At first glance, Kelly Folwell might seem just like your typical new eighth-grade student at Ursuline. This year, she has been diving on the swimming and diving team, making new friends, drawing and painting everywhere she goes, and getting used to life at Ursuline, but Kelly is not your average eighth-grader. She is also an acrobat for Commonwealth Circus Center in Jamaica Plain. They are devoted to using circus arts education to build community with people of different backgrounds, abilities, and ages.
At the circus studio, Kelly has been learning how to do practically every circus-related activity you could imagine. I have watched the videos of Kelly’s new skills as she brings them home each day, from bending herself into unimaginable positions in the air on the silks (VERY terrifying), flying on the trapeze, and juggling. I have heard the stories of all her times using the german wheel, riding the unicycle, and walking on tightropes (which she claims is “easier than it looks”). Her creativity in her showcases is exciting to see, and it seems like a place where Kelly is truly happy.
Some might say she is crazy for driving all the way out to Jamaica Plain from Walpole, usually during rush hour, but Kelly’s love for the circus shows. She started as a gymnast, training over twenty hours each week, and reaching new levels of flexibility that seemed impossible to me. Eventually, Kelly decided to try cheerleading, and of course, landed herself in the role of flyer. This meant I got to watch nine-year-old girls catapult Kelly into the air, and hope that they would catch her. Sometimes, they didn’t, but Kelly still managed to fearlessly try again each time. Kelly soon decided it was time to move on to the world of circus, which is where she is today.
Kelly’s circus group received an offer this past summer from the Boston Lyric Opera to perform in their show, Pagliacci, and during the Fairgrounds beforehand, which was the time that audience members would walk in. Kelly rehearsed for months, which meant additional traffic-jammed trips to the circus center. But, the intricate acrobatic work she did with her friends, the lifts and flips and balancing, paid off. The show was a huge success!
Kelly’s acrobatic skills have paid off in a whole new way this year, however, one which she never would have expected. Joining the Ursuline diving team with very little prior diving experience was a bit nerve-wracking for her. But, she dedicated herself to the sport and used her knowledge of flips, twists, and technique to her advantage. Kelly learned seventeen new dives over the course of about two months. While Kelly has discovered this new love for diving, she is not giving up on her circus dreams. While she is all these incredible things, she is also my very talented younger sister. Kelly is not the typical Ursuline girl, based on her activities, but at the same time, she does fit the Ursuline standard for her level of effort, passion, and dedication to her talents, and it truly does show.