Claire Reincastle, Circus Akimbo

Circus Akimbo is a contemporary circus school in Hornsby, founded and managed by Claire Reincastle, and offering classes that spark creativity, confidence and happiness in students of all ages and abilities. Contemporary circus means no animals, just people, so our weekly classes include trapeze, hooping, aerial silks, unicycling, juggling and more! As well as the regular classes, we offer private lessons, playgroup, workshops from guest trainers, aerial yoga, birthday parties, cabaret evenings and open training for local performers.

Why did you start Circus Akimbo?

Like most kids I went through a phase of wanting to run away to join a circus, but with nowhere nearby to learn, I instead spent an active childhood climbing trees, turning cartwheels, and trying sports from gymnastics and dance through to karate and soccer, without ever finding one that really suited me. When I got to university and joined the circus society, I discovered a group where I could finally (safely) try all the crazy things I’d seen! By the time I graduated I knew this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but I was still travelling 1-2hrs each way to get to any training space. So, after a brief adjustment period of “oh god is this a terrible idea”, I decided to do the ridiculous and open my own studio to make it a bit easier for people to access the wonderful world of circus.

What is the best thing about running your own business? And what is the worst thing?

My favourite thing has been creating something from the ground up, by thinking through the best possible way for it to be and making that happen. The worst thing is that there is no roadmap telling you what will and won’t work (although there are plenty of people who will try to sell you one), so there’s a lot of trial and error involved.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice you’ve ever received?

Obviously, starting out on your own is never easy, especially when you’re in a niche industry that a lot of people have preconceptions about (e.g. circus is dangerous, you’ll get my kids playing with fire and animals?!), and surprisingly enough given my line of work I’m actually rather cautious about risk-taking, so I spent ages umming and ahing about whether or not to take the leap (pardon the pun) and start the business. A friend and mentor, who runs a circus school up in Newcastle gave me the advice that I could either wait and bite off only what I can chew, or “take a big bite and chew like #@$k”. Not the most kid-friendly wording, but it’s been great advice – I always seem to have about 5 projects going, but so far those have included hugely exciting things like co-organising the Australian Circus Festival, collaborating on a street festival/performance with the local council and hosting the inaugural Contortion Convention!

What’s the best feedback you’ve ever received?

“Wow, I didn’t know I could do that”. So many of our students start out as their own worst critics, and their biggest challenge with tricks is mental, not physical. Being able to turn that attitude around and helping them achieve amazing things is the reason I do what I do.

What business awards have you won or accolades have you received?

Just in the last 12 months we’ve been finalists in the Local Business Awards and National Small Business Awards, including finalist Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and were recognised with a trophy at the Australian Circus Festival for our contribution to Australian Circus Arts.

Which community events have you recently been involved in?

We get actively involved in supporting our local community, providing performers and circus workshops at local laneway festivals, school fetes and charity events. After recently co-organising the Australian Circus Festival, I’m now gearing up to produce a performing arts and circus showcase in collaboration with the local council, to celebrate and promote the vibrant community in our area – it’s a free show, so anyone with kids around Hornsby should keep an eye out for us in November!

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Coffee! That, and already knowing what I’m planning to accomplish with my day. It’s easy to get distracted working for myself, so I’ll plan out my week each Sunday evening to make sure I’m working towards the big goals I have for Circus Akimbo.

What do you do to wind down?

I’m lucky in that my passions align fairly closely with my business, so part of my de-stress time involves doing my own circus training. If I’m not doing circus, I’ll be getting active or creative in some other way. I love getting outdoors and going for a walk, or embracing my inner child and going rock climbing or to a trampoline park! Or for something more low key, I’ll play piano, read or work on my latest sewing project.

What three words accurately describe you?

Optimistic, honest and determined

What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn't fail?

Probably exactly what I am doing, just bigger and without the fear that it could all fall flat! I’ve witnessed firsthand the difference circus makes in people’s lives, and I’m committed to sharing that with as many people as possible. If I knew I wouldn’t fail, I’d be taking on more opportunities and looking at expanding Circus Akimbo into new areas to give more people the chance to get involved.

What do kids enjoy most about your classes?

They’re learning cool tricks, getting active and exploring a whole bunch of things they really can’t do anywhere else. Instead of being told “don’t climb that, it’s not safe”, we teach them how to do the things they want to in a safe way, even when balancing on each other or swinging through the air. They also love performances and everyone gets involved, whether that’s as a performer, ringmaster, backstage manager or usher.

What differentiates Circus Akimbo from its competitors?

Unlike dance, soccer, gymnastics etc, circus is not a “boy sport” or a “girl sport”. You don’t have to choose between getting active or getting creative, between hand eye coordination or cardio fitness. Our kids get to try it all and find out what they love, while working in a creative community environment that brings out the best in them.

Find out more about Circus Akimbo...

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