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Spinning with the circus arts club

College is hard work. But the UMBC Circus Arts Club still has time for fun and games.

Formally known as UMBC Hoopla, the club was formed three years ago as a space for students to practice hula hooping, LED hooping and hoop dancing.  The name was changed this past spring to accommodate more circus activities including diablo, juggling, spinning poi and aerials.

Circus Arts Club members attend weekly general body meetings, host workshops and perform at various functions on and off campus. Most recently, they appeared on the Commons Terrace at Phi Sigma Sigma’s All Day Recess on Sept. 21.

Club president Victoria Taylor expressed a goal to have more workshops and teaching opportunities during this upcoming semester. While several executive board members noted the schedule for this semester has yet to be determined, they hope to be active, ideally having events once every week or two.

Taylor, a part-time biochemistry major, was inspired to get involved by a student she observed hula hooping over two years ago. She learned the basics over the course of a single summer and has been hooping ever since. A previous Circus Arts club advisor connected Taylor with an opportunity; she will participate in her first paid performance at a New Year’s Eve party in Baltimore.

Though club advisor Mark Marten, Ph.D., has many responsibilities as department chair of Chemical, Biochemical and Environmental Engineering, he finds time to clown around. In high school, he juggled as a volunteer with a church group, then later pursued clowning as a paid part-time weekend gig, performing at children’s birthday parties.

“I’ve juggled with the club once or twice, but I am having trouble finding time to juggle with them regularly,” he said. “I hope to join them more in the future.”

Senior information systems major Maurice Hickey serves as the club ambassador, in which he assists other executive board members with event coordination. After his transfer to UMBC from Anne Arundel Community College, he connected with Cody Petenbrink, a fellow alumnus of Broadneck High School.

Petenbrink, current vice president, noticed Hickey’s lack of involvement and taught him how to juggle so that he could join the club. Hickey now practices diablo at events in addition to his executive duties.

“My favorite performance that we did was for kids: we went to an elementary school and gave clown noses to the kids and we each got some time to do our own demonstration. That was with Cody [Petenbrink] and Kelly [former club president],” said Hickey.

“UMBC Circus Arts is not an exclusive club,” Taylor explained. “You can come in with zero experience but a willingness to learn and put yourself out there and you will feel just as at home with us. We don’t want people to feel like because they don’t know anything they’re not welcome – that’s far from the truth. We exist to perpetuate circus arts and share our love of it with others.”