LAWRENCE LOVES ITS LAST CARNIVAL
October 29, 2018 8:00 AM
A mother goes on a school trip with her daughter as a chaperone. It’s the mother’s idea to sneak away from the group one morning to go take a private lesson in the Spanish web. A sudden rise in altitude was already getting to her and being spun around in circles while hanging from a rope only by the grip of her hands did not help an already oncoming sickness.
“She loved it,” the mother says, referring to her daughter, now sitting across the table from her during an interview.
“She puked,” her daughter laughs in recollection.
But someone who is the owner of a circus school would never be able to resist an opportunity to try every different apparatus within the circus.
“People just don’t think anything of sending their kids to do circus here… It’s like sending them to do baseball or soccer,” Sihka Ann Destroy says as she sits at a round table near the side of the space of her school’s new studio. “It’s just, yeah, we do circus. There’s nothing more.”
Destroy is the founder of The Last Carnival—Lawrence, Kansas’ own school of circus.
In reality, there is so much more to this activity than one could imagine. Just this last summer, Destroy worked alongside New York City-based choreographer and director, Al Blackstone as well as Katie Drablos in the Musical Theatre of Wichita’s production of “Pippin”. She works with performers from all over the country, and contacts them as they go through the Kansas City area to come and do special classes at The Last Carnival’s studio.
One of her original teachers in the aerial arts was Meg Wilson from St. Louis. Destroy also learned under Rachel McMeachin of Kansas City’s Voler: Thieves of Flight, and Jenna Haddock, who was once a teacher near Kansas City, as well, and was one of the first people to introduce Destroy to the Trapeze (which is now Destroy’s favorite apparatus).
Destroy has been able to work alongside so many talented people and there’s more to come.
Destroy, now 36 years-old, is a part of this school of circus in every way imaginable. During an in-person interview, she explained that when she first started the school about six years ago, she was in charge of teaching around fifteen classes a week. Since then, she has created smaller classes so that each student is able to get “quality attention”. Now, she teaches about three classes a week, tends to the computer work, she’s the performers’ seamstress, a performer, a choreographer, the owner of The Last Carnival, and to top it all off, she is also a single mother to two children.
Her thirteen-year-old daughter, Willow and her seven-year-old son, Wilder are both involved in circus, as well. She and Willow both found the aerial arts around the same time as one another, but during that time, Destroy was pregnant with Wilder, and waited until afterwards to become involved in the circus. Willow is very involved in the lyra and contortion, which are some of Destroy’s main apparatus focuses in The Last Carnival.
Destroy’s children attend what is known as a Waldorf School, which are schools that teach students based on the principles that children need imagination, a sense of truth and a feeling of responsibility. Destroy says that she first realized just how much the community at this school correlates with the community that she is trying to build at The Last Carnival when she went to watch a tournament between the students of different schools. Not only did she notice the students cheering each other on, despite being complete strangers, but she noticed them telling each other what they did well and asking each other for advice.
Willow speaks of this day excitedly. “People get recognized—is what they call it—and they’re like, ‘you were especially good at this thing. Good job!’”
This is the type of community that Destroy has strived to build in the Last Carnival. She explains that she does not do competitions at her particular school of circus. Instead, she develops what is called a “social circus.”
“By social circus, I mean we don’t believe in competition within the circus. And so, we see it as a way for everyone to appreciate everyone else’s strengths, because I always tell people if we all were awesome at our splits, that would make for a really boring show,” she laughs.
She explains that the point of the community she has built is that everyone is able to celebrate everyone’s differences. She also has deep hopes in terms of what each of her students get out of The Last Circus’ teaching.
“I’ve got a lot of positive responses from my students that it’s been life-changing for them, and it’s been encouraging, and my biggest hope is that they get a sense of acceptance and community and that they can view themselves in a positive way.”
She also believes that Lawrence is one of the best places for a community such as this to be created.
“No one sees [circus] as something weird or eccentric, because I feel like Lawrence, in general, is kind of eccentric,” Destroy says. “I have a tattoo on my face and pink hair, and I used to have long, green hair, and nobody thinks that’s weird as a teacher.”
She says that there is no better place that she could think of to create a school of circus than Lawrence. Being born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Lawrence is also not far from her home and her parents. She says that although her parents would have been supportive of her investments in The Last Carnival no matter what, they are even more happy because she is not able to travel nearly as much while running the circus school.
Although she is no longer able to bicycle across the country or backpack from state to state, she is still able to take performances from city to city, and to festivals, state fairs, and all around the country to perform “classical circus shows”, “theatrical cirque productions”, such as “Spark”, which can be found in summary on The Last Carnival’s YouTube, and what they call “circus ruckus wagons”.
The Last Carnival is currently in the process of moving into their new location off of 9th Street. They pride themselves on being able to appeal to people of all backgrounds and ages. They recently had a student showcase for Halloween at the Lawrence Creates Makerspace, and there are more performances all of the time.
“Some people are good at their splits, some people are really strong, some people are really back-bendy, some people can do flips really great, some people balance really good, some people do handstands, some people do aerial, and it’s all great,” Destroy says at once. “Some things are easy for some people that are hard for others, and vice versa, but if that wasn’t true, life would be boring.”
For more information:
-Official Website: http://www.sihkaanndestroy.com/