So… with soccer, ballet, swimming, gymnastics, and the whole range of activities available for children today, why send a kid to circus class?
Short answer: because circus is where physicality, creativity, team work and individuality combine in the perfect mix.
During the term break I facilitated a group of young people coming together for a five hour workshop.
The kids met each other.
Games got them warmed up and starting to mingle and play. They sweated together, shared groans and laughs together. They learned about physical and emotional support. They mastered new skills. They shared the skills and talents they already had.
They took all these things, and created and performed a show in front of an audience. In under five hours they became a troupe.
Through the process they noticed that every body and every person is different. They learned that some skills come easier for some people, and that everyone has to work harder at some things than at others. That the kid who can do a walkover might find juggling hard, and the kid who picks up three ball juggling in under ten minutes might struggle holding form in a pyramid.
Instead of put-downs, they dug deep to celebrate as others pushed forward in areas they personally found challenging.
They found good words to talk about their differences. They found ways to work through personal challenges. They glowed when they discovered ‘their skill’, the thing that comes easy for them. And they were just as stoked to level up in a skill that didn’t come so naturally, the skills they really had to struggle for.
Circus covers such a huge range of performance and physical skills that the sweet spot is different for every body. For every mind. For every personality.
At the end of the workshop the group created and performed a show. It was entertaining. It showcased unique work. Had awesome skills. And it was totally watchable.
Two boys throwing a rubix cube back and forth across the stage, solving it between them. They were balancing on rolla bollas (a new skill they had tried for the first time that morning, and mastered that afternoon). They spun plates, throwing and catching them on sticks. They pulled up audience members for card tricks with the patter of seasoned streeties.
A group acrobalance act with three girls who moved fast, and stayed fun and focused through their whole routine. They mixed in their existing dance and gymnastics skills, and chose their own music – Chandelier by Sia.
A girl turned a moment of improv during rehearsal into an act. She ran on as the acrobats moved off, lip synching the end of Chandelier. Lashing and rolling around the space, totally owning the audience, until her buddy came on and whipped a hula hoop over her head, capturing her. The music changed, and together, they rocked out a synchronised hoop and acro routine.
The performers chose their groups for the small acts. They created their own acts. Picked the skills they wanted to showcase, drawing on the workshop material and skills they already had. They chose their own music, and negotiated with each other for help setting and striking the stage.
Together, they selected some whole group acts from the skills they had practiced. They discarded group skipping (“too random.”) and chose hoop diving. They picked the group balances they wanted to include.
The result: happy, tired, exhilarated kids.
Kids who had been able to celebrate their differences, their sameness, their selves on stage and throughout the whole workshop.
Kids who had been validated for who they are.
Kids who had known each other for five hours.
That, is youth circus.
And that’s why, if you have the opportunity, for a day, for a week, for a term, for a year, let your kid run away with the circus.