May 27—It all started with a class sign-up mixup.
Lakeview Academy’s Anderson Cheek told her mom in the seventh grade that she wanted to do lyra hoop, a ring suspended from the ceiling for acrobatics, because her friends were also doing it.
When she described it to her mom for the sign-up process, she said it was the “big circle,” not knowing there was another one like it.
“I walked in and there were these big metal hoops that everybody was spinning around on, and I was very confused,” Cheek said.
Cheek had stumbled into the Cyr wheel class, a large wheel where the performer spins inside of it while performing tricks.
Having already paid for the class, her mom told her to see it through.
“She came to the wrong class and loved it, and I’m so happy she did,” said Jen MacQueen, owner of Akrosphere Aerial & Circus Arts in Alpharetta and Cyr wheel coach. “She’s just a natural at it. She took to it like a duck to water.”
Cheek said Cyr wheel is one of the newer acts in the circus performing arts world with a special skillset.
“It’s all about using your momentum and your body to keep the wheel spinning while you’re doing whatever, also just learning how to not get dizzy,” she said.
The training eventually alleviates the dizziness while building up shoulder strength and calluses on the performer’s hands.
But Cheek felt that she struggled early on. While most people stay in the “first level” for three or four months, Cheek said she stayed in it for a year.
It’s a process of failing and trying again, as Cheek has now ascended to the highest level at Akrosphere.
When asked to describe Cheek’s study of the Cyr wheel, MacQueen said Cheek is “ridiculously talented, mostly fearless, highly driven and an absolute joy to watch,”
“She’s beautiful on the wheel,” MacQueen said.
Including the professionals who have come back to train, MacQueen said Cheek is in a group of three on her level.
The Cyr wheel coach said Cheek was “easily a professional level” performer.
Cheek has not had many performances outside of theater shows such as “Pippin” at the School Street playhouse or Lakeview Academy’s “Macabaret.”
She also has promoted her circus performing school by performing at North Point Mall, but Cheek said she wants to showcase her talent in college and beyond.
Cheek credited MacQueen as one of the reasons that Cheek has kept going with the Cyr wheel.
But Cheek’s hobbies and talents stretch far outside the big top.
The Lakeview Academy senior attended the Governor’s Honors Program in 2022, majoring in social studies and minoring in crafting.
The summer enrichment program encourages people to pick up something they are not necessarily the best at, and “arts and crafts stress me out,” Cheek said.
“I ended up loving it, and I crochet in my free time now,” she said.
After taking as many French courses as she could up to dual enrollment, Cheek began learning American Sign Language.
“I think it’s a language that a lot of people don’t see as a language, which is ridiculous in my opinion because there’s tons of speakers of it and I think there needs to be more,” she said.
Her philosophy has been to take the opportunities that come to you, as you never know what doors may open.
Cheek is set to attend the University of Maryland in the fall after graduation. After the Governor’s Honors Program reinforced her love of social studies, she intends to major in government and politics with a concentration in international affairs.
Even her academic interests span the gamut, as she is also pondering a double-major in French while minoring in math.
“I accidentally kept ending up in these higher math courses, and I figure I might as well just continue with it,” Cheek said.
Her career aspirations have centered around working abroad in a diplomatic role in France or another French-speaking country.
Cheek is planning to attend a circus convention in late May in Colorado that brings people from around the world who perform with the Cyr wheel.