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Learn aerial silks, trapeze, hand balancing at The Sellam Circus School in Biddeford

Learn aerial silks, trapeze, hand balancing at The Sellam Circus School in Biddeford

When you were a kid, did you ever swing on the low-hanging trapeze on your backyard jungle gym? Or clamor happily on the monkey bars at the local park? Maybe you dangled upside down by your legs for a long while and let the blood rush to your face, getting a kick out of the inverted view.

We tend to do those things as kids – the swinging and climbing and dangling upside down. But somewhere, as the years tick by, we stop. We tell ourselves we’re “too old” for that stuff.

But that is straight-up nonsense. We CAN swing from a trapeze and climb silks and do hand stands (we might just need some help learning the basics and getting our – ahem – more mature bodies used to the movements).

And The Sellam Circus School in Biddeford is just the place to learn.


The Fit Maine Social Club had a blast at a Circus 101 workshop at The Sellam Circus School. See all the photos on Facebook.


Instructors Maeve and Sophia demonstrate movements on the lyra at The Sellam Circus School. Shannon Bryan photo

The Sellam Circus School started in 2015 with a focus on kids circus camps around the state (no joke, they have a real big top circus tent, under which kids learn tumbling, juggling, aerials, unicycle, and more).

Last year, the school found a permanent home in Biddeford’s Pepperell Mill, where they offer a host of classes for kids and adults.

Students stretching in the new Sellam Circus School space in the Pepperell Mill in Biddeford. Photo courtesy The Sellam Circus School

The Sellam Circus School was co-founded by Sellam El Ouahabi and Amity Stoddard. Sellam has worked in circus for nearly four decades, starting at the age of 13, when he got a professional touring contract with an acrobatic troupe from his home city of Tangier, Morocco. He’s been a performer (acrobatics, equestrian vaulting, human pyramids, hand balance, aerial straps, trapeze, the Wheel Of Death, aerial silks, among others) and coach. Amity – who trained as a competitive gymnast and dancer – began working in circus in 2003 and has worked at a collection of circuses in a variety of roles.

And while Sellam coaches circus artists who intended on performing professionally, the schedule of classes is geared toward folks like you and I who just want to learn something new and cool – and have a grand time in the process. No experience is necessary.

Students practicing partner acro (left) and hand balancing (right). Partner acro photo courtesy The Sellam Circus School. Hand balancing photo by Shannon Bryan
Sellam El Ouahabi coaches two circus artists at The Sellam Circus School in Biddeford. Photo courtesy The Sellam Circus School

The second fall session just started and you can still sign up! Classes include:

Hand Balance 101
6-7:30 p.m. Mondays
The Hand Balance 101 course is our intensive workshop geared toward handstand and hand balance development for the beginner student. “Hollow body” is the building block of this course; you will build a strong core, coordination and control, and work toward ‘stacking’ (it’s cool, you’ll like it!) Participants in the Hand Balance 101 course will partner off and learn drills for rapid core strength-building. Bring your partner, best friend, or just yourself!

Aerial – Silks
6-7:30 p.m. Mondays
The Aerial Silks course introduces basic techniques, strength and skill building for the Aerial Silks (also known as “Fabric” or “Tissu.”) This class is designed to facilitate a broad spectrum of abilities and allow each student to work at his or her own pace. The Aerial Silks course will focus on building coordination, flexibility, and a strong core. In this class, you will develop confidence and stamina, and work to hone proper technique.

Aerial – Trapeze
6-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays
This course introduces basic techniques, strength and skill building for the static trapeze. This class is designed to facilitate a broad spectrum of abilities and allow each student to work at his or her own pace. The Aerial-Trapeze course will focus on building coordination, flexibility, and a strong core. With the ultimate goal to develop confidence and stage presence, this is a class you can really feel good about!

Working on the lyra (aerial hoop) at The Sellam Circus School. Photo courtesy The Sellam Circus School

Chinese Pole
6-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays
Learn techniques to rapidly build core strength and improve overall coordination. Chinese Pole combines the connection between mind and body that is central to acrobatics, with the freedom and expanded movement that makes aerial work so fun. In this class, you will work to increase your core control and grip strength. Expect to spend concentrated time learning to ‘get liftoff’ – engaging muscles properly to get off the ground and explore different methods of holding on to the poles – both with your arms and our legs.

Partner Acro & Ground Skills
6-7:30 p.m. Thursdays
In Partner Acro, you will continue to develop valuable skills in balance, strength, and proprioception. Class participants pair off and learn how to build trust and confidence as they explore ‘basing’ and ‘flying’. Human pyramids and adagio technique are key to the Partner Acro curriculum. Partner Acro technique often involves significant height from the ground, and use of a body harness is commonplace. This is a good class to increase your knowledge of safety-first in circus!

Aerial – Lyra
6-7:30 p.m. Thursdays
The Lyra class introduces basic techniques, strength and skill building for the Aerial Hoop, or Lyra. This class is designed to facilitate a broad spectrum of abilities and allow each student to work at his or her own pace. The Aerial-Lyra course will focus on building coordination, flexibility, and a strong core. With the ultimate goal to develop fluidity of movement, smooth transitions, and a stage presence, Lyra is also a good apparatus for increasing flexibility in the shoulders and lower back.

Circus arts classes in session at The Sellam Circus School. Photo courtesy The Sellam Circus School

The Sellam Circus School

40 Main Street, Bldg 13, Suite 135, Biddeford (Pepperell Mill)
Classes in circus arts – aerial silks, lyra, partner acro, hand balancing, and more for adults, as well as youth troupe and youth circus arts for kids ages 8-15.
The second fall session just started – you can still sign up!
See the entire class schedule and descriptions at www.thesellamcircus.com/learn
FMI: www.thesellamcircus.com and www.facebook.com/TheSellamCircusSchool/

Shannon Bryan

Shannon Bryan

I don't like "exercise" any more than you do. But you know what I do like? Paddleboarding with a friend all afternoon (and then sitting in the grass to drink chardonnay). Bike rides and nachos, hikes, yoga classes held in breweries, group paddles to Fort Gorges, you get the idea. Because Maine is my gym.