It does behoove the creatively minded to acknowledge the significance of a STEM curriculum – If they fail to do so, they will struggle as entrepreneurs, artist, and creative professionals. I will return to school for more training particularly to acquire more skills in technology and mathematics for the purpose of executing tasks in finance and management. However, working in circus, in addition to experience accrued from having studied and worked in other arts genres, has developed a strong and broad base that will serve me well once I continue my education and progress in my career.
To highlight specific skills from the top ten list that resonate…
Confidence – It takes confidence to pack up and join the circus in the early stages of one’s career. It is a bold step in an unexpected direction and not many of my peers are able to say they took a similar gamble. I am not deterred from working in seemingly strange industries, taking unusual positions, or managing overlapping or disparate tasks.
Receiving (or Giving) Constructive Feedback – One of our performers was preparing for an audition with Cirque due Soleil. I have no training in nor have I studied the style of art and movement that is the expertise of this performer. However, I am strong with the language of aesthetics and I am able to describe things of which I have no expertise. One is able to recognize art, beauty, and tasteful things without refined training – it is a philosophical intuition. Even if the language used to describe performance is broad and unspecified, it is still aesthetic language and a way to creatively communicate feedback. To describe body gesture as sensual, photogenic, or musical is a way for a performer to creatively reflect on their performance and, by being exposed to unexpected language, make nonlinear associations that can enhance their performance.
Collaboration – During any given performance there is the obvious idea of collaboration among performers. However, there is another type of collaboration that is relevant to our current cultural debate about the worth of arts vs. STEM. Art is what brings performers and administration to work for the circus, but our current work environment requires an ability to be fluid with skills; STEM skills are part of that necessary set. It is important to know how to engineer sound and lighting and use media technology to capture the moment. Artists, in addition to performing, are executing these tasks. ‘Arts vs. STEM’ loses strength as a conflict of opposites. Art and STEM coalesce into STEAM thus making the whole greater than its constituent parts.
Hello, my name is Sharon and this is my circus story. I am an aerialist who loves performing on the silks. I learned in my home country of Mexico in the “Biggest City on Earth” – Mexico City. The government has a program that teaches youth many different classes as a way to build skills, to keep them off the streets and in school. The government PAYS for your circus classes and transportation. I participated in this program and then I moved to Cincinnati in November 2010.
Since February 2011, I have been working with Circus Mojo where I learned a variety of skills and volunteered at their summer camp. I then became a paid teacher, performer and, in the following summer, the Camp Director. We spend six hours a day, five days a week with the same children at summer camp. This allows us to get to know them and make a strong connection. As Camp Director, I had even more fun than the year before because my own skills had improved. It was also nice to see familiar faces from the previous year’s camp. One of my favorite summer experiences is when kids from Ockerman Elementary came to our space in Ludlow and half of them spoke Spanish. The room lit up when I told my story.
That workshop went so well that Ockerman Elementary hired us to do an after school program this fall and 66 kids signed up for 20 spots. So, we are hosting a fiesta with Javier Mendoza to raise funds to serve the other 40+ kids. Here is a video of our practice:
Since silks is my favorite skill, I really love it when kids pick silks as their favorite skill to learn and perform in the shows. I know that they watch me do the tricks and hope that they can do them too. I admire how kids rarely give up and keep trying. That puts a huge smile on my face.
Other people I really enjoy working with who love the silks are our students from Catholic Residential Services (CRS). The class with CRS teaches circus skills to adults with disabilities by adapting to their individual needs and skills. The silks is their favorite activity. As soon as one student enters the door, he asks, “Can we do the thing?” (meaning silks). These students have a blast in class and have performed in shows with us—shining every time.
In August, I went with Circus Mojo to Germany, where we performed and taught at Circus Pimparello. We were campers the first week and teachers the next two weeks. Every single kid in camp had the chance to try every single skill for 15 minutes and then decide the skills they would be learning for two straight weeks. I was so nervous because I wanted to impress them. When they asked the kids to go to their trainer of choice, a stampede of kids surrounded me and we had to turn some away because my group was too big. Not knowing German, I showed the tricks slowly with big movements. All the kids learned and it was an amazing time. The kids begged, “Please come back next time so I can be in your class!”
That experience in Germany was culturally different but I am from a different culture in the USA too. Many people from my country live here and live in very difficult situations, legally and culturally speaking. For me, Circus Mojo has been a really important part of my life because I have performed for audiences in many different places while speaking my native language. Read my Germany blog here.
I especially love talking to kids and letting them see me doing something that is important for the community. I hope my job makes them feel like they can do anything for all kinds of people and that their work will speak for them.
