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Circus Center’s history began in 1974, when Peggy Snider and Larry Pisoni founded The Pickle Family Circus, the iconic Bay Area troupe that kicked off the United States’ circus renaissance movement.

Ten years later, Pickle Family members Wendy Parkman and Judy Finelli opened the San Francisco School for Circus Arts, renamed Circus Center in 2001, to train youth in circus arts.

In 1993, Circus Center moved from its original old church location to the vacant West Gym of Polytechnic High School, where it remains today. Circus Center began offering both professional and recreational training with a world-renowned team of instructors, including Master Lu Yi, master of Chinese acrobatics, and Elena Panova, award-winning Russian trapeze artist. Master Lu Yi retired from teaching in 2014 to direct an acrobatic troupe composed of many former Circus Center students.

Over the next 30 years, Circus Center established itself as one of the most advanced school of the circus arts on the West Coast, with training in clowning, acrobatics, aerial arts, contortion and more. With its international roster of highly experienced instructors, Circus Center continues to train artists who work professionally in highly respected circuses and performance venues around the world. Several former Circus Center students have gone on to found schools and circuses of their own.

Circus Center remains a San Francisco institution, bringing circus arts to our community so anyone, great and small, can experience the innovation, creativity and wonder of circus.

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