Real Talk, Why Aren’t FSU Circus Performers Student Athletes?

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Nope, it’s an FSU student swinging from flying trapeze! Last time I checked, not every university has their very own circus. In fact, Florida State University is one of only two colleges in the U.S. that does. Our very own Flying High Circus is a hallmark of our university and sets us apart from all others by providing amusement for not only our school but also the Tallahassee community. However, there's a catch. The dedicated and hard-working students who make this grand production possible aren’t even considered student-athletes. This may not seem bewildering to some, but that could only be because not everyone is aware of what actually goes into being an FSU circus performer. 

To be a part of the top, applicants undergo two rounds of auditions. About 300 students try out every Fall semester but only around 100 make the cut. The first phase of tryouts focuses on strength and flexibility. If you want to score an aerial act, you’ll have to be able to muscle at least 5 to 10 pull-ups and execute various other strenuous suspensory maneuvers. To test flexibility, candidates are asked to exhibit splits, pikes, toe touches, straddles and even bridges to prove they are supple and adept enough for the technical flying performances. The second round of auditions allows contestants to showcase any other skills that could be applicable to the acts performed in shows. This includes tumbling, juggling, hand balancing and many other forms of dexterity. After much careful speculation, coaches match the most qualified students with the act that suits them best. Many members of the circus have multiple acts. Talk about talent!

Those who have made it through the audition phase, then come to find how involved members of the circus must really be. Everyone practices at least three times a week per act and each practice is about an hour. With multiple performances to prepare for, the hours can really start to add up. Also, aside from individual practice time, circus members are also required to assist other performers with their routines by rigging all the ropes, lines and nets necessary to perform these insane acts.

This holds true for the actual performances as well. The students run the entire show. The committed circus crew prepares year-round for Fall and Spring semester shows. It’s the students who create outfits, choreography, set lists, do the rigging, ushering—you name it, and they do it. The students of the FSU circus even have to take down and put back up the ginormous tent each year! Through all the collaboration and hard work, the circus really is one big team.

But don’t just take it from me! If you haven’t already, get out and go see one of their incredible performances for yourself and you too will believe these students should be considered student-athletes. Not everyone can be a human jump rope or fly through the air while simultaneously holding two other people. These students have an insane amount of skill and should get the recognition they deserve for it. Or at the very least be allowed to eat in the Figg!

All pictures courtesy of the Flying High Circus