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Central Maumelle North Little Rock
Central Homegrown 0

Arkansas Circus Arts Create A Special Kind of Community


When you think of the circus, do you imagine trapeze acts, flame-twirling entertainers and aerial acrobats that seemingly defy gravity? These acts are all circus arts: learned skills involving strength, flexibility, focus and a little daring. You don’t have to be a member of the circus to experience these arts, though. Arkansas Circus Arts (ACA) in North Little Rock offers the chance for anyone to learn new skills and experience the unusual community circus arts create.

Rebeka Poland never thought she’d own a circus arts studio. Poland, originally from Florida, studied petroleum engineering in college and began working in Louisiana. Eventually, her job led her to Little Rock. Poland came from a dance background, participating in dance in high school and college. A friend invited her to try hoop dancing, a circus art that includes learning dance moves and tricks with a Hula Hoop. Poland loved it and was hooked. Hoop dancing led to fire arts and fire dancing. When she came to Arkansas, Poland met a group of fire dancers and hula hoopers and quickly connected with Camille Rule, who ran her own studio called ReCreation Studios in downtown Little Rock. Meanwhile, Poland had created Southern Lights Flow Retreat, which brought those interested in Circus Arts to Arkansas for intensive workshops. The two entrepreneurs decided to join forces in 2016 and created Arkansas Circus Arts.

The classes and experiences offered at Arkansas Circus Arts are an interesting mix of performance and fitness. Through classes like Aerial Arts, Bungee, Belly Dance and Pole Arts, students learn how to combine strength and movement using traditional circus apparatus like hula hoops, trapeze, poles, and aerial silks. If the idea of trying out an aerial silks class, which allows participants to perform various movements while hanging in the air, makes you nervous, you’re not alone. Poland and Rule recognized the need for classes to introduce beginners to circus arts. Beginners can start with an aerial foundations class, designed to teach the basic movements and vocabulary of this art.

“You learn the proper way to hang and body movements. We meet you where you’re at,” Poland says. “You don’t have to be flexible or strong. We’ll show you the ropes.” Arkansas Circus Arts also offers group experiences for entire groups of friends, like bachelorette parties or birthday outings, to experience aerial arts together. This creates a less intimidating environment as friends try out circus arts together.

After creating their studio in 2016, Arkansas Circus Arts started offering classes for children and youth as well, and suddenly, they needed more teachers to meet increasing demand. They trained some of their own students and hired others and the studio began to grow. The release of the film “The Greatest Showman on Earth” in 2017 also brought unexpected awareness of circus arts to the studio. “Everyone wanted The Greatest Showman Party or The Greatest Showman Experience,” Poland said. “It boosted the business.”

Arkansas Circus Arts also offers a space for trained circus performers to work. They provide circus entertainers for corporate events, weddings, parties, and conferences. Entertainers range from fire arts to aerial arts, belly dancers, and costumed performers. They even provide aerial bartenders who serve drinks while hanging from silks. The studio has its own costume designers as well, and Poland promises they can customize the circus experience to fit any theme.

While stepping into the studio for the first time can be intimidating, it’s also a chance to experience a new community along with a new skill. Participants learn about Arkansas Circus Arts’ four C’s: Connection, Community, Commitment and Collaboration. These four words encompass what the studio means to Poland. “You have to be committed to building skills and strength. On a personal level, we spend three to nine months together working on a skill. When you achieve it, we make a big deal out of it. Everyone knows how hard you’ve been working.”

This connection and community is what Poland loves most about co-owning Arkansas Circus Arts. The studio has grown, but so have all of the people involved. “I really enjoy watching the community blossom,” Poland says. “It’s nice to see women surprising themselves in what their bodies can do and not what they look like. We’re focused on what skills our bodies can learn. It’s nice to see moms discovering their strength again. Even our youth who come in shy and don’t talk, their confidence just grows. It’s empowering.”

Empowerment is the right word for what Poland and Rule have created with their women-owned business. Classes are open to anyone at any level. The studio holds recitals and performances a few times a year, which allows students to train for the performance aspect of circus arts. Although not everyone has to participate, anyone who has reached Level Two at the studio can perform if they want to. Arkansas Circus Arts holds a spring recital, a Halloween show, and a Christmas show. The shows are ticketed and open to the public.

This year, the studio is growing again. Arkansas Circus Arts is getting a much bigger studio space and relocating from its current studio in Maumelle to only five minutes away in White Oak Crossing. Here, aerial artists will be able to practice in a space with 35 feet of clearance instead of the current 18 feet. “This will allow our professionals to train at the level and height they need,” Poland says. With that kind of aerial clearance, Poland also stresses the studio’s emphasis on safety. “We practice safety first, safety always. That includes mental safety, creating a space where people don’t feel intimidated.”

While the idea of circus arts might be intimidating, the growth of Arkansas Circus Arts reveals how exciting and empowering the skills are to many in the state. For anyone interested in trying something new and finding a community at the same time, circus arts may just be the ideal adventure.

Learn more about Arkansas Circus Arts, children and youth classes, summer camps, and entertainment options at Arkansas Circus Arts’ website or the Arkansas Circus Arts Facebook page.

All photos courtesy of Arkansas Circus Arts and used with permission.

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Kimberly S. Mitchell loves journeys, real or imagined. She has hiked the Inca Trail, walked into Panama on a rickety wooden bridge and once missed the last train of the night in Paris and walked several miles home (with friends). She believes magic can be found in life and books, loves to watch the stars appear, and still dreams of backpacking the world. Now she writes adventures to send her characters on journeys, too. Pen & Quin: International Agents of Intrigue - The Mystery of the Painted Book is her debut novel. Find out more at KSMitchell.com.

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