Hannah Grove is a gymnast turned circus performer, and this past week, she signed a national letter of intent to attend Ecole Nationale de Cirque, a circus college in Montreal, Canada. For the last four years, she has divided her time between gymnastics at Virginia Techniques in Christiansburg and under the Big Top and says she is excited about the new opportunity to attend a school for the life she loves.
“I signed with this school because it is seen as one of the best circus schools in the world,” Grove said.
She first learned about Ecole Nationale de Cirque when she was 12 and has been working toward the goal of going to school there ever since.
“As soon as I found out that I had been accepted, I informed the school that I would be attending for the 2019-2020 school year,” she said.
The Blacksburg teenager has spent the past four summers, performing with Circus Smirkus, traveling the United States where the stars are youth ages 10-18.
“I have learned many life lessons from being on tour. I think that one of the most important ones, which is kind of cliché, is to “be yourself”. Touring has taught me to come out of my shell and learn how to perform to people, which is a super-inspiring experience because you get to be the cause of somebody’s happiness and that is a beautiful thing,” she said.
This summer, the Circus Smirkus 2019 tour stretches from June 29-August 18. Grove believes the time on the road has been good for her career.
“It is a super-enlightening experience. You get to open up the circus world to people when you perform and give them a sense of what it would be like. You get to change the audiences’ emotions with your movements and make them happy or sad, which is really cool to experience,” she said.
The Circus Smirkus show is full of aerials, acrobatics, wire-walking, juggling, rola-bola, clowning, live music and an array of brilliant costumes.
Grove’s main performance act is tight-wire, an apparatus that she loves and taught herself.
“I have always been called the ‘beam queen’ at gymnastics for my ability be very posed on the balance beam, I think this skill has really helped to carry over into wire walking.”
“In this year’s show, I am also performing lyra (aerial hoop) and acrobatics. We do not have a local circus school where I can train, so the majority of my skills are self-taught. I train wire, hand balancing, rola bola, and juggling at home. Plus, I train lyra at home, as well as at Aerial CLT, a school in Charlotte, NC, plus acrobatics through gymnastics training,” she said.
Grove started dreaming of running away from home for the circus when she was just six years old.
At Ecole Nationale de Cirque, the majority of her studies will be in circus arts and physical movement.
“I will study different apparatuses, dance, acrobatics, and theater. I will also have to study academics as well, though, because of the program I was accepted into. I will also study English, French, philosophy and some sort of anatomy,” Grove said.
The École Nationale de Cirque is a higher-education institution for the arts that provides programs at high school and college levels.
“It is dedicated to the education and training of professional circus artists, as well as to research and innovation in the circus arts and their pedagogy” its website says.
In order to be accepted to prestigious circus college, Grove had very long auditions with her expertise being on wire. The first day had about 150-200 people auditioning.
“We had assessments in acrobatics, dance, strength and improv, and we had to learn choreography to be accepted to the third day,” Grove said.
The sport of gymnastics has played a major role for Grove being in the circus and pursuing her dreams.
“Gymnastics is the main reason I ever started circus and has given me most of my physical artistic abilities. Gymnastics is a really good background for circus and is an easy way to stay in shape for circus,” she said.
She is currently a Level 9 gymnast at Virginia Techniques Gymnastics Training Center in Christiansburg. That training helped her to stay physically fit for the rigorous demands of the circus training and tour schedule.
“Gymnastics helps to keep my lines clean when I am performing tightwire or balance beam and allows me to have solid tumbling and acrobatics in the show. It also helps me to stay focused and disciplined, since I’m in the gym for 25-plus hours-a-week training. All of the skills and requirements of my gymnastics schedule give me the ability perform at a high level on the road with Smirkus,” Grove said.
Her goal for the Montreal school is simple—to absorb as much information and instruction as possible so she can make the most out of this experience.
“I would like to use this opportunity to boost my circus career,” said Grove. “My long-term goal is to graduate from the school and pursue a career in the circus world. Preferably in a touring circus company so I can put the two things I love the most together- travel and circus.”
Grove will officially start school in August.