Photo by Marcy Stamper Sarah Prochnau helps Gabby Studen on the trapeze while Jess Dinham, Elke Wathen and Leki Albright, left to right, stretch and work on their moves.

Photo by Marcy Stamper

Sarah Prochnau helps Gabby Studen on the trapeze while Jess Dinham, Elke Wathen and Leki Albright, left to right, stretch and work on their moves.

Kids of all ages are welcome in Sarah Prochnau’s imaginative realm

By Marcy Stamper

Sometimes clichés are true — the circus has indeed come to town. Sarah Prochnau, an aerialist, acrobat and circus performer, has performed at local arts festivals, but now she is teaching people to do trapeze flips, to hoist themselves up shimmery fabric, and to balance peacock feathers on their nose or forehead.

Although she has always been athletic — Prochnau was a competitive gymnast and diver as a child — she didn’t discover circus arts until she was well into adulthood. In fact, she had taken a complete break from athletics because she didn’t like competing.

Then she began taking tumbling classes at the School of Acrobatics & New Circus Arts in Seattle, where she ultimately became a teacher. “It was really fun without the pressure of competition,” she said.

Prochnau first tried aerial work out of curiosity. “I found it incredibly frustrating, and really difficult,” she said. But she was determined to master climbing fabric. “I got hooked on it just to spite the fabric,” she said.

She also got hooked on the mental side of aerial work, learning to think about reversing the concept of what’s up and what’s down.

Not all circus arts involve being in the air. In addition to aerial stunts, people juggle, balance plates and feathers, and do tumbling — like cartwheels, back flips, handsprings. There are tricks with hula hoops and maneuvers with a Chinese yo-yo called a diablo.

Wide range of activities

Although they look like they would demand daring and a lack of fear, circus arts actually provide wide opportunities for all tastes and talents. “This is an excellent low-pressure activity for kids,” said Prochnau. “I can find something any kid can do well at — they can be an amazing juggler or clown.”

While some techniques can be difficult to learn, they don’t require any special background, just a willingness to build strength and stamina, said Prochnau.

Prochnau admitted that learning these skills is harder for adults. “You really notice the difference when you’re older,” she said. And while children pick it up more quickly, she has had students in their 60s and 70s.

“We forget how much fun we can have with our bodies. Once you get past 14, you stop doing things like monkey bars,” said Prochnau.

Prochnau has been looking for a space suited to teaching — with high ceilings and the ability to hook up supports for her equipment — since she moved to Pateros four years ago. She is now one of several instructors leading classes (in everything from ballroom dance to yoga to karate) in the new Twisp Movement Studio, which has taken over the former Methow Valley News office on the corner of Glover Street and Second Avenue.

Prochnau’s classes are designed to help people develop strength, body awareness and confidence. “I’m just thrilled the community is letting me do this — it’s my dream,” she said. She hopes to schedule periodic performances and drop-in days to introduce people to circus arts.

Prochnau is offering separate eight-week sessions for children and adults. There is a waiting list for classes. For more information or to get on the waiting list, email aerieaerial@gmail.com.