Top Ten Circus Gifts

If you’re the parent or loved one of a circus human, chances are you’ve wondered about what kind of “circus gifts” they might appreciate. While buying a circus apparatus may seem like the obvious choice, it comes with a whole host of responsibilities (which I talk about here).There’s also a lot of specifics; do you choose high stretch or low stretch silks, single or double tab lyra, hollow or solid steel, or maybe aluminum? Purchasing an apparatus can be a big deal, not to mention it’s expensive! But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck for circus gifts. As a circus professional and experienced coach, trust me when I say that there are plenty of great gifts for the circus human in your life. Here are my top 10.

  1. Circus Apparel
A young white woman sits on top of a suspended metal bar against a yellow background. She is holding a sign that reads Fit 2 Fly Apparel". Below her, an assortment of colourful leggings and tops are hanging off the bottom of the bar.

Toronto based apparel company Fit2Fly has you covered when it comes to training wear; and I mean that literally! As circus artists themselves Jen and her crew know exactly what areas of our bodies need to be covered for all of the glorious wrappy, droppy, spinny things we get up to as circus folk. Their pants are EXTRA high waisted to protect your sides from those nasty silk burns, and the cropped tops accentuate those awesome circus muscles! Plus, you’re supporting a local, woman owned business that employs artists and donates their fabric scraps to local organizations for craft supplies!

2. Circus Stories

A stack of books stands upright on a shiny table. The front cover is black and sleek with white text reading "Worlds Apart: an alternative journey to becoming a modern man. By Ronan Brady." Behind the text a muscular white man in only blue jeans spins on a large metal ring known as a Cyr wheel.
Ronan’s book Worlds Apart

One of the wonderful things about circus is the many different ways that folks find their way into it. While our communities are an easy home to plenty of retired gymnasts and converted theatre folk, this particular story stands out from the “usual” pathway to circus (if there’s such a thing as that). Before circus, Ronan was an Inter-county footballer and a secondary school teacher. In this witty, down to earth, and fantastically real narration, Ronan weaves together stories from his childhood, footballer days, and introduction to circus. His narrative is peppered with reflections of his evolving relationship to masculinity, from fighting just to do something, to performing onstage alongside drag queens. It’s a wonderful story that illustrates one of my favourite things about circus; that no matter where you come from, or what road brought you here, everyone belongs under the big top.

You can find Ronan’s book here: https://www.ronanbrady.me/

3. Eco glitter

A shiny gold bag is featured against a white and gold background. Below the bag sit three small containers, clear on the bottom with a wooden top.  Each small jar full of a different colour of glitter, white, green, and pink. The lids of the jars have a crescent moon on them.
Moon Shatter glitter. Click the image to head to their site

If you have a circus artist in your life, chances are they loveee glitter! The bummer about glitter though? Our aquatic ocean and lake friends aren’t too excited about all of the tiny bits of microplastic floating around in their home! Biodegradable glitter is better for everyone. This particular company, Moon Shatter, manufactures and packs their stuff in Toronto, so you’re doubling up on your eco points by supporting local and finding more sustainable alternatives! Click the image to head to their site.

4. Writing the Circus Zines

Pieces of folded paper with text on them are arranged orderly against a wooden floor. One of the piles of paper stands out, a yellow page with blurry images of humans and bold text that reads "Writing the Circus".
Photo from Ess of their handmaking zine process. Click the image to head to their site

 I wouldn’t be a recovering English major if I didn’t recommend at least two books on this list! In their zine series Writing the Circus performance artist Ess Hödlmoser blends critical thinking and lived experience to explore the histories and intersections of circus with cultural ideas. I have both editions of this series so far, and I love geeking out about the histories of circus arts and taking the time to think critically about the ways that our circus cultures are formed.

5. Ground Props

Eleven shiny juggling balls are featured against a white background. The balls range in colours, all of them with black panels, some with pink, purple, gold, and blue.
Click the image to head to their site

While I love aerial arts, there’s so much fun to be had on the ground as well. Juggle Gear is a Canadian based circus company that’s well stocked with everything a circus human could dream of. They have plenty of object manipulation props like juggling balls, diabolo, staffs, and clubs. It’s always good to have a few circus skills up your sleeves, and chances are the coordination and balance of juggling work will make you a better movement artist as well.

6. A Pullup Bar

Feminine white hands and wrists grip a black pullup bar as if hanging from it.

If you love someone who lives to hang, a pullup bar can be a great way to get some air time in without leaving the house. Not only will a pullup bar be a great addition to their living space, it also opens up a huge array of conditioning exercises to keep those aerial muscles in strong working order. Pro tip? If you’re able to make it work within the space, a doorframe mounted pullup bar is the MUCH stronger and safer option. Especially if you’re giving it to a circus human who will likely be going upside down on it.

7. Legwarmers

Three white women are smiling doing handstands against a wall. Two of the women are wearing black sparkly biketards with nude tights and bare feet. The midle woman is wearing a costume with a bright red top and leggings,overlayed with black shorts and legwarmers that cover her knees.

Not only are they great over your training leggings, legwarmers have a lot of uses in your training practice as well. I’m a big fan of wearing them to keep my muscles warm whenever I’m stretching splits, and I’ll occasionally take one off and fold it up as a kneepad if I’m stretching on harder dance studio floors. For hoop artists, a thick pair of legwarmers can keep you from looking like a banana after your training session. My favourite legwarmers consistently come from Sock Dreams an amazing company from Portland Oregon with great variety (check out their pride socks), community support programs, and a quality plus size collection.

8. Private Lessons

A young white woman, supports a young brown man as he hangs upside down on blue aerial fabric. Both people are smiling.

If you’re trying to give experiences instead of “things”, consider a private lesson for some 1:1 time with a favourite coach. Private lessons provide the opportunity to hone in on specific skills or sequences and to have a lot of focused attention from the instructor. They can be a great time to work on that skill you’ve been coveting, or to revisit something you’re struggling with for specific pointers. Many coaches offer private lessons outside of their regular class times, so feel free to get in touch with them about their rates and policies.

9. Massage Tools

A teal rubber peanut against a white background. It looks similar to rubber balls with a connecting piece.

In circus we ask a lot of our bodies, so it’s important to give back to them as well. I rarely go anywhere without my massage ball in tow, and I love a good foam roller session the day after training. Tiger Balm, a heating pad, or electric blanket are amazing sore muscle tools as well. You can easily find many of these things at sports or department stores. Bonus points if you come across a rubber “peanut” (pictured above) as there are sooo many prehab exercises that use this tool.

10. Online Classes

A young white woman does a downward dog position in a sunny room.

With covid forcing many artists and coaches to adapt, there are plenty of fantastic minds and bodies that are now offering online classes. You can now learn with people who were too busy touring, or lived very far away from you, without even leaving your living room. A few of my friends are:

https://www.instagram.com/joannegalligan/

https://www.instagram.com/flexy_t/

https://www.instagram.com/smillzdrillz/

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