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.
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.
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.
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.
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.