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Meet Maria Bernhard of The Circus Studio

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maria Bernhard.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up in theatre and opera rehearsals, both onstage and off, hanging out with my mother who was a director and theatre professor. A very active child, I studied gymnastics and then ballet, dancing with the Eugene Ballet Company in Oregon in high school and then the Inland Pacific Ballet. In college I created “Secret Circus”, an award-winning play I wrote and directed, which led me to London for graduate school to study playwriting. I left after the first semester to become a street performer, walking on stilts and juggling fire throughout Europe. At the end of this adventure, I began training for flying trapeze and joined Circus Archaos briefly where I danced on stilts. Upon returning to the US, I continued writing as a screenwriter, Bellyfruit was produced, and two other scripts were optioned. A few years into my writing career, my son Rain was born, and I decided to get back to my love of movement, this time through Pilates. I fell in love with the results it had on my own body, and decided to become an instructor.

After a few years, I opened my own studio where I wanted to incorporate the circus arts as well. We started with some Pilates equipment, 3 teachers, and 1 pair of Aerial Silks. 7 years later, I have 13 teachers, 40 plus classes per week, and a full aerial kids, teens, college, and adult program for beginner through professional levels, plus teacher training, and our very own performing circus, Spin Circus, and aerial troupe, Flying Foxxes.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There has never been a smooth road for me, but I don’t think I would have picked one if it had been an option! Opening my own business as a single mother of two was extremely difficult, stressful, and challenging. I was originally supposed to have a partner when I opened the studio and after I signed the lease, this person changed their mind. Then two months later, another Pilates studio opened across the street. Both of these challenges are actually the reasons I now have a Circus Studio and not just a Pilates Studio, however, so I am grateful they both happened! I knew I had to innovate, and fast, so we began performing monthly for the local artwork and also, I showed and sold local and international artists.

Every time the studio had a lull, I would create something new. Someone asked if we did birthday parties, and suddenly we offered circus birthday parties and pole dance bachelorette parties, which is now a big part of every weekend at our studio. Whenever a certain class didn’t quite work out, we would replace it with something new. I just keep rolling with the punches, and now we are bursting at the seams in many of our classes, and clients drive from all over southern California to attend our classes, workshops, and shows.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The Circus Studio – what should we know?
The Circus Studio is a happy, creative, inviting space for everyone who is brave or curious enough to come through our doors. Most of our clients have never experienced the aerial arts before, so we have made this very encouraging atmosphere for all ages of people, men and women, to try something brand new. I am extremely proud of my amazing teachers and of all of our students. Every single person works so hard to learn, struggle, repeat and perfect their technique, whether it is Pilates, Pole, or Aerial, I am so impressed with the intense focus I find every day at work.

My teachers and I are most proud of the range of people we are able to teach to fly, and we love to watch them beaming as they experience the thrill of their bodies in the air, changing and become stronger and more amazing with each class.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
All of my teachers are incredible, and almost all of them received a majority of their training at my studio. In particular, my original aerial teacher Erynn Richardson, who still guest teaches for us, has been a solid and loving talent, teaching the next generation of teachers that I hired. I was lucky enough to have Jehan Izhar as one of those students-turned-teachers, she brought a lot of innovation and a level of professionalism to the studio I greatly admire. Nichoel Ann also completed all her aerial training at our studio, and then single-handedly turned our fledgling Kids Aerial Program into a full-blown 3-level comprehensive program with incredible performances. That being said, all of my teachers are wonderful, creative, very hard-working, and an absolute joy to work with. Every time I do payroll, I feel lucky that I have created a space for these amazing women to do what they love, and actually get paid for it!


  • Monthly Aerial Beginners Pass – $80
  • Monthly Kids Aerial Pass – $64
  • Pilates/Barre Classes – $140 for 10
  • One Aerial or Pole Beginner Class – $25
  • Aerial or Bachelorette Party $250

Contact Info:

  • Address: 548 West First Street,
    Inside the Claremont Packing House
    Claremont, Ca 91711
  • Website:
  • Phone: 909-625-3333
  • Email:
  • Instagram: thecircusstudio
  • Facebook: The Circus Studio
  • Yelp: The Circus Studio

Image Credit:
Jill Carol
Maria Bernhard

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