Santa Cruz is filled with inspiring people changing the way we think about form, focus, and artistry. In the spotlight is Rose Calucchia, a professional trainer, teacher, and performer bringing innovation, collaboration, and fun to the local fitness and circus arts community.
Calucchia’s approach to movement combines two worlds – training and acrobatics. Originally from Ohio, she spent many years in New York, where she graduated with a dance degree from Sarah Lawrence College and was a member of LAVA, the Brooklyn-based dance/acrobatic company. In her 7 years with the company she taught, trained and performed challenging disciplines, including handstands, partner acrobatics, tumbling, hoop diving, and duo trapeze.
After relocating to the Bay Area in 2012, Calucchia continued training with prestigious masters of acrobatics and trapeze at the San Francisco Circus Center and Trapeze Arts in Oakland. Pooling her diverse experiences has allowed her to teach methods that align with her values of mindful movement practices and bodyweight training (gymnastics/aerial/acrobatics). As a certified Personal Trainer and Gold Medal Bodies Trainer (GMB) she now teaches at premier training facilities in Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley.
Being in Santa Cruz also gives Calucchia the opportunity to share her unique expertise with the local circus arts community. In 2015, she and two colleagues opened Radical Movement Factory. The circus training school provides ongoing classes, workshops, and presentations involving handstands, acrobatics, trapeze, and aerial arts. The combination of high-level technique, creative movement, and social responsibility brings joy, confidence, and support to students of all ages.
Watching Calucchia in action reforms any ideas or doubts about the body’s ability. As she dives head first into a handstand, or guides someone in finding their own strength and balance, it’s clear that her belief in what the body is capable of has no limits.
Local Santa Cruz: How has life in Santa Cruz influenced your training, teaching, and performing?
Rose Calucchia: The vast and beautiful landscapes of the Santa Cruz coast and forests are continually inspiring. Coming from NYC I feel like I’m actually living in nature and breathing fresh air, which gives me mental space and clarity for creativity in all areas. Being able to take my summer camp students outside for games and classes, or clients outside for training sessions is such a treat! Also, knowing most of the year I can workout in a local park or on the beach is invaluable to me. Apart from the outdoors, I have such a committed and exceptional group of students in Santa Cruz. I love my community at The Factory. I really couldn’t ask for a better home base.
What does your own personal training look like, and what would you say is most challenging/rewarding about it?
For the past year, I’ve been training with GMB in handstands and gymnastics movements. Training alone is not super inspiring to me, so when I came across GMB, it felt like a great fit. GMB combines my two worlds – training and acrobatics. I typically do some sort of handstand/acrobatic training 5-6 days per week. Trapeze is something I love so much, but don’t get to do as much right now. I do static duo trapeze, with 2 people, and currently I don’t have a partner. When I do train trapeze, I often commute to the East Bay to take classes with my teacher there.
One of the many things I love about bodyweight training is that it’s well-rounded training – it trains strength, flexibility and control. There’s also a mental component to this type of training – it’s challenging. Everything about gaining bigger skills requires a lot of focused work. It’s often a practice in patience and dedication as much as it is a physical practice. However, I can’t imagine not training this way. I challenge anyone to take a class and not be completely engaged and present for that hour or hour and half. The rest of the world disappears except for what’s happening with your body. It has to be that way, for your safety and safety of others. Plus, it’s really, really fun!
Tell us about the local circus arts community and how people can engage with it?
There are two spaces for training circus arts in Santa Cruz – the studio I co-own and teach at – The Radical Movement Factory, and Aerial Arts Santa Cruz. There is some variation in class offerings and teaching styles between the two studios, but there are classes for absolute beginners, both kids and adults at both studios. The Factory is offering a Summer Camp for beginner kids in June as well. There are many opportunities throughout the year to see circus performances in town. The Factory holds two student showcases – in spring and fall (next one is Saturday, April 29th), as well as one or two professional shows with our performance company Aeraflux, which I co-direct with Allie Cooper. Aeraflux creates contemporary ensemble-based aerial and acrobatic productions. The youth performers of Aeraflux will be debuting a new show “dis/connected” at the Vet’s Hall the first weekend in May. This work deals with teen identities and relationship-building in a digital age where so much socializing is happening on a screen. I am excited about this work and look forward to sharing it with the Santa Cruz community.
What inspires you most about your work?
I love empowering people to use their bodies. I love seeing people learn about their bodies, and grow more confident in themselves while doing so. I feel pretty lucky to witness a lot of “firsts” for people. – seeing a client do a full pushup for the first time in their lives; seeing a student get a new acrobatic trick – the joy and excitement it brings; seeing a new student perform for the first time in one of our showcases. I have a lot of gratitude that I get to do SO many cool things in my days – training clients one on one, teaching group circus classes, helping a student choreograph a new act for a performance, rehearsing the youth performers of Aeraflux (9 teen girls), constantly learning new skills myself and training my own body…. I love it. I’m also fortunate to work with really amazing colleagues in all the different areas of my life. The GMB community, while scattered around the world, is incredibly supportive and inspiring. My fellow trainers at all the facilities I work at are dedicated professionals in the field. I have an incredible network of massage therapists, chiropractors, and physical therapists I collaborate with and learn from. And I can’t speak highly enough of the two women I co-own The Factory with, Allie Cooper and Erin Carey. The three of us all bring different strengths to the studio and we work together so well. The Factory staff and students are really my home – it’s where so much of my drive and inspiration come from.
What fitness tips would you like to share?
When it comes to movement and exercise – do what’s fun and interesting to you, and do it often! Don’t just go to the gym because you’re “supposed to.” Doing exercise out of obligation won’t often lead to a healthier life. The longer I’m in this industry, the more I see how happiness, stress-level and enjoyment of life play into a person’s health in much larger ways than exercise. Find what type of movement you enjoy doing and a community of people you like doing it with.
Follow Rose Calucchia and her work: @sweetcheekssantacruz