stand relatively easily though.

Do I need to find my own housing, or will housing be provided?

You are responsible for finding your own housing. There are resources on this website, or you can ask the circus community as there are usually people looking to sublet their rooms during the month of June.

Is there an age limit?

Technically no. The program is designed more for students 16-30, but you will not be turned away solely based on age if you are over that. (Every past intensive has had at least 2 people over 30)

Unused Content: