Welcome to the Social Circus Foundation Blog!

The Social Circus Foundation INC will raise funds to support programs using circus as tools for social change and in medical settings.  Many of the people served have limited resources clearinghouse for scholarships and to educate and study the application of circus to mental and physically disabled.

Board Members:

Board Chair
Dave Schroeder
Executive Director, Kenton County Public Library

Sara Warner
Recreation Therapist
St. Elizabeth Hospital

Renee Harris
Operations Manager, Circus Mojo

Sean Sweeney
Assistant Vice President and Director – Information Technology at
Cincinnati Insurance Company

Louis (“Tres”) Kutcher PhD
Chair, Biology Department at University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College

Carressa (Mroz) Smith
Counselor/Sole Proprietor of Empathic Solutions Counseling

Todd Robinson
Founder at Beacon Shots

Jene Galvin
Retired Educator

The Corporation intends to provide three main programs that will use the circus as a tool for social change and in medical settings:

1-   Approximately one-third (1/3) of the Foundation’s attention will be focused on using circus to improve the lives of the mentally and physically disabled. The Foundation has already partnered with Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati, Ohio to provide programming for hospitalized children, and hopes to expand to other medical non-profits in the future.

2-   Another approximately one-third (1/3) of the Foundation’s attention will be focused on vocational training. The Foundation will provide will provide job training and skill sets focused on the circus industry to the underprivileged in an effort to give them the tools they need to sustain livelihood and be productive members of society.

3-   The remaining one-third (1/3) of the Foundation’s attention will be focused on education. Specifically, the foundation will study the impact of social circus in medical settings and as a tool for social change. The data collected will be used to study impact of circus on an individual’s mental and physical health, and to support social circus work in group homes, detention centers, and medical facilities.

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Bringing the World to Ludlow

Northern Minnesota (or, Minnesooooooota, as my friends say when they’re teasing me) is not exactly a booming metropolis. When I started learning Spanish in middle school, it felt a little silly because I really wasn’t near any Spanish-speaking communities, but even then I recognized that I probably wouldn’t be in the Northland forever.

Since then, I have been lucky enough to visit a few cities in Spain, and to study for a semester at the University of San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador. You’d better believe I got to practice my Spanish then. But even then, I was only using it outside of the United States.

Northern and Southern Hemispheres at the same time

Standing on the equator at Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador

Not everyone has the opportunity to visit other countries, especially for an extended period of time. I have been very fortunate in how many countries I have been able to visit, and how many occasions I’ve had to experience cultures different from my own.

Circus Mojo can offer some amazing opportunities for circus artists to travel the world. People who work with Circus Mojo have had the chance to travel to Mexico City, Mexico for the International Circus Festival, to Gschwend, Germany for a circus exchange program, and to Roslev, Denmark to visit a Danish circus. Circuses have a long tradition of touring and traveling to perform. But part of what is so incredible is that in addition to bringing circus performers to see the world, Circus Mojo brings the world to Ludlow.

In the 10 weeks that I have been with Circus Mojo, I have worked and lived with circus artists from Cuba, Antigua, Japan, Togo, France, Mexico, Malaysia, Australia, and Germany. As valuable as these cultural exchanges have been for me, I am thrilled that the various kids who interact with Circus Mojo have also had the opportunity to meet people from outside of Ludlow, and from outside of the United States.


Performers from all over the world with Mayor John Cranley at the Batter Up Bash

Johanna, from Germany, and I have had a wonderful time teaching the kids in our neighborhood to hula hoop and to juggle. What’s even better is that the effect went two ways; there were tears on both sides when Johanna left to go back to Germany last week.

Fabian, from France, spend a couple of days at summer camp showing off not only his skills with the diabolo (using 3 and even 4 at once!) but also his very impressive shriek during a game of Monsters and Princesses.


Fabian performing diabolo for the Cov200 celebration

Roberto, from Cuba, made a lasting impression on a young man from the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky when he offered advice on working through the frustration that can accompany learning to spin a plate. I was lucky enough to witness the encounter because I was helping to translate between Spanish and English.

