It initially hosted classes on the pavement outside a former pigeon roost, and has since expanded into a 10,000-square-foot circus-arts facility teaching disciplines ranging from juggling and tumbling to gymnastics and parkour. AcroSports, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, is a success story made possible by community support, an appealing curriculum and a fun and humane atmosphere. 

“We’ve come a long way since 1993, when we were holding classes in the streets,” says Dorrie Huntington, AcroSports executive director and cofounder. The nonprofit organization is now a local institution serving the community, she says.  

“We create community through the physical, performing, and circus arts,” Huntington says,  describing the organization’s mission. She emphasizes that, at AcroSports, joy and self-expression, not competition and winning, are what matter.  

Huntington invites the public to check out the anniversary events AcroSports is presenting throughout the year which reflect its trademark blend of fitness, arts education and positive spirit. Coming soon: an AcroSports appearance on May 28 at the Carnaval festivalin the Mission District, and a 1990s-themed Spring Session Youth Arts Showcase on June 3 at the circus arts center.   

Through what Huntington has called “immense community support and sweat equity,” AcroSports serves at least 10,000 students annually, and hosts more than 185 classes weekly.   

About 85 percent of the students are youths, and many of them live in underserved neighborhoods. Students have ranged from infants attending parent-child sessions to a 92-year-old studying chair yoga. Tuition assistance (prices vary widely) is available for youngsters who qualify.  

Classes are taught by professionals trained in art forms both traditional and contemporary.  

“You may not see a clown with a red nose at our events,” says Huntington. But she adds that AcroSports has a DNA of its own. The inclusion of popular athletic urban arts, such as breakdancing and parkour, in the mix has resulted in a richly diverse curriculum reflecting the character of the Bay Area, she says.  

AcroSports Level 4 gymnasts show their skills. (Courtesy Joe Pierce) 

Located on Frederick Street, near San Francisco’s Cole Valley and Parnassus Heights neighborhoods, the state-of-the-art facility houses a 1920s Art Deco gymnasium and a cornucopia of equipment. 

Younger children can climb, swing, tumble, crawl through an interactive tunnel, and maneuver through obstacle courses, among other activities. The lessons help students develop skills and enhance strength and confidence. They’re also fun.  

A peek inside a session may reveal kids dancing in gym garb or sliding down a colorful chute. Older participants might be hanging upside-down in aerial hoops or perfecting breakdancing moves.  

Others can enjoy trampolines, high bars, uneven and parallel bars, trapezes, ropes, still rings, a parkour wall, a rock wall, and the popular SkyNet, a cool-looking, webby attraction that descends from the ceiling. 

The coaches work with the kids individually, and students can progress according to their personal velocity. 

“The teachers are sensitive to the children’s needs,” Huntington says. 

“We make our classes accessible and exciting. The experience is very positive. We want our students to shine.” 

AcroSports also hosts AcroCamps, family nights, birthday parties, and presentations by City Circus, its performance arm.  

Huntington cofounded AcroSports in 1993, bringing to the picture her administrative skills and a background in health, which included an interest in helping others enhance both physical and emotional well-being. Her partners — two Russian acrobats and a Ukrainian gymnast — supplied the circus-arts expertise. At first, classes took place outside an abandoned pigeon roost: “We used mattresses from a shelter as mats,” Huntington recalls. 

Did Huntington envision that 30 years later, she’d still be a primary force in AcroSports? No, she says, but she adds that working with the organization continues to challenge and excite her. 

“You never move from your mission,” Huntington says, when asked for her thoughts about what has enabled AcroSports to survive for so long.  

“There’s a sense of community here,” she says. “Everybody is welcome. Kids go away feeling good about themselves.” 

“People keep returning,” she adds.  “Grandparents are coming with their grandchildren.” 

AcroSports coach Erin Conn spins hula hoops. (Courtesy Joe Pierce) 

AcroSports’ citywide 30th-anniversary celebration, which began earlier this year with a “Breaking Battle” and a block party, will continue through December. 

Coming soon are the Carnaval presentation on May 28, which will include mini-demonstrations, and the Spring Session Showcase in June. Down the line, look for adult and youth Parkour Jams; a cabaret show; a Halloween happening; a Youth Arts Fall Session Showcase; and a gala and variety show. 

While most programming is recreational, AcroSports also caters to students seeking higher education and professional careers in the circus arts. AcroSports students have gone on to attend prestigious circus schools and have performed with Cirque du Soleil and other notable troupes. 

AcroSports’ Spring Session “’90s Youth Arts Showcase” is at 3 p.m. June 3 at 639 Frederick St., San Francisco. Tickets are $5-$10. Call (415) 665-2276 or visit for details about the event and organization.