How do monkeys exercise? Where is my unicycle? How high does steel rigging need to be to support aerial yoga?
These aren't questions a business owner typically asks, unless he is Brandon Huston, owner and ringmaster of the Bend Circus Center.
The center, which reopened last week behind Pakit Liquidators on Armor Boulevard in Southeast Bend, aims to remain a hub for all things playful and circus-related. With a Field of Dreams build-it-and-they-will-come mentality, Huston opened the freaky sideshow training center in a building on American Lane last July. When that building was sold, Huston was forced to relocate the thriving center. He gutted the new location himself, removing walls, adding riggings to create space for aerial silks, and installing full-size mirrors.
Currently, the center offers more than a dozen weekly classes (including something called Monkey Conditioning) and serves as a melting pot for festival performers, jugglers, aerialists, poi spinners (fire!), Hula Hoopers, clowns, puppeteers and slackliners.
"When most people think of circus, they think of lions and tigers and bears and trains," Huston said. "We're the new circus."
Thanks to a recent resurgence of circus-themed debauchery in pop culture in books like "Water for Elephants" and "Night Circus," and the continuing popularity of circus arts in the Burning Man/Festivalgoer crowd, Bend Circus Center has been a steady success, as has Huston's accompanying circus prop company, The Spinsterz, that sells everything from juggling knives to flaming hula hoops online.
"Circus arts have really made a resurgence in the last five years," said Jules Abbot, a clown and puppeteer who serves as Huston's Girl Friday. "Around the turn-of-the-century, circus arts were really big. I'm not sure what it's a reaction to, but people are reconnecting with that aspect of play."
Huston's team has been tapped for two Halloween parties at the Deschutes Brewery Warehouse, and for both the opening act (an impressive and gasp-inducing aerial performance) and after-party at TEDxBend. And already the Circus Center gang has 18 gigs booked for the summer—everything from golf tournaments to a carnival-themed party at a gas station.
This weekend, the members of the Circus Center team invite all—carnies and squares alike—to join them for their grand re-opening celebration, Play! at Troy Field.
The crew will offer workshops and entertainment in acro-yoga, slacklining, Poi spinning, mask making, juggling and other circus fare with a 30-foot rigging structure for aerial arts lessons. All accompanied by live music from MOosley WOtta, Gregg Botsford bPollen and others.
The goal, Huston said, is to get the community involved in the light, fun activities that the Circus Center offers.
"If you're not into biking or climbing or running marathons," said Huston said, "this is an alternative way to play in Bend."
"Or it's a good way to cross- train," added Abbott added. "Get yourself to lighten up. You could be an ultra-marathon runner, but also juggle or Hula Hoop."
Play! 10 am-5 pm Saturday, May 18
Troy Field (next to McMenamins Old St. Francis School),
NW Bond St. and Louisiana Ave.
Donations suggested to benefit the Bend Circus Center.