When I was 13 and started learning Spanish, it was easy to see how this skill could later be used as a means to make cross-cultural connections. But when I started learning circus arts at 18, I never imagined how these skills might rapidly bring cultures and people from around the world together in such an impactful way.

A bit about me: my name is Rachel Alworth, and I am from Duluth, Minnesota. I studied psychology and political science at Kalamazoo College, and was an active member of the circus club on campus, Cirque du K. After I graduated this past June, I moved to Ludlow to join the circus. (You can imagine how thrilled my parents are.)


Practicing silks at Cirque du K

My passion is restorative justice- I’ve spent the past year working with individuals who have been incarcerated or who have been involved in diversion court programs, including youth. I did my senior thesis on the psychological aspects of ex-offender community reentry, specifically about how to give people who have been in prison the best opportunities to have a successful community reintegration. During my research I found over and over that the best actions are preventative; help give people opportunities for success before they are in prison or other difficult situations.

This is part of what led me to join Circus Mojo. It combines my two loves: circus and social justice. By working with children of all ages in the community, we are providing them with positive role models, as well as offering outlets for creativity and frustration.


Sharon performing on the German Wheel

I’ve started training with Sharon, a fantastic aerialist and German Wheel artist from Mexico, who has been working with Circus Mojo since 2011. I’ve also been here for the transition from Johanna to Rosa and Kira, some of the German youth through the IJGD program who participate in a year of service with Circus Mojo.


Rosa and Kira after their first trip to an American grocery store

Over the next year (or so), I’ll be helping Circus Mojo continue to bring the world to Ludlow. With the arrival of international circus artists and especially the upcoming World Wheel Championships, there are many opportunities to come for Ludlow to see the world.

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A Year of Service, Wire Walking as Community Development

We return from Germany in August 2014 (my 9th year of exchange with CircArtive Pimparello in Germany). When we arrive at the airport, there is  a 21 year old in a long leather jacket and a giant knitted scarf smoking a cigarette… She’s never experienced the 98% humidity that the 275 loop can provide.  Her name is Johanna ~ she’s a wire walker and “buffoon” from Hannover Germany about to embark on a voluntary year of service in Ludlow, KY.
11885786_10153484935468758_8425806540382483903_oHer English is superb as we drive down the hill to Route 8 along the river to Ludlow. I ask her what she’s expecting. “Does everyone have a gun here?”  No, Ludlow is a very safe community but some do. This area still has many racial issues… I pointed out the Stars & Bars of the Confederate flag that flies on a few homes on Route 8.  I explain the Mason Dixon and if the slaves could get across this river they work towards freedom. A year later and the Confederate Flag has come down in South Carolina, but it still flies on Route 8.

Before there were 2 coffee shoppes, three antique stores and a distillery in Ludlow, before the Winkle Bros opened their studio/gallery and before the Ludlow Theatre began its historic restoration and conversion to BIRCUS Brewing Co., Johanna joined us as a volunteer.

Johanna spent 12 years in a youth circus in Hannover and when she wanted to expand her horizons she chose Ludlow, Kentucky’s Circus Mojo. She spent 300+ days developing community with hundreds of performances showcasing the great skills developed via the German Youth Circus system. She has inspired many, from the Ludlow 150th performances to Cirque De Stress in Minneapolis to the Cov200 and All Star Game Celebrations; this talented performer has wowed audiences across the USA!

At one private school we were working at, I sat a child out to watch because she was crying and being difficult. Johanna said I would never get her to participate again.  I separated Johanna from the crying 9 year old; our philosophy is to disengage with people who are crying in struggling to master a circus trick. I offered the idea that I have never seen a child cry from frustration while learning  to walk. Maybe if they’re hurt physically a tear may be shed, but learning circus skills is like learning how to walk. Johanna  worried that the young girl would not want to participate.  I assured her if we let her watch the rest of class and join us when she was ready, we’d hook her. I often say, “Every circus needs an audience.”   The next week for class, I chose not to attend, but asked for the staff to watch for the same girl’s participation and to support it. Sure enough, she joined in. Johanna shared this shift in expectation that afternoon. This is the work of circus engagement and why I need committed volunteers to spend time with Circus Mojo.
Youth from Children's Home of NKY and from Ludlow cooperating  via integrated circus therapy

Youth from Children’s Home of NKY and from Ludlow cooperating via integrated circus therapy

We have been working with the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky for 5 years. Johanna has done a wonderful job encouraging these kids to participate.  Additionally, she has spent 100+ days working at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, from the Residential Psychiatric unit to the Orthopedic Waiting room.  The number of kids, teens, parents, nurses, doctors, and staff to whom Johanna has brought joy would be difficult to capture.

