What's Good About a Global Pandemic?
Reflections on changing times and 'Sandflies Go Viral

Posted by Meredith Benke Bell

Online students attempt the broomestick challenge in Crystal Stacey's Balance and Beyond class.

Hello Friends,

So much has changed since TK last published a newsletter two months ago. We had just welcomed home Rowan Thomas, who led an awesome Train the Trainer weekend, which ended up being the last time that Sandfly trainers or students could do circus together in the same space.

Since then we launched, ‘Sandflies Go Viral,’ – an online program of classes – in order to provide some continuity of programming in a time when even greeting your neighbour at your door was unsafe. We were at home, we were bored and lonely, and we needed connection.

On the one-hand, I don’t want to go on too much about COVID-19. As my 8-year-old rightly observes, “Corona virus takes over every conversation. You start by talking about regular things, but pretty soon all you’re taking about is corona virus!” What can I say? I think he’s right.

However, this is a good time for me to comment on the workings of things that have happened BECAUSE of the corona virus.  Even if you are involved in our online classes, you may not be aware of of what has happened behind the scenes, or behind the screens, I should say.

I’ve been so impressed with the circus trainer and parent helper cohort. They have endured many a tedious Zoom meeting to discuss all sorts of issues regarding moving forward. This includes choosing what classes we would offer (as our online program is totally different from 2-hour long team taught general circus classes) as well as having technology training and firming up online teaching protocols (Why, can anyone tell me, does it require an hour-long meeting to figure out two Zoom audio issues?!?). Then, a number of our trainers showed no hesitation in committing to developing and running their own classes – some of them taking the helm as lead trainer for the first time. They practiced and trialled classes; they participated in feedback sessions. Teen trainers and parent helpers assisted in class observation and offered feedback repeatedly.

Enrolment numbers have been low, but I have discovered that our percentages of online participants are on par with some other circus schools across the country. The result is small classes that have an increased skill focus.  Now, I know when kids are in different rooms, in different houses, they can’t muck around together and distract from learning -- and yes, we know this is one of the reasons that some kids aren’t coming to online class! But the amount of focused learning from our committed online training group cheers me, and encourages me that even when things aren’t perfect, there can be some really important good results.  And some of the creative ideas that trainers have incorporated into their classes, just to shake up an online session, have ranged from heart-warming to absolutely hilarious. Just maybe some of those kids will get the confidence they need from their newly accomplished skills, to launch them into a life-long love of an apparatus or of performance in general.

So, a big thanks to everyone who has made trying something new possible. This also includes parents, TK Board working groups, and last, but most certainly not least, Jael our business manager and Julie, our accounts officer. Jael has backed me up with every tech issue, every booking concern, every insurance query. Julie has completed financial wizardry, no matter the time or the day, to help us figure out what all the changes mean to the bottom line.

Things with COVID have changed already. And, importantly, they will change again soon. Hopefully only in positive ways – that allow us to return to more connected lives.  We will make changes to ‘Sandflies Go Viral,’ as soon as we can, to allow the learning environment that best suits each class. I mean, who really wants to stay home and stare at a screen if you don’t have to? 

We do have to consider a number of factors, so the change won’t occur overnight, as it has for boot camps, for example. We have to consider the opening status of our venue, the sharing (or dis-infecting, or not sharing!) of equipment, and the requirement of human touch in circus – for achieving skills and for safety.

We hope you’re well in all this, and we’ll be in touch.

Categories AAA Publish, Sandfly Circus