Found | Ot­tawa Cir­cus School

Ottawa Magazine - - THIS CITY - By Dayanti Karunaratne


Ot­tawa na­tive So­phie La­treille spent years train­ing as a dancer and even­tu­ally went to Mon­treal to study more se­ri­ously. “I got a bit into the dance world, and I wasn’t en­joy­ing it. It wasn’t for me,” says La­treille. So, like many young peo­ple, she strapped on her back­pack and set off for ad­ven­ture, trav­el­ling for three years around North Amer­ica. Time and time again, she was drawn to cir­cus per­form­ers. “I think that the dance world was very se­ri­ous, com­pet­i­tive, and some­times not pleas­ant be­cause of that high level of com­pe­ti­tion — and few con­tracts.” Since launch­ing the Ot­tawa Cir­cus School pro­grams in 2004, La­treille has teamed up with lo­cal coaches in hula-hoop­ing, acro-yoga, and var­i­ous other play­ful prac­tices that are as much fun to watch as they are to do.


Pupils at the cir­cus school come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and abil­i­ties. Some par­ents pre­fer to put their chil­dren in ac­tiv­i­ties that are less about win­ning the game and more about push­ing one’s own lim­its. And there are plenty of adults out there look­ing for some­thing fun and ac­tive. The small-group at­mos­phere of the classes of­fers stu­dents a chance to work to­gether while keep­ing the fo­cus off com­pe­ti­tion. In­tro­duc­tory classes al­low peo­ple to try var­i­ous cir­cus arts: once you’ve found you’re more of a jug­gler than a con­tor­tion­ist, for ex­am­ple, you can pick the spe­cialty that suits you best. Even­tu­ally, La­treille hopes to of­fer a pre-pro­fes­sional pro­gram for those look­ing to run off and join the cir­cus full-time.


For the past 13 years, the Ot­tawa Cir­cus School has op­er­ated out of var­i­ous schools and com­mu­nity cen­tres. And dur­ing the warmer months, La­treille hosted “cir­cus jams” — free drop-in classes with coaches — on the Rink of Dreams at city hall. “It was my way of giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity,” says La­treille. But the pop­u­lar­ity of classes meant that be­fore long, de­mand out­stripped sup­ply, and La­treille be­gan search­ing for a place to call home. She found just that in a ware­house space at 2275 Glad­win Cres., near the Canada Science and Tech­nol­ogy Mu­seum. She has spent the past few months in­stalling mat­ting sim­i­lar to that of gym­nas­tics stu­dios, in­stalling points for ae­rial lines, and paint­ing the space bright, wel­com­ing colours.


The of­fi­cial open­ing of the Ot­tawa Cir­cus School is July 3 — the sesqui­cen­ten­nial hol­i­day Mon­day that will likely see more peo­ple cel­e­brat­ing Canada’s birth­day in Ot­tawa than ever be­fore. So if you’re look­ing for some­thing a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent, head to the south­east­ern corner of the city for the open house. La­treille and her team of jug­glers, uni­cy­clists, and other cir­cus per­form­ers will en­ter­tain and ed­u­cate vis­i­tors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free trapeze, ae­rial hoop, and uni­cy­cling work­shops will be of­fered.

THIS SUM­MER, Ot­tawa’s first of­fi­cial cir­cus school gets a per­ma­nent home. For play­ful pupils who dream of a life un­der the big top — or busk­ing on Sparks Street — this could be the start of some se­ri­ous clown­ing around.

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