Johanna’s importance to Circus Mojo has gone beyond simply her work as at schools and hospitals. She has also been a valuable asset in terms of cultural exchange. She has acted as a translator of both language and culture between Circus Mojo and Germany’s CircArtive Pimparello. She has also helped pave the way for future Germans to come to Ludlow to work with Circus Mojo.

Cincinnati Children's Spring Carnival Residential Psychiatric Hospital

Cincinnati Children’s Spring Carnival Residential Psychiatric Hospital

Johanna applied to Witten, a private school in Germany.  About 2500 people apply each year and 120 are interviewed  for a total of 35 spots at the university. She wants to study Psychology and we have had many discussions (or debates) on how circus works in the minds of kids, especially those experiencing difficulties. With this year of service I knew that Johanna’s University interview would be very strong. A year at a circus in Ludlow, Kentucky based on community and individual development would differentiate her from the thousands applying for this school. Not surprisingly, she was accepted to the university Witten/Herdecke and will be attending in the fall of 2015.  Most of all Johanna has served as a roll model and coach to future courageous performers.

Tate Wire Art

Tate West ~ Art project Ludlow High School

In 2005 I began an international circus exchange with Sven Alb, the founder of CircArtive Pimparello and I have taken over 100 youth from the USA to Germany; for many of them, this was their first time on a plane. These youth have earned over $1M in college scholarships. Tate’s first trip on a plane was to train and perform with Circus Mojo in Germany. Tate has been invited to spend her junior year as an exchange student in Germany.  


Johanna of Hannover ~ Tate West of Ludlow

Johanna is the third German volunteer to spend significant time in Ludlow with Circus Mojo, and in September we welcome Rosa Lisa and Kira from IJGD for a year of Service in Ludlow KY.


“After World War II pupils from Hanover organized the first work camps aiming to promote reconstruction, to reduce negative stereotypes through international encounters and to envisage new democratic forms of living together. ”

Young people between the ages of 18 and 26 can take part in an international voluntary service. They can work abroad in a social or cultural establishment for a year. Volunteers there will get involved in common welfare and thereby make intercultural, sociopolitical and personal experiences. The formation of a supporting initiative is necessary for the participation of the IJFD.

First, it affords participants an opportunity to reach out to other people and other societies. At the same time, the International Youth Volunteer Service helps the volunteers to enrich and cultivate their own personalities through the informal learning experiences that come with the chosen field of activity and the seminars offered as part of
the programme. The young volunteers learn to get along in a new and unfamiliar environment, acquiring social and intercultural skills as they go that will continue to benefit them long after their return to Germany.

Social learning

Life in a group in all spheres of the IJGD is characterised by a social togetherness and a culture of understanding. It is important to us that various needs and opinions are considered and an inclusive togetherness is made possible. To enable this, prejudices should be questioned and overcome.

Interactions within a group as well as a change of perspective can help form one’s own personality as well as (re-) shape an entire society. It can also help in learning social and emotional skills such as the ability to deal with conflict or to cooperate. Social learning describes a lifelong, cross-generational process that is characterised by a self and joint responsibility, communality and civic participation.”


Both Germany and the United States have had their share of darkness, but programs like IJGD and Circus Mojo work to promote social cohesion and cooperation through increased cultural awareness. The city of Ludlow, Circus Mojo and the USA have grown thanks to the work of IJGD, and we are excited to continue working and learning with this valuable program.

We will miss Johanna very much, as she continues her journey back in Germany, but the show must go on!
Thank you, Johanna, for sharing your time,  efforts, and expertise with our community.
May your efforts bear fruit!

