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

Secretary
Sara Warner
Recreation Therapist
St. Elizabeth Hospital

Treasurer
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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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.

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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

7:45am

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

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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

Schedule

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

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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:

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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.

#Jean-Tae

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!

Arrival

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.

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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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A Lost Boy from Sudan, a Gang and a Circus

Circus Mojo:

Seven years ago today Khalid was lost to gang violence.

Originally posted on Social Circus Foundation INC:

Listen to the story here on Chicago Public Radio Archive

If you’d like to read more about Khalid, click here to purchase an essay written by best-selling author Alex Kotlowitz.

Or read more about Khalid’s Mother Afaf’s experience on PBS/Frontline Website.

Today, July 7, 2012, marks the six-year anniversary of Khalid Mohammed’s death. On July 6, 2009, Jorge Pena, a member of a gang called the Maniac Latin Disciples, was found guilty of the murder of Khalid. I spent July 1 and 2, 2009 with Afaf Ahmed, Khalid’s mother, at the courthouse in Chicago to lend support in her time of need. Her strength serves as an inspiration during these difficult times and reminds me of what truly matters in life.

Khalid’s story reminds all of us what is at stake for many of the kids I served in Chicago and try to here in Cincinnati. He joined the circus in…

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How Do You Join a Circus?

Circus Mojo:

Cherie Dawn has been an enormous guide in the development of Circus Mojo & the Social Circus Fund. She is a fantastic dancer, performer, editor, connector & FRIEND! Bravo… My favorite class with her was with a group of juvenile felons in Ludlow KY and wow did we have fun!

Originally posted on Cherie Dawn Loves Fire:

So you want to join a circus. This question recently came up when I was giving a presentation on being a fire eater/performer/writer/reader to a teen group at the Franklin County Library in Brooksville, Indiana.

After talking about my experiences and answering questions from a small but engaged audience of tweens, a parent approached me. She looked to be about my age, and asked if it’s really possible to join a circus. “Can it be a real job?” She asked me. My answer, at first, was that it depends. When she clarified that she was asking for her ambitious 12-year-old daughter who excelled at gymnastics and dreamed of doing cirque for a living, I knew that I had driven 90 minutes to this library, on this day, for a reason.

Cherie Dawn discussing circus arts with youth “Don’t try this at home, kids.” :)

A good friend of mine is living proof that you can join the…

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