The last blog post I wrote for Circus Mojo was my beginnings with the company and my start of trying to bring joy through Circus. In that first year, my technical skills expanded rapidly, as I learned the various circus disciplines, such as balancing and object manipulation, in concert with the “Mojo philosophy.”
Since then, I would say that I have moved beyond rote abilities like juggling and reciting clowning bits to becoming a performer and an artist. My skills have improved, it’s true- I can juggle two diabolos, run a five ball juggling pattern, and complete sixty casino shows in a month. But the way that I grew the most was in learning to deal with the situations that can’t be anticipated.
I became very comfortable in taking on leadership responsibilities. So often, decisions had to be made to ensure Circus Mojo’s everyday activities went smoothly and because that organization uses an apprenticeship model and I learned to step up and not expect decisions to be made for me. If responsibilities were forgotten (dropping the ball, as it were), I didn’t need anyone to ask me to pick up the slack, it just became second nature.
The group who lived at Mojo got into the habit of planning for a day the night before. This involved assigning gigs and tasks, loading the van with everything we needed, and writing a list of any last-minute things we might need to grab in the morning. We customized our show, adjusting the acts and interactions to fit the age, size, and demographics of the different audiences we encountered. As a group, we became experts at performing in the show while simultaneously running our own music and taking photos. In particular, Rachel, Kira, Rosa, and I became so comfortable in working together that we were able to form an hour (or more) show at a moment’s notice. We were also able to adapt that show to include various performers, including others from the troupe or guests from out of town.
One of my favorite groups to work with was the boys from the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky (CHNK). They were always eager to learn and excited to try new things. In particular, the diabolo was very popular among them. Whenever one of them would get a trick for the first time, they’d call me over to watch, and it struck me that my approval would be so meaningful to them. As soon as they had the trick down, they asked for more. What I also loved was realizing that I could capture the boys’ attention without raising my voice. They respected me because I listened to them, rather than making assumptions about them. At CHNK and in other classes, I learned my own style of handling situations.
This was vital for the two years I spent as Mojo’s summer camp director. I was the person who was planning each week’s day-to-day events, as well as the go-to whenever we needed to deviate from any plan. Before summer camp began, we had contingency plans for various situations: where kids could go if they needed a break, what to do if it was too hot to have groups outside, etc. But of course, not every [situation] can be planned for. When those unexpected wrenches were thrown into our plans the Mojo staff became able to deal with them flawlessly. The most difficult days to navigate were when we needed to split our team to cover summer camp, work at the hospital, and various gigs…Sometimes all at the same time! During those hectic times we’d have to ask Ginny (our fearless manager and roustabout) or Joe (her cousin who’s worked with us in the past) to step in at summer camp to lend a helping hand.
When I came to Mojo, I already had many of the basic skills that I used in shows; I could already juggle, perform with fire, and other object manipulation. Although these skills certainly improved over the past two and a half years, what sticks with me is the idea that being a performer is about being able to deal with whatever is being thrown at me. It’s about all of the heavy lifting that goes into making a show. It’s about preparing an act and performing it in front of an audience…and then changing it on the spot if something isn’t working. It’s about meeting new people and meeting ever-changing expectations. And rolling with all of it (on a big red ball). And in doing this, I have brought some joy through circus.