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Spreading Joy Through Circus Mojo’s Community Programs | Manuel Garcia

Manuel Garcia, Circus Mojo

Manuel, hosed down after a summer camp pie fight.

by Manuel Garcia, Circus Mojo teacher, performer & mentor

My journey with Circus Mojo all began when I attended the 2nd International College Circus Festival as part of Kalamazoo College’s Cirque Du K (CDK).

Throughout the festival, I got to know the Mojo team and understand their vision, specifically their work in hospitals, nursing homes, and the Children’s Home of Cincinnati, and all they do for all the community. I applied for a summer internship, was accepted, and later asked to be more than just an intern. Now I work as a roustabout, mentor, teacher, and performer.

I started out working in the summer camp with three other members from CDK: Will, Austin, and Jonathan. We arrived Sunday afternoon and were thrown into the mix on Monday morning. It was definitely an unexpected, throw-you-into-the-deep-end, way to start with an organization. But we didn’t sink, and anytime we needed a lifeline, there were other staff and mentors to help us.

circus scholastic, after school circus program in Ludlow, Kentucky

Homework help during Mojo’s Circus Scholastic Program

I’m so glad that I got to start with a few people that I knew, as it made the transition into Mojo smoother. We were learning new games to play with kids, ways to teach skills, and spotting techniques to keep kids safe while balancing on objects such as the walking globe and low tight wire. Relearning skills such as juggling, partner acrobatics, and diabolo in their simplest forms (to teach to kids) and breaking habits of spotting young adults was difficult, but we had to learn the ‘Mojo’ way and adapt to our new environment. By the end of the internship we all had over 200 contact hours with kids just from summer camp. We also had gained experience through workshops, performances, and strolling gigs (walk-around performances and crowd-interaction at functions to provide atmosphere and/or entertainment).

Circus entertainment at Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati, Ohio

Manuel, Jonathan, Sharon, Paul, and Will strolling at Horseshoe Casino

After a few weeks, I started working at nursing homes and the Children’s Home of Cincinnati (an outreach program for at-risk youth). Working in nursing homes was tricky at first because some people would be in wheelchairs or disabled and I hadn’t worked with anyone but kids. I learned that Mojo focuses on what each person can do–whatever his/her skill level or ability we would be sure to teach each person a skill they could accomplish. Next, I started working with Andrew at the Children’s Home; he had been there on behalf of Mojo many times and had a lot to offer in way of my development. Kids at the Children’s Home can sometimes be difficult or not want to join in, but we engage them on equal footing and give them back the power in the ability to say they don’t want to participate at that moment. After they see everyone having fun and realizing they could be doing the same, they often join in. Working with such different ages, backgrounds, and abilities was definitely a challenge, but I developed some essential skills: being perceptive, patient, and adaptable, as well as being able to do/teach the skills we bring in a variety of ways. Doing so made it possible to deal with various situations and be successful in making most everyone happy and participate.

Next came the birthday parties and performing gigs. Working at a Mojo birthday party is completely different than what I expected. I knew we would give a small show and then give workshops to the kids, but it’s faster paced than anything I had yet experienced. Kids are only at the party for a few hours, but still want to try as much as they can. We have to give them a chance to try lots of circus skills, but not necessarily teach them like we do in summer camp because of the limited time we have with them. A birthday party can feel like a week of summer camp crammed into a few hours. Sometimes kids aren’t even the difficult part. On rare occasions we also have to deal with parents that are less than ideal. When the birthday party is over, everyone has left, and we have cleaned everything, we can sit back, smile and reflect on how happy we made people on their special day.

You would think performing might be the easiest because all you’ve got to worry about is putting on a show. In reality it includes: set up, rehearsals, coordinating with other performers, musicians, and tech (checking mics, sound systems, lights, etc.). It is a production! It is also incredibly fun. I had the chance to meet some fantastic people from all over the world and developed friendships along the way. My favorite performance of the summer was Devou Deux, where we performed in Devou Park with the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra. It was amazing to perform to live music, and such a great experience meeting performers from New York, Antigua, Malaysia, and beyond. I even got to breathe fire with Austin during the finale as Sharon, an aerialist from Mexico city, did a dangerous-looking maneuver in the silks.

