On Jan. 13, Sylvia Hernandez and members of her acrobatic family who performed internationally together as the celebrated Hernandez Troupe were inducted into The Circus Ring of Fame. Ms. Hernandez is the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Actors Gymnasium
The annual Ring of Fame ceremony, which took place in Sarasota, Fla., recognizes those who have made a significant contribution to the art and culture of the circus. The Hernandez family was honored for their much-loved acrobatic work, especially the teeterboard performances in which they catapulted each other high into the air, flipping, and flying, and landing on one another’s shoulders. The Hernandez Troupe was active through the 1970s and ’80s, including a three-year stint with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey from 1989 to 1991.
Ms. Hernandez said she believes that what set her family troupe apart was the open, friendly, playful quality of their performance as well as their technical prowess. “Our act brought the audience in,” she says. “We had so much fun and we made eye contact with the audience. We practiced intensively, so our risk was effortless, but we would sometimes miss tricks on purpose to build suspense, and then ask the audience's forgiveness. We would high-five each other after a really good trick. Other troupes were more serious.”
Ms. Hernandez left the circus in 1990 and co-founded the Actors Gymnasium in 1995. At the Jan. 13 ceremony, she reconnected with people she hasn't been in touch with for years, representatives of generations of “traditional circus families” – actual genetic families. "”These days it's different, circus companies will hire the best acrobats from around the world and put them together in a group.”
The closeness of blood ties does not necessarily make for a more trusting bond, Ms. Hernandez says “The beautiful thing about working in a physical way is that it generates an emotional connection, too. If you aren’t already a family, you become one.”
Through her work at the Actors Gymnasium, Ms. Hernandez fosters those bonds of connection among her students.
“I recently participated in a 14-year reunion of former members of my teen ensemble,” she says.
“It is a beautiful thing to see the instantaneous recognition of that bond years later. Circus training makes us more human.”