You don’t have to run off to join the circus anymore—you can immerse yourself in the fun and excitement of the Big Top right here in Hillsborough.
The Circus Place, which is holding an open house Sunday, Oct. 9, offers circus arts education and training for all ages and special needs students. The focus is on exploration and creative play designed to build skills while encouraging trust and community “in the true spirit of the circus.”
While circus workshops and camps exist in New Jersey, The Circus Place is the first facility dedicated to circus arts in the state.
The facility was born from collaboration between performers Craig Quat and Josh Williams of Band of Jugglers, a troupe of jugglers and circus artists dedicated to promoting the therapeutic, developmental and emotional benefits of object manipulation, and Bridgewater residents Ed and Sharyn Brandman.
When Craig began mentoring the Brandmans’ two sons, the 27-year-old’s passion for juggling and its many benefits was contagious. They soon decided to partner in bringing The Circus Place to as many people as possible.
“Teaching the skill is the easy part,” he says. “Self-confidence is the biggest obstacle.”
That’s where his passion, calming influence and innovative adaptive props come in.
“We are about the artistry and the performance and the collaboration and having the kids work as a team,” Sharyn explains. “This is a place for acceptance and to try things in a safe environment and learn really cool stuff without the competition.”
Craig describes the program as “a balance between art and sport.” Activities include unicycles and stilt walking, trapeze and aerial silk skills, balancing, juggling, clowning, and magic, much of which can provide multiple benefits.
For example, training on the trapeze, an iconic circus prop, can serve as an individual’s fitness program for the week. “It’s fun and it’s exciting,” Sharyn adds.
A trapeze bar and aerial silk hang from the high ceilings in the brightly colored Jill Court facility. There are colorful balance balls, plastic plates and hoops for spinning, a unicycle, and an assortment of other props.
In addition, Craig, who majored in English Literature and Secondary Education at Rider University and has been juggling since the age of 9, has developed a library of original activities and props to help students develop their skills.
Juggling, he explains, is more than just the familiar three-ball pattern. “It’s about math and asynchronous motion.”
“It’s all about the process,” he emphasizes. “Kids experience each other and work on collaboration and awareness of each other.”
In essence, students will be learning circus arts and socialization skills “all while they’re having tons of fun,” Sharyn stresses.
The Circus Place offers a variety of programs, including Circus Skills, such as Aerial, Equilibrations (Balance), Hoop Dance, Juggling (including how it relates to math and science); Youth Circus, including “Parent & Me” Circus4Tots playtime groups and Circus Immersion (an introduction to the world of circus arts); Circus Fitness; an Adaptive Program for individuals with special needs; and birthday parties.
The founders also hope to add Circus Yoga and senior programs and develop performance-based troupes that can showcase their talents and enhance local events and programs. This would be part of The Circus Place’s commitment to volunteerism and community outreach.
The Circus Place
3 Jill Court (Building 15, Unit 7)