Fire breathing, fire breather | CircusMojo.com

Manuel breathing fire at Ludlow’s 150th Birthday Celebration

These experiences have helped me develop my skills with children, crowds, networking, and most importantly, awareness. When working with children, it’s most important to be aware of all surroundings (tables, chairs, people, etc.) and make sure everyone is being engaged and safe. These are the critical skills for working at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. It is my favorite thing to do with Mojo. We go to the hospital to bring both joy and distraction to kids and their families at a place where no one expects to see the circus. I’ve been training under Sharon, Paul, Andrew, and Elliot. Each of them has a different style of ‘clowning’ at the hospital so it’s great to be able to work in all these different styles and still be able to teach kids. Teaching kids how to spin a plate or balance a feather is its own reward when you see the joy in that child’s face in such a strange environment. Getting to this point was not a smooth path: there were lots of obstacles, tests, and challenges along the way.

For example, during one of the earlier weeks in my training, we were working with a boy who was visually impaired. This was my first time working with someone who couldn’t see well, and I was a little nervous about what we were going to do. We still did tricks like spinning a plate on his finger and teaching him to balance a feather, but we had to do it with a completely different approach. We let him feel the shape of the plate and stick before spinning it on his finger. While it was spinning on one hand, he brought his other to feel the rotation and gradually brought it to a stop. Balancing a feather was especially tricky because one of the easiest ways to balance something is by looking at the top of it, but the boy was able to learn all the tricks we shared with him! It was incredibly gratifying to see him succeed and it was a great learning experience for me, in that I now had a new way to teach tricks when other ways might not work. All the challenges I faced were met head-on and helped to develop me into a performer/ caretaker who can thrive in various environments and situations. I am still learning and still stumble, but we have a great staff who are always willing to offer advice, and lend a helping hand.

hospital pic

Jonathan, Andrew, and Manuel training at Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center

We are currently preparing for a trip to Mexico City for the 3rd International College Circus Festival, and I could not be more excited. This festival is what started my journey with Circus Mojo and it’s amazing to realize a year has flown by since I first met the Mojo team. I will also be running Summer Camp this year! I’m looking forward to mentoring and teaching lots of great kids this summer, as well as meeting and working with the new Mojo personnel that will be joining us.

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Economic Impact 226,102 DKK = $38,641 USD : A Visit from the Danes

What’s the economic impact of hosting 19 people from Denmark for 10 days in the USA?

226,102 kr. = $38,641 USD

Danish circus pro,Einar Trie has been a clown for 45 years. He’s owner of Cirkus Charlie and director of Salling Cirkus Kids in rural Denmark.  In 1980 Einar performed in the opening ceremony for the Olympics in Moscow and in 1986 he walked from the top of the Grand Canyon to the bottom and back up on 3 foot (one meter) stilts.  Einar met Paul Miller, founder of Circus Mojo in Berlin at Network of International Circus Educators conference in 2011.

Miller and Trie met up again in Finland at the first ever Effective Circus Conference where Miller offered the closing Keynote in December 2013. While together in Finland they began formalized a partnership that has led to ten days of circus and economic exchange.

The following is a conversation started January 8, 2012  7:37am:

Einar Trie: “Here we live in Denmark – Ouer kids will rearly like to visit USA with a show next year. Is it possible – can you help us with place and public. And where are you liwing in your big country.”Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.58.09 PM


Paul Miller: “Yes I would love to help you coordinate this Trip/Adventure. Do you mean in 2012 or 2013?

Jump to October 2014, nearly three years in development, Circus Mojo hosted 19 performers and coaches from Denmark for a 10 day tour in the USA October 10-19, 2014. Einar joined Circus Mojo for the 2nd Annual College Circus Festival in May 2014 to review the site and to make plans face to face with Miller. In the Summer of 2014 Circus Mojo sent three adult staff members to Denmark to participate in the production and to build this relationship.

