The circus came to Nomans

Kids learned some tricks of the trade.

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The kids were indeed flying through the air with the greatest of ease at Nomans last Saturday morning. Sarah Sutin, founder of Alchemy Circus, has been teaching and performing internationally for resorts and schools for four years. As a frequent summer resident for as far back as she can remember, Sutin says, “I felt it was time to introduce the magical world to the beautiful Island of Martha’s Vineyard. I thought it would be really fun to bring this here because it’s never really existed here, performing, teaching.” That’s how she ended up on the lawn of Nomans with some 15 or so kids on a Saturday morning, offering them a chance to both see her perform and try their hand at it.

Sutin gave a group of 4- to 10-year-olds a tantalizing taste of two aerial methods. She began by demonstrating a sequence of moves on the 36-inch-in-diameter metal aerial hula-like hoop. She fit herself into, through, over, and around it, and hung upside down, arms spread out swinging freehand as the thing spun around. Fearless, the kids rushed to line up to try it out themselves.

Oh, to have a child’s flexibility and agility — and with a little coaching from Sutin, they had the ability to execute the routine themselves. After her own turn at gracefully executing the sequence, 8-year-old Skylar Stevenson said, “It was really fun, because I like doing all sorts of moves.” Her mother, Claudina Stevenson, mentioned that Skylar’s done competitive dance — and it shows. Skylar says she’s also done something similar on the playground on the monkey bars, but “this is harder, but in a good way because it’s loose and spinny, and monkey bars are grounded to the floor and can’t move.”

The summer has been great for Sutin: “I worked with Cinema Circus at the film festival. I did some private catered dinner parties on farms, and the Hospice gala. In August, a professional aerialist and contortionist from New York City joined me, and the circus is growing! I will be bringing in even more circus performers next summer.”

Sutin explained that she first learned about aerial acrobatics at Club Med resorts. “I started as a tennis instructor, tried the flying trapeze like everyone else, guests and workers. After my first knee hang, I fell in love with it, and thought, That’s what I want to do with the rest of my life.” She trained with a team for six months, then joined them, teaching and performing for three years at various Club Med resorts. More recently, she says, “I’ve been teaching and performing at a circus school in Seattle, Montreal, and currently the Dominican Republic.”

Although Saturday included teaching, the majority of what Alchemy Circus offers is circus performances as entertainment, to elevate both public and private events on the Island. The circus is aptly, I would say poetically named, because alchemy means a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination. “I came up with the name because I believed the definition of alchemy encompasses what we offer,” Sutin says. “A magical process of transformation for Island events.”

Sutin then went on to demonstrate a few moves to the kids using aerial silk, wrapping herself in different ways so that she could bend and twist and drop into positions from up high and just above the ground.

Trying it himself, 7-year-old Aiden Itani was clearly enjoying himself, giggling delightedly when getting all caught up in the silks. “I liked the part where I was stretching a lot and you hook your knees,” he said afterward. As he ran off, to burn more energy no doubt, Aiden’s mother Jessica Itani said, “He’s very into anything physical. He’s very athletic.”

Nine-year-old Martina Lucas weighed in on aerial silks versus the aerial hoop, saying she liked the former more. “I don’t know why. It just feels better. More stretched out. You do more stuff.” Martina’s mother Paige said, “She’s always wanted to try something like this. I think it’s just great.” Mother and daughter were clearly converts.

After twisting herself into a pretzel when facing both up and down, 10-year-old Madelyn Crowell said that the aerial hoop was like working with a Hula-Hoop, whereas the aerial silks felt like you were hanging from two vines. 

Sutin showcased her professional skills more fully at the end of the morning, performing on both the hoop and then the silks. She made what looked difficult appear easy. She said, “What I love for myself is that no matter how good you get, there’s always a challenge. Something to strive for. When I get something, it’s satisfying physically, emotionally, spiritually — it’s all a big challenge.

“What I love when I’m teaching is the joy it brings other people. The smile on their faces and teaching them that they can do something they didn’t think they could do. Anything from 4 years old to 104, anyone can do it. Everyone should at least give it a try. There’s something about bringing that inner child out. Most people will find that there’s so much joy in it.”

Maybe next year, I’ll give it a whirl.