By Mikael Krummel

The girls are at it again! It happens every spring when auditions and new show rehearsals start building: acrobatics, music, dance, and storytelling. Girl Circus!

It began at the Oregon Country Fair in 2001, back when Darcy DuRuz and Dave Bender first saw possibilities for tapping into a regional renaissance in circus arts. They envisioned circus milieu as a launch pad for female empowerment. Think personal growth through trapeze, hand-balancing, juggling, clowning, aerial acrobatics. . . .

“Circus,” says DuRuz, “is very hard. You have to fail a lot before you first succeed.” It’s a lesson, she learned during her decades doing opera, theater, and dance. Bender, her partner, is a professional musician. Both maintain ties to dozens of circus artists across the Northwest, folks they call on as faculty for Girl Circus training camps and shows. “The biggest underpinning for Girl Circus,” says DuRuz, “is the sense of community that comes from drawing all these people together.”

Another underpinning is DuRuz’s immeasurable investment in girl power: “What can I do to make these girls feel they can have a dream? That they can do whatever they want with their lives. That they can have a strong voice. That their creativity is valid.”

Girl Circus does shows. It also hosts a half-dozen training camps each summer. The camps are mostly scattered across rural Oregon and Washington. Modest enrollment costs encourage participation by girls from low-income backgrounds. Existing skills are not a requisite. No special background or body type is needed..

Another guiding principle of Girl Circus is that participation ensures forever membership in the GC community. It’s a concept that plays out via show performers often remaining active for a decade or more. Adrienne Wyse is a great example; she’s been with GC since age 11.  Now 27, she mentors and teaches younger girls aerial disciplines like trapeze, ropes, and silks. She describes her tenure at Girl Circus as a full-circle experience, one that allows her to give back.

“The lessons and personal growth,” she says proudly, “will always be with me.”