Circus Mojo has provided many opportunities that have impacted my life and the lives of others. We have performed at big tops like Ringling Bros. Circus and UniverSoul Circus as well as our own events at the Ludlow Theatre. I also perform in the waiting rooms at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. This is a very rewarding job! I love to see the kids’ faces and attitudes change. It makes my day when kids forget about the pain they are going through and just smile, laugh and act like kids. Speaking to parents and families in their native tongue of Spanish is another way I connect with people at the hospital.
Working at Circus Mojo has given me the chance to perform for all kinds of people from varying cultural and economic backgrounds. I think that when people see me do this work it changes their mind about me and all the other people that work at Circus Mojo. I also think that it is important that when people come to Circus Mojo they see our diverse group working together. Hopefully, this will broaden minds.
On December 8, Rock the Big Top with Spanish speaking performer, Javier Mendoza and his band at the Ludlow Theatre (Home of Circus Mojo). Come see me too! I have been working on a new act to perform live with Javier and his band. We have a $25 ticket price that will underwrite programming for the other 46 kids at Ockerman who want to work with Circus Mojo. General Admission is $12. Tickets can be purchased at the door or HERE.
My family has had a very unexpected journey this year. We have experienced a roller coaster of emotions including frustration, hopelessness, devastation, hopefulness, fear, a lot of fear, more frustration, relief, more hopefulness, love, anger and so much more. Joey’s diagnosis went from being devastating to being well at least it’s not in his organs to being this is still scary as hell.
I was very happy to see CNN covering the clowns In North Carolina protesting the Clan rally this week. Clowns have a way of subverting authority. This week, I had the chance to work with Robert Geathers, Jr., a defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals, as part of the Marvin Lewis Community Fund’s “Learning is Cool” program at the Chase School in the Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati.
“What was your favorite subject?” asked the moderator. I answered with social studies and geography. I have been lucky enough to meet people from around the world through the circus. I grew up in Kentucky just across the river and everyone in my neighborhood of Villa Hills, KY (some call it Vanilla Hills), was white except for my friend John who is from Vietnam. When I mention that I went to college at the University of Cincinnati and lived on Bruce Avenue (Northside), the crowd roars.
“Go, kids! You will have to work hard. People will tell you that you can’t, you shouldn’t. But if you want to do something, do it!”
The next question was about my first job. I answered, “Working at my high school, Covington Catholic, to pay tuition on work study.”
Just a few days earlier we hosted a birthday party for 30 kids and a birthday boy who was turning seven at our space in Ludlow, KY. A little girl comes up to me at the end of the party:
G: The dark man has my headband. I gave it to him when I was swinging.
Me: You mean the African American man?
Me: You mean the African American man?
She appears confused.
Me: The guy who walked the tight wire and hung and spun in the air.
G: Yeah, him.
Me: The Black man?
G: No. He’s brown not black.
Rackim, the African American performer, gave it to her Dad.
I think most kids in the area where I grew up in Northern Kentucky only see black people on the news or chasing, tackling and tossing via sports or occasionally bagging groceries in the store.
My daughter goes to a school with a nearly 99.9% Caucasian population.
The year is 2009. We are attending the school’s open house to recruit new families. This school had a living wax museum where kids in the 5th grade got to choose and become an important historical figure, memorize a speech and become this person. If you push the button the character comes to life.
I see someone who looks like a coal miner down the hallway. He has a peanut on his lapel and I tell my wife, “I think that kid’s in blackface. George Washington Carver.”
“No Way,” she says. I push the button.
“I am George Washington Carver. I have made over 100 inventions from the peanut.”
The next year, this school went on to win the National Blue Ribbon for educational excellence. I sent a letter to the school outlining the fact that we have a black president and that I was appalled that the night the school chooses to put its best foot forward there is a student in blackface. We chose to send our kids there anyway so that we can work from the inside to educate. To steal a line from the protesting clowns in the CNN news clip, “Clown Power, White Flour!”
My daughter’s best friend is an Indian who is celebrating Diwali. An old friend Shreeyash Palshikar, PhD., a world renown Indian Magician has come from Washington, DC for Jadoo: Indian Magic 11/16&17/2012 tickets here at the Ludlow Theatre (Home of Circus Mojo). Marvin is right… Learning is cool whether it’s from an African American circus performer or a magician from India. Performance and entertainment can be a tool for social change.
Circus Mojo is a for profit social venture using circus as a tool for physical, emotional and even real estate development. We offer corporate retreats and team building as well as diversity training with an innovative approach to status and accomplishment. Circus Mojo is based in Ludlow, KY (South of the Mason Dixon for a reason).