Denmark Exchange fountain square nanaIMG_9190florence yall

Economic impact: $38,321 or over 224,000 Danish Krone10694356_10152735123958758_648901212373934581_o

  • $23,318 Flight/Transport
  • $4,642 Lodging
  • $4,180 Meals/ Food
  • $707 Van Rental
  • $78 Parking
  • $255 Gas
  • $340 Printing & Promotion
  • $4,250 Souvenirs / Retail / Mall trip
  • $551 Entertainment / Museum

IMG_0204                                IMG_0205

Media Impact 

RCN Story

Fox 19 (126 recommendations as of 10.20.2014)

WCPO (140 views as of 10.20.2014)

The Bronx Ink NYC (55 recs as of 10.20.2014)

Value of over $7,000 in earned media

IMG_9231                          fountain square paul

Social Media Impact

Constant Contact  578 unique opens

Facebook + 220% in page likes +127% engagement

Twitter  403 views 6 retweets 10 favorites


IMG_1875Saturday Tourists in Chicago

Sunday Performance Chicago Park Dist Hamlin Pak with CirquesExperience.

Tuesday Children’s Home of Northern KY & Circus Scholastics for Kids in Ludlow KY

Wednesday Children’s Hospital 1 PM (Closed performance for inpatients YMCA Cornerstone Montessori 12:15 -2:45 Ockerman Elementary 4-5PM

Thursday 8AM Performance Leadership NKY at the Carnegie Theatre Covington with Miller’s Keynote

NOON Fountain Square Cincinnatifountain square nana

Friday 8:30 AM Ludlow Schools & 10AM Providence Pavilion Nursing Home Covington WCPO News

Cirque du Soleil at Bank of KY Center

Cirque du Soleil donated 100 tickets to the Social Circus Foundation 501c3 arm of Circus Mojo to support free programming for youth in Ludlow.  Event raised $10,000 for free programming for youth in Ludlow KY. Three kids from Ludlow to Europe: Jesse, Erinn and Tate and Jean-Tae (Antigua) and Meshu (Ethiopia).

Saturday 7:30 pm Cikus Fabbriken & Salling Cirkus of Denmark Performs at the Ludlow Theatre Home Of Circus Mojo with The Last, Best Hope for Humanity (comedy troupe) & Siegelord

10712568_10152748342153758_6572120405875217148_o                                                IMG_9213

1966092_10152748338453758_2640346316575490676_o-2                                   1622352_10152748342533758_2923664227270167548_o

On Saturday October 18th, 250 people came to Ludlow Kentucky to see the Danes and the Circus Mojo performers.  It was a straw house (circus lingo standing room only).

The Danes have supported local business, the international airport and the economy in the Greater Cincinnati Area.  Look for more developments with the Commonwealth of Kentucky approving a major tourism development loan to expand Circus Mojo.

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Join the Circus, See the World: Jean-Tae’s Circus Tour

The Social Circus Connection:


Amy Chen ~ Cirque Devou 2010

Circus is truly a universal language.  The passion for the art and the ability it has to bridge age, language, ability and location is what brings people to the circus and brings passionate instructors and artists together for a greater good. The social circus concept is a tool used around the world helping marginalized people unlock their talent, confidence, drive and spirit using circus arts as the key.  Paul Miller and Amy Chen have been involved with social circus efforts together and separately for over a decade.

Amy Chen, trapeze artist, juggler, acrobat, and fire breather is currently Circus Coach and Coordinator with THE POINT Community Development Corporation which is dedicated to youth development and the cultural and economic revitalization of the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx.  THE POINT brings the circus to the South Bronx through one-of-a-kind Cirque du Monde  social circus workshops and live circus performances. Cirque du Monde is the outreach arm of Cirque du Soleil.

Social Circus at Work: Jean-Tae’s Story

In August, thirteen members of Circus Mojo had a three-week international exchange in Southwest Germany with Circus Pimparello, a German youth circus that has been a partner for nearly ten years. Our troupe learned, taught and performed alongside Circus Pimparello in a variety of venues from outside the Stuttgart Opera House to inside the CircArtive House at their headquarters. Jean-Tae Francis, a nineteen-year-old who studies circus arts in the Bronx, was part of our troupe. Here is his story:

Jean-Tae 4

Cirque Devou 2014 ~ Jean-Tae with Amy Chen and Omar Rodriguez from The Point in The Bronx

I am originally from Antigua, a tiny country in the Caribbean. In 2009, I moved to Newark, NJ, and I now live in Brooklyn. I have been in the circus for four years at THE POINT in The Bronx under the coaching of Amy Chen. The first specific skill I focused on was juggling, and I recently took up the diabolo. Amy is not only an amazing coach but also an amazing person. We have become very close over the past year and I consider her to be one of my best friends.  She pushes me to work hard and challenge myself. I admire her as a mentor, value her as a friend and feel blessed to have her in my life.

