No Bearded Ladies Here: The Circus Goes Modern

Zoe Sheppard working on the Roue Cyr, or Cyr Wheel. Zoe is the studio manager, and according to our sources, expert in everything from baking to photography to creating spreadsheets.
Zoe Sheppard working on the Roue Cyr, or Cyr Wheel. Zoe is the Aloft's studio manager, and according to our sources, expert in everything from baking to photography to creating spreadsheets. Jason Marck / WBEZ
Zoe Sheppard working on the Roue Cyr, or Cyr Wheel. Zoe is the studio manager, and according to our sources, expert in everything from baking to photography to creating spreadsheets.
Zoe Sheppard working on the Roue Cyr, or Cyr Wheel. Zoe is the Aloft's studio manager, and according to our sources, expert in everything from baking to photography to creating spreadsheets. Jason Marck / WBEZ

No Bearded Ladies Here: The Circus Goes Modern

When you think circus, you might think acrobats, trapeze artists, clowns. Maybe even bearded ladies. 

Some of that's still around, but the contemporary circus features well-trained artists who perform choreographed moves through the air on silk ropes, balance on each other’s bodies and fly through the air from trampolines. 

In Chicago, circus artists can hone those skills and keep them sharp at Aloft Circus Arts, which now has a new location in Chicago’s Logan Square. The new space offers some of the necessary requirements such as high ceilings and good light--it’s an old church. Aloft Circus Arts founder and artist director Shayna Swanson gave us a tour (and even got Tony to conquer his fear of the trampoline.)

Here's a little bit of what we saw:

Zoe Sheppard working on the Roue Cyr, or Cyr Wheel. Zoe is the studio manager, and according to our sources, an expert in everything from baking to photography to creating spreadsheets.

Tank. Just Tank, working on the ring. Showing off both skills and artwork. Tank was Swanson's first student in Chicago, then studied for a while at a school in Australia. Hair’s been orange since at least ‘05.

Bre Lawson going solo on the rope. Bre is at the studio from open to close every single day

Marc Sorenson working on the silk, aka the tissu. Marc is in the Full Time Training Professional Program

Hayley Larson doing a handstand in the “crying room”, a room off the 2nd floor where people go to work, and, well, cry it out when necessary!.

Jazmin LeFae doing a big stretch.

Shayna Swanson showing some basic moves on the trapeze

And finally, Shayna Swanson giving Tony Sarabia some pointers on the trapeze. He’s a natural!

You can learn more about how this Logan Square circus school revived a church below.