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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.