With the greatest of ease
Reno has a new circus arts and acro gym
Five years ago, Cyrus Luciano had a day job and a lot of outdoor hobbies.
“I was into typical Reno mountain sports, climbing, kayaking, skiing, things like that,” he said.
One day, he picked up a Cyr wheel—a steel or aluminum ring that a performer stands in to spin or roll. He found it a lot of fun, and he wanted to practice it more seriously.
“I realized there’s no place in Reno to spin in a Cyr wheel,” Luciano said. “I was doing it everywhere I could, on tennis courts, sidewalks.” He began dreaming of opening a facility where he and others could practice his newfound skill.
“After some thought, I came to the realization that wouldn’t be a sustainable business model, to just do Cyr wheel,” he said. Around that time, he met Keisha Thrift at a climbing gym, where she worked. She taught him partner acrobatics. He taught her Cyr wheel.
“That was the deal that started it all,” Thrift said. “We both started off with academia. We were set on this path to do the corporate thing for eight hours a day, every day.”
Their path took a sharp turn. They looked at facilities like the San Diego Circus Center and the Movement Sanctuary in St. Petersburg, Florida, for inspiration. They searched for a space to rent in Reno, maybe something in the 3,000-square-foot range. Eventually, they found the former Anchor Auctions building on East Fourth Street. Its 9,400-square-foot interior was a lot more space than they’d planned for, but the commercial rental market is tight, and they hadn’t found a suitable space in their original size range.
“We decided to just go for it,” Luciano said.
The directors’ dreams expanded to fit the space. They added dance to their list of core disciplines, and they looked around town for instructors in other specialties, too.
Luciano and Thrift signed a seven-year lease, and now they’re the owners of Acro Enso, a new acrobatics and circus arts gym. It soft-opened in March, and a grand opening is scheduled for April 6. They plan to offer classes in yoga, Pilates, clowning, stilting and martial arts.
As of last weekend, the gym was transitioning from an empty warehouse to a wide-open space with long streaks of sunlight, thick mats for acrobats, and an enormous vinyl dance floor. Soon, the proprietors said, one long wall will be lined with mirrors, there will be a small workout area with dumbbells and squat racks, and the entry lounge will be decorated with seating, cubbies and a wall mural by local painter Bryce Chisholm. Later on, maybe in a year or two, they plan to install ceiling equipment for aerial dancers.
“We’re going to be a full-spectrum fitness center,” Thrift said. “We’re aiming for up to 20 classes a day. … We have open playtimes, three-hour blocks where you can come in and do your thing, play independently, work with a personal trainer, work with your kids.”
As Luciano’s six-year-old daughter ran giggling around the huge, empty expanse, he and Thrift explained that it’s important to them to create a gym that’s friendly to families and nurturing to children.
“We’re pairing our children’s classes next to our adult classes,” Thrift said. “So, you can come in and start a class—let’s say a belly dance class, if you’d like—while your child does ‘Acro Tykes.'” The adult class and youth class will start and end at the same time. She figures this will attract parents who’ve waited on the sidelines during a kids’ class, then had to find a babysitter so they could take their own fitness class.
When it comes to families, Luciano and Thrift didn’t just consider convenience. They were also thinking about some values they hold dear—like cooperation and play. Luciano recalled a conversation he’d once heard between a parent and Daniel Cyr, developer of the Cyr wheel. The parent asked Cyr what advice he had for a young person who wanted to be a professional acrobatic. How should they be training?
“Daniel stopped them,” Luciano recalled. “And he was like, ‘What I would tell them is that they should have fun. If they’re not having fun, they should do something else.'” He remembers the parent seeming a bit shocked, but, for him, Cyr’s advice would eventually inform his new gym’s entire ethic. Acro Enso is all about prioritizing collaboration over competition.
“We are setting into place some guidelines,” said Thrift. “We’re going to be creating [curricula] for our kids’ classes for the parents to view, to see exactly what their kid is going to be offered and what they’re going to gain. It’ll be clear that it’s not competitive. It’ll be a collaborative effort. It’ll be about building themselves and their body and building their ego, building who they are as people.” There won’t be a strong focus on teams or tournaments, she added. Instead, she foresees “open stage” nights, where kids and parents will be encouraged to show off the skills they’re developing.
At the same time the new gym emphasizes accessibility and a non-competitive spirit, Luciano and Thrift said they also prioritize high-level skill. They said they aimed to hire the best local instructors they could find, and they searched around the country for guest instructors.
On a recent Sunday, Sam Tribble—a chiseled gymnast and coach from Los Angeles with a warm smile and an easy demeanor—walked three students through some beginning Cyr wheel exercises.
“It takes a little bit of time to learn,” said Luciano. But Tribble, who’s been coaching people on Cyr wheel for at least 10 years, has broken the process down into steps. After he covered a few basics, it didn’t take long for his students to pick up a few moves‚ like walking in the wheel as it rolls across the floor.
“We’re going to have a curriculum that really develops people, and it really can turn you into an acrobat,” said Thrift. “If a child decided they wanted to train for Cirque du Soleil one day, then this would be a great facility for them to come and start that training.”
“And if they just want to come and have fun, that’s also what we’re about,” Luciano added.