Jean-Tae 3

Jean-Tae and Circus Mojo founder Paul Miller

Amy was the reason I was able to connect with Circus Mojo and Paul Miller. Circus Mojo is definitely a cool place and I love working with the kids there. Paul is a highly energetic and crazy-funny guy, but, hey, he’s a clown!

Performing in Cirque Devou with Circus Mojo and the Northern KY Symphony Orchestra was a summer highlight. Until then, I hadn’t performed in front of more than 20 people; during that weekend, I went from a crowd of 20 to an audience of around 3,000.

Jean-Tae 1

Jean-Tae and his German instructors.

After Cirque Devou, Circus Mojo invited me to tour Germany and Denmark. Being in Europe for the first time and training with Circus Pimparello’s talented coaches, Stefan and Tobias, elevated my skills and opened my eyes to a new world. The language barrier in Germany made things hard at first, but sleeping in a tent on cold nights was harder. I didn’t pack for the weather, but I survived.

During my final week in Germany, I was made a Teamer, a leader and instructor for the younger campers, and given many responsibilities. I grew a lot from this challenging experience and had a chance to perform in Stuttgart, a city way cleaner than the Bronx or Brooklyn. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that there are hardly any trashcans in Germany and no trash at all on the ground.

Jean-Tae 2

Jean-Tae practices diabolo in the shade of the Pimparello tents.

Sandwiched between my stay in Germany was my week-long adventure in Denmark at Circus Fabrikken, founded by Einar Trie. Einar was a pleasure to work with, and the Circus Fabrikken kids were spectacular at the silks, trapeze and contortion. Magne, my diabolo partner, manages to be the only boy in a circus of 14 girls. Kudos. We created an act in about 30 minutes and I was impressed with how good it was. I plan to hang out with Circus Fabrikken again when they visit Chicago and Circus Mojo in mid-October. Looking forward to our performance!

I loved it in Europe, but there’s no place like NYC. Everyone at The Point treats each other like family and I felt like family right away. I appreciate what they do for the community and hope to be with them for many more years. I want to watch them grow and be part of the change.


Paul Miller has been using the concepts of social circus in Ludlow, Kentucky and the surrounding areas since Circus Mojo’s inception in 2009.The Social Circus Foundation (SCF), the non-profit arm of Circus Mojo, has been chosen by Cirque du Soleil as a beneficiary of their social outreach program. Cirque du Soleil is dedicated to using social circus around the globe and Miller has had a relationship with Cirque du Soleil since 2003 . The SCF has been given 100 tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s upcoming Varekai at The Bank of Kentucky Center on October 17, 2014.   Funds raised from ticket sales will directly support after-school programming in Ludlow and the Greater Cincin.  Tickets are available at circusmojo.com.

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Join the Circus… See the World… Or, Tate’s First Trip on a Plane

In August, thirteen members of Circus Mojo had a three-week international exchange in Southwest Germany with Circus Pimparello, a German youth circus that has been a partner for nearly ten years. Our troupe learned, taught and performed alongside Circus Pimparello in a variety of venues from outside the Stuttgart Opera House to inside the CircArtive House at their headquarters. Tate, a fourteen-year-old girl who attends Ludlow High School, was part of our troupe. Here is her story:

When I joined Circus Mojo in my Ludlow neighborhood three years ago,  after-school on Saturdays and over summer camp, I had no idea that the circus would give me such amazing experiences or take me to such amazing places like Germany.

Tate wire

Before this summer, I had never flown in a plane, let alone flown in a plane out of the country. My first flight was thrilling!

Tate on Plane

It was nothing like I had imagined. I felt both nervous and excited as we took off. The turbulence was better than expected but sometimes scary, especially when the plane would turn on an angle. From my window seat, I saw the sun set and rise and reflect off the Atlantic. I saw hills, fields and cities: Cincinnati, New York and Stuttgart (even Ludlow).

