Perhaps you thought the circus had left town (taking with it your dreams of learning aerial silks, trapeze, and a really badass handstand).

When news broke in early April that Circus Maine at Thompson’s Point was closing, I heard a lot of folks bumming out over the loss. I was bummed, too. I took a really fantastic Introduction to Aerials class there last winter with instructors Sierra Nicholls and Mel McGovern, and I took for granted that the school would be around for years to come, so I could master my silks, trapeze, and lyra skills. Or at least have fun being an amateur.

The closure is unfortunate – particularly for all the talented teachers and performers who worked and taught there. But for anyone who hoped to learn some circus arts and feel like they missed their chance (or who were taking classes and now don’t know where to turn) there’s still circus hope for you yet.

In fact, one of the former Circus Maine teachers, Mel McGovern (who co-taught the class I took and is a wonderful teacher, and performer), has started her own aerials classes at Maine Warrior Gym in Westbrook and Metta Studios in Biddeford. Apparatus Dance Theater has been teaching aerials classes at Breakwater School in Portland for years (for kids and adults). And The Sellam Circus School in Biddeford offers loads of kids programs and some adult classes, too, like a handbalancing series that starts next weekend.

The circus is still in town.

More info on where you can find classes and start learning below. Get on it – and support these programs – so we can keep the circus kickin’ in Maine.

The Circus Haus

Mel McGovern, former instructor and performer with Circus Maine, has launched her own aerials classes with her biz The Circus Haus. She’s teaching an aerial fabrics class at Maine Warrior Gym in Westbrook (the session already started, but keep an eye out for future classes there) and workshops at Metta Studios in Biddeford, including an intermediate aerial yoga workshop May 3, 7:15-8:45 p.m. Cost is $35.
Mel also does private and semi-private aerial lessons at Metta Studios, Maine Warrior Gym & Om Land Yoga (1-2 people $80/per hour, 3 people $105). At little more info in her newsletter. Mel is a stupendous teacher – thoughtful, funny, and she’ll push you to challenge yourself, but in a safe and welcoming way.

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Apparatus Dance Theater

Apparatus Dance Theater has been teaching aerials classes in the gym Breakwater School in Portland for years. They teach a lot of kids classes, but also offer adult classes on the silks, trapeze, and lyra (aerial hoop) on Tuesday evenings from 6-7:15 p.m. No experience is necessary for the classes, which cost $18 drop-in (bring a friend and you both pay $15). Janette Hough is the founder, and she’s supremely nice and welcoming. Emily Waller also leads classes and is hilarious and fun and will encourage you to try new things and just have a good time. I always liked the less-formal approach to these classes, too. They also offer one-day workshops on occasion. (Try the silks at an Aerial Improv class in Portland (and trapeze! And aerial hoop!))
To reserve a spot in the Tuesday evening class, email

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Learning the handstand during a workshop with The Sellam Circus School. Shannon Bryan photo

The Sellam Circus School

Founded by Sellam El Ouahabi, The Sellam Circus School has offered circus camps to kids for a couple of years. (Including a camp under an actual circus tent, which is just the coolest damn thing. Check out the kids camps in Biddeford, Bar Harbor, Rockport, and Cornish.) They also offer some adults programs, like the 4-week handbalancing workshop held at Metta Studios in Biddeford. I attended the free handbalancing workshop on April 28 and learned a ton. Sellam has a knack for helping you figure out the tweaks you need to make in your form (which is exactly what makes him a great teacher). The session starts Saturday, May 5 from noon to 1:30 p.m. and runs the following three Saturdays. Drop-ins welcome, too.

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