By: Scott Peterson – Staff Writer
While many recent college alumni are pursuing jobs in their perspective fields, alumnus Ben Huey is pursuing something slightly less related to his major. Huey’s aspirations have led him to train for a career that is both magical and mesmerizing – he currently attends circus school.
Huey graduated from the University of Dayton in 2014 with a major in dietetics. He was involved with dance ensemble, opera workshop and even played the lead character, Pseudolus, in the main-stage musical “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
“I have been in musical theater all of my life,” Huey said. “I was one of those kids that thought doing backflips and handstands was really cool. Then I studied abroad my junior year and thought I should get into that stuff. Performing made me happy, so I mixed both performing and acrobatics.”
During Huey’s college career, he also participated in a one-month introduction at the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts in Seattle, Washington. While there, he was introduced to many different circus arts, but mostly flying trapeze and static trapeze. He also had experience with the Cincinnati Circus Company. While working there, Huey helped with the trapeze rig and performed as a living statue.
His perception of performing changed when he studied abroad in Florence, Italy. Circus performing is very popular in Europe, according to Huey, and this piqued his interest. This experience motivated him to take a leap of faith, so he could leap from a trapeze.
Joining the circus is often seen as a romanticized dream, Huey said, but he has learned it takes more than just dreaming to turn these fantasies into a reality. First, he had to be accepted into a circus school. Ben applied to the New England Center for Circus Arts. The acceptance process involved two steps. The first was to create an audition video that would showcase strength, coordination and flexibility.
“They wanted to see cartwheels, pull-ups, and I threw in juggling and rope climbing,” Huey said. The school then reviewed the video and invited Huey to audition in person in New England. This step in the process was a 12-hour audition to displayed his strengths.
Huey had performed in many auditions throughout his theatrical career, but this audition was different. He was used to competitive auditions filled with actors trying to out perform each other. This was not the case.
“The circus communities are very supportive,” he said. “It’s not competitive even in the auditions. We would cheer on each other even during the auditions. It’s not like most people think with theater and musicals. It’s very supportive.”
The New England Center for Circus Arts accepted him, and the first few months were spent training on many apparatuses. This allows the students to get a feel for the arts they want to major in.
“It’s very demanding,” he said. “A lot of it is self-directed. Our class time is nine hours a week. The rest of the time, we can be in there practicing our skills. There’s upwards of 25 to 30 hours a week of training.” All of the student’s hard work is later showcased in a winter performance.
After winter break, the students focus more on their major. Huey is majoring in the chinese pole with a minor in hand balancing. The chinese pole involves the acrobats climbing, in a Spiderman-like fashion, 10 to 30 feet on a singular vertical pole. The performers then hold themselves in poses that are horizontal to the ground. These stunts require tremendous physical and mental strength.
“A lot of what we do is getting into our heads. You have to commit to what you’re doing,” Huey said.
After graduating, Huey hopes to attend a graduate program at the Quebec Circus School or audition for a summer program at the Academy of Circus Arts in the U.K. This program allows for young circus performers to take classes and create acts with professionals. It is typical for talent scouts to attend these shows, which makes this program a gateway into the European circus circuit.
Huey is proof that there is still room for wonder and amazement in the form of circus acts in our technological world, and that great performers can come from anywhere, even little Dayton, Ohio.