My favorite part of the flight was passing through clouds and seeing snowflakes form on the window.  I took some great pictures though with a fancy camera my sister let me borrow for the trip.I even videotaped the takeoff and landing!


Once I arrived in Germany, the real fun started. I learned to lie down on the tightwire and get back up without placing my hands on the wire or using them to balance. I also learned to ride a unicycle backwards and had the chance to work on the diabolo, trapeze, rolla bolla and German wheel.

On our last day at Circus Pimparello, I performed on the silks, unicycle and Tightwire. I even used a GoPro while performing on the silks, but as I did my drop, the GoPro flew off my head and landed on the mat below. Despite this mishap, this was my best performance.

Tate Stuttgart opera

One of my best days at Circus Pimparello was “American Day.” We had a big brunch, relaxed, played games and, top on the list, ate hamburgers made by Pauly and Jesse, a former Circus Mojo staff member who now lives in Germany. All the Germans made us Americans feel special. I am so happy for the friends and memories I made on this trip.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 4.27.26 PMTate is a participant in the Circus Scholastics Program,  a free after school program offering circus training and homework help to youth in Ludlow, KY.  We have created the Social Circus Foundation INC a registered  non-profit 501c3 arm to raise funds to support kids like Tate.

Linking circus training and goals for higher education: Read about Tate’s trip sponsored by the Social Circus Fund to visit Illinois State University.  Thanks to Nena Woo, a first generation college grad, who apprenticed with the circus in Ludlow.

Cirque du Soleil has donated 100 tickets to Varekai at the Bank of Kentucky Center on 10.17.2014 at 7:30pm. 100% of the proceeds will support the  Circus Scholastics Program.  Click to purchase tickets or to make a donation.


Filed under Backstage Stories

Circus at Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired ~ Cincinnati, Ohio

My name is Sharon and I am from Mexico City. Over the past 4 years that I have worked with Circus Mojo, I have taught thousands of people circus skills like silks, juggling, globe walking and more. Working with visually impaired kids in circus skills is one of my favorite things about my job as a circus trainer. 

This is the fifth time we have brought a circus workshop to Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. We began the workshop with a few games, played Name and Sound, a game we adapted from our regular training where kids say their name and do something and then everybody else repeats it. In this case we had people say their name and make a sound that everyone would repeat and it was lots of fun!

Every time before introducing a new skill in the class we did a little exercise where everybody got to feel whatever prop we were about to use and we explained how it worked or why it was shaped that way. An example of that activity was when we introduced the rolling globe, everybody had the chance to feel it and then rolled it to somebody else.blind globe

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I think my favorite skill to teach to visually impaired people is the spinning plates because they get really curious about what makes the plate spin or why it is shaped the way it is. They can also focus more on the feeling and not on watching it like every other person does, which makes it easier for them to learn.

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They are the best at listening and the most courageous people we work with because they do things that even people that can see are many times afraid to do.

Another really interesting skill to teach to them is the Diabolo or Chinese yo-yo because most of the times people have a hard time getting it going and the momentum needed seems to be always the problem. But again, for the visually impaired kids their listening skills and getting the feeling helps them big time. They know exactly when they are doing it right and the yo-yo is spinning or when it’s stopped and they need to start it again.

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I have had the chance to work in some occasions with visually impaired kids at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and it has been a great experience. It is also very special when I get to see the same patient more than once and we create a good relationship with them trying different tricks every time. For example there is a boy I have seen in many occasions and we started by just spinning a plate on his finger but now every time I see him we try something different and he even requests us to visit him in his room when he has an appointment. We have done all sorts of tricks with him including plate spinning, juggling and even feather balancing. Which sounds almost impossible since you have to look at the top to balance but he focuses so hard on feeling the feather move that he gets it to balance.

plate foot

Most would think circus with the blind and visually impaired is impossible… Well that is the business of the circus, bringing the impossible to be! 

We are working to prove the impossible and have been utilizing surveys from A Guide to the Study of the Wellbeing Effects of Circus: A Publication of the Centre for Practise as Research in Theatre by the University of Tampere Finland. Have a look at the report for the young people as well as the teachers from our visit to Clovernook in July 2014.  



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Filed under Blind & Visually Impaired, Classes and Workshops