By Elliot Jackson
“When I came to Salida and began talking about starting a circus,” says Jennifer Dempsey, artistic director of the Salida Circus, “people thought I was nuts. So I stopped talking about it and just started doing it.”
If anyone still thinks that, they aren’t saying so as Salida Circus stands on the brink of its 10th anniversary celebration. From its beginnings in Jennifer’s backyard, with “me, a bag of kids’ costumes, and a pair of stilts,” as Jennifer puts it, Salida Circus has grown into an organization with a full professional performance schedule, a host of classes for both kids and adults in aerial work, clowning, tumbling and juggling, and an international scope. Two years ago, Dempsey led a small team back to Belfast, Northern Ireland, for the Belfast Community Circus’s hosting of the Festival of Fools, an international street performance festival; and in autumn 2016, she led another team to do performances and workshops in Jordan as guests of former Prime Minister Abdul Kabariti. Salida Circus has also performed in London and Newcastle, England, Germany and Guatemala.
In addition to these honors, Salida Circus is the only American member of Caravan, the European “social circus” network, and in 2015 was selected to be part of the Social Circus Network, chosen by Cirque du Soleil and the American Youth Circus Organization. Social circus practitioners emphasize that it is designed to foster community andm to bring people together across class, racial, ethnic, and religious lines.