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  • Lucia Cassan

Six Generations of Circus Right Down the Street in Waltham

Updated: Dec 31, 2019


In November, I had the chance to talk with Alexandre “Sacha” Pavlata and Melinda Pavlata, creators of Moody Street Circus School in Waltham, Massachusetts. Sacha, Melinda, and their daughter Zoë Heywood have run the place as a family business since 2009. As a belly dance and circus school, their goals have been to share circus skills, make art, and put on excellent performances with love. As Zoë says, “the studio is really just an extension of our living room.”

Sacha is a fifth-generation Czech circus artist. He began teaching well before Moody Street, first in Paris in the late 70s, then in New York with the Big Apple Circus, where he also performed his incredible cloud swing act. Later, Sacha and Melinda taught and performed in Saint Louis, Missouri at Circus Flora. In 2005, they imported a circus tent and created the “Cirque Passion,” producing shows to raise money and awareness for ALS.

“Want to get an idea of how connected the circus world is?! Here are some excellent photos of Circus Harmony Founder and social circus leader Jessica Hentoff performing alongside Sacha Pavlata over the years! I am so inspired by them both!”

– Leah Abel, Circus Up Co-Founder​

Sacha and Melinda both were performers for most of their early lives, which meant constant traveling. When the time felt right to settle down, they sold their circus tent and established Moody Street as a teaching studio base. Sacha wanted to transfer his circus knowledge to the public, which he cultivated growing up in Czechoslovakia setting up circus tents and living the circus life on the road. Indeed, Moody Street is based on both Sacha and Melinda’s experiences training in multi-generational circus families. Sacha and Melinda say they wanted to bring the joy of circus to more children since circus is such a wonderful endeavor for individuals and just as beneficial to entire communities. For Sacha, Melinda, and Zoë, love of circus and love of family have always been intertwined. Circus, they say, brings challenge, discipline, and connection.

“Circus is a magical life,” Sacha says. “If that magic can be spread to everyone, then that’s a wonderful thing.” One of their favorite times at the studio is Saturday afternoons when Moody Street is filled with both belly dancers and circus artists. There are so many different kinds of people working on different skills and art forms, yet everyone has the same goal of achieving beauty, grace, and strength. After being in business for so long, one of the most meaningful things for Sacha and Melinda today, they say, is just being able to see their students grow and become amazing artists. What are some of Sacha, Melinda, and Zoë’s goals for Moody Street now? They just want to keep bringing joy and beauty into the world through circus. They love seeing the wonder and excitement in children’s eyes when they first walk into the studio. The vision is not to grow Moody Street into the “circus industrial complex!” Sacha and Melinda simply want to carry on their legacies of performing circus and dance as a personally meaningful enterprise, sharing circus with new generations. What do Sacha and Melinda think about circus becoming more recreational as it takes on new forms and paths? It’s important to hold onto circus’s historical roots as a performance art, they say. Still, Sacha says he would love for circus to receive more support in the U.S.. He reminds me, it’s phenomenal how many circus events are televised and well-supported in Europe. There is a massive circus community there, which he hopes is something we can achieve in the U.S. in the future. In their spare time, Sacha gardens, bikes, and fixes their kitchen while Melinda dances, meditates, and is learning how to play the guitar. Daughter Zoë plans to continue teaching at Moody Street for the foreseeable future. Known for being wonderfully supportive people in the Boston circus community, when I asked Sacha and Melinda what their secret was, they said, “We feel very fortunate to have been born into such a loving and supportive community, so our goal is to be positive spirits in the world.” While circus encompasses most of their time these days, Sacha and Melinda say they are happy “living their creative lives to the fullest extent!” ​​ Learn more about Moody Street Circus School here.


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