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Exploring the world of circus arts

Senior Sam Wilk participates in acrobatics through SANCA

Elsa Andersen, Features Editor
Originally published November 21, 2017

Miles Whitworth

Senior Sam Wilk performs a handstand with Samammish High School sophomore Saffi Watson at his Nov. 11 show. He has been doing acrobatics since he was 10 years old.

While many students participate in soccer or basketball, senior Sam Wilk has found a passion for a different type of sport.

Wilk has been participating in circus arts with the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA) since he was 10. “The first troupe I joined was the Magnificent 7,” Wilk said. “I was in the Magnificent 7 when I was 10ish and then I was in that for I think two years before I went to France. And so then I was in France for a year and when I came back, I had a year in the Mag 7 and then I moved up to the troupe I’m in now.”

Wilk moved to France when he was in fifth grade because his mom is French and they were able to live with her family. Being in another country didn’t keep him from his passion, though. “We found this little circus place that was in Geneva, actually, and so we’d drive across the border on Tuesday evenings because in France there’s no school on Wednesdays,” Wilk said. “It was super typical with the tent, and all the caravans around it with all the coaches that were just living there. It was really funny. It was like pretty much what you expect when you think of a circus.”

Circus arts offer him a way to improve at something he loves, without the competition of gymnastics, which can have similar skills. “I did a bunch of handstands and acrobatics and stuff when I was little and we were looking for like a gymnastics program. We have a lot of family friends that did gymnastics and also ended up getting seriously hurt, and so they weren’t super into that, and so SANCA was just one of the other options, where it’s like not competitive at all. My parents were like ‘well, if he doesn’t have to compete he’s probably not going to push himself into getting injuries.’”

In the performances, Wilk juggles, tumbles and participates in partner acrobatics. “I think partner acrobatics is my favorite. I ended up, especially last year, doing a lot of pitching, which is like two people throwing other people into flips and that sort of thing which is really fun.”

The performances give the acrobats an opportunity to design parts of their shows with help from SANCA coaches. “We have a show director, and we’re told which acts we’re going to be in and we’re left, more or less, on our own to develop the tricks and the actual act,” Wilk said. “The director mostly choreographs acts, like the storyline throughout the show, so that everything is tied together and then we have an opening and closing act that are choreographed by our coaches. [For] the actual acts, we work with our coaches, but it’s like self-chosen which tricks we want to put in and that sort of thing.”

In his most recent performance entitled “Acro-Biographies,” Wilk participated in club juggling, handstands, straps, and the teeterboard, as well as both the opening and closing acts.

While he will age out of his current troupe soon, Wilk plans to continue his unique sport if possible. “I think if there’s like clubs at the college I go to, I would continue it. I don’t plan to like, do it professionally, which a lot of the people in my troupe do,” Wilk said. “Eventually, usually, the main goal is to perform for Cirque de Soleil, because then you’re well known, but there’s a bunch of other troupes that go and perform.”

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Exploring the world of circus arts