There’s one school where clowning around will get you an A

Despite the old saying about running away to join the circus, Markhamites needn’t stray that far.

Whether you’re looking to ride circles on a unicycle, swing from the highest trapeze or traverse the tight rope, class is in session at the Wonderful World of Circus, an international three-ring school right here in Markham, catering to all ages and skill levels.

The John St. school is a reliable staple to find entertainers for kids’ parties, corporate events and festivals, but it’s also a breeding ground for much of the professional talent that winds up in circuses or similar acts around the world. Many of its alumni have even gone onto perform in Canada’s own renowned Cirque du Soleil, but for some students the school offers a fun and unique way to stay active. Whether young or old, a hobbyist or a budding professional, the Wonderful World of Circus has something for you.

Despite the fun and clowning around, the level of discipline involved in training and performing the various feats one sees in circus acts is high, according to Arthur Kantemirov, whose parents, Oleg and Tatiana, founded the school more than 20 years ago and still run it to this day.

“Circus arts focus on challenging yourself,” Kantemirov said. “There are so many different things you can do in the circus, (the) possibilities are endless.”

Special guest performers will be proving their chops at a pair of shows on Mar. 9 and 10, one of several showcase weekends planned for the year.

Oleg and Tatiana performed around the world, including with the Moscow State Circus and Cirque du Soleil, for two decades before opening Wonderful World of Circus. From aerial gymnastics and acts on horseback to Russian bars and clowning, they did it all. They try to prepare their students for the variety as well, though Arthur says there’s a particular popularity to the aerial acts like performing from suspended silks or tackling the daunting trapeze.

“Our main focus is to let our students try different fields of the circus arts,” he said. “All of our classes include gymnastics, acrobatics and trampoline. We also teach children tight wire, juggling, Russian bar, hand balancing, unicycle and much more.”

Though the schools may seem niche, they’re often a fun way to work on overall fitness goals given the requirement for physical strength, coordination and flexibility. There’s also a self-confidence component, which, Kantemirov noted, is one of the biggest changes he sees in graduates.

The weekend showcases might spark an interest in a child taking circus classes, but the real goal is simply to provide a good and enjoyable time to the families who attend.

“Our shows are family oriented,” Kantemirov said. “We want kids to have fun and enjoy themselves while watching the show and also see some things they never thought were possible…. Our main focus is that everyone enjoys the event: our audiences, our students and our invited guest performers.”

If you go…

Wonderful World of Circus showcases

March 9 and March 10 at 1 p.m.

Tickets: $20 each at door

Wonderful World of Circus International School of Circus Arts, 2600 John St.

More information at 905-479-2411 or wonderfulworldofcircus.com

Photo: Students show off acrobatic prowess at Markham’s Wonderful World of Circus.

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