Circus Arts for Healing

As I write this, I’m still wearing my costume from tonight’s Circus Mojo performance at a grief support group session. Pink shirt, purple leggings, etc. The only change is that I’ve kicked off my boots and let my pigtails down. Until I go to sleep, I’m guessing that the evening will still feel very present.

Tonight, we – Pauly, Matt and I – brought circus as a healing art to this special group of people who’ve lost loved ones. When I heard about the opportunity, I jumped on it, as I’m always looking for ways to give back. And it was just what I expected. When we entered the room for the evening, Pauly immediately invoked smiles from the dozens of children who were sitting front-row on the floor, with dozens more parents and helpers seated behind them. If you haven’t seen his hat routine, then I encourage you to look for it – this simple hat becomes a character itself, bouncing from head to hand to shoulder, to audience and then back again. The kids loved it (I loved it, too!).

Next, I hopped up and performed with my glow poi; it went well.

Matt, who has an ability to be spontaneously funny, took the stage next with juggling and stilt walking. Shortly after that we welcomed our audience to join us in spinning plates, walking on stilts, and balancing on the rolling globe. At least for an hour or so, grief was not at the forefront. I think, we were able to offer more than simply tricks and entertainment, but also a reprieve.

I’m grateful to have shared this evening with this group of warm people who opened their minds to experiencing things that were possibly new, and definitely silly.

As I wind down for the evening, I realize that this is the stuff that really does make the world a better place. Keep reading below to hear Pauly’s perspective on this unique evening.

Cherie Dawn

“What, a circus at a grief event?!” Earlier that day Renee, Circus Mojo’s Operations Manager who holds the circus together, got a call at her home: “Will there be a clown in make-up?” a nervous caller asked.

The tension was thick as we entered the room…Half the room was red-eyed from crying in the past hour, a quarter didn’t want to be there (teens who were dragged out to deal with personal loss in a group setting), and the other quarter was children who needed a good laugh.

On our way in, I ran into the door and caused a scene. Slapstick is funny, and the kids laughed because they hurt and are delighted that someone else “hurts” too, although in a much different way.

After this, I entered slowly while playing a tune on the melodica. Then a few bits with the hat. First, I tossed it to a kid who doesn’t want to be there. One of my rules is to engage the tough ones.

I was thankful to the little giggler who was at the front of the group laughing – this gave others permission to others to enjoy something. Working in these unique environments is easy on some levels because we bring the unexpected. Adults laugh when they’re uncomfortable; kids laugh when they’re having fun…. Adults laugh when they see their kids having fun, which brings comfort.

Another thing I like to share with others, is this: when you’re frustrated, BREATHE. This evening we spun plates together; I encouraged everyone to not think about it too much as they became flustered while trying to spin the plates – but thinking won’t help you spin a plate.

By the end, all where smiling and had a achieved something special…even us, who get to bring JOY to those who need it.



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