Category Archives: college

Becoming a Performer: Manuel Garcia

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 pe11824950_10153451811503758_971320043211185359_nrson 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.

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All the way from Germany

Hey my name is Rosa, I am one of the new volunteers from Germany and I have been working at Circus Mojo now for almost 5 months. The reason why I decided to come as a volunteer to Circus Mojoprofil picture was because circus has been my passion since I was eleven. I got the opportunity doing Circus from my high school in Germany which offers a social circus program called Circus Calibastra for their students from the 6th grade to the 13th grade. During this years I got involved in the circus world a lot. Because I am in a Show Group now called Variatistic and loved it so much I decided to want to do a volunteer year abroad in a circus. Through IJGD, a company which offers volunteer programs, I found Circus Mojo and here I am.

 

Even though the work here can be very exhausting, I really enjoy it most of the time. Especially the work in the hospital and the teaching is what I love to do. My favorite thing is, when I can teach the skills which became my own. Trapeze, hand balancing and acrobatic are the skills I have been focusing on the last years the most. For me it is a pleasure to give my experience in this skills further to the Kids.

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Enjoying Lake Michigan in Chicago

 

In Germany it is a very common thing to do a volunteer year abroad after finishing the high school. It is a great opportunity to see other cultures, countries, working places and people from all around the world. You learn how to deal with a lot of different challenges. For example living on your own, being without your family, how to deal with money and of cause also how to handle with all types of people and personalities. For me this volunteer year is a good possibility to get the ground skills you need to live your own life. What I am talking about is for example independence, creativity, flexibility and the willingness to compromise. I do not expect to become perfect in all this things, but it can be at least a goal to grow in all this things.

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2015 Circus Mojo’s Christmas Show at Saints Boniface & James

“Physical education” is the name of the program of the Dohn Community High School where Circus Mojo has been part of since the end of September 2015. Every Monday and Wednesday morning a part of the Circus Mojo Team sets up to the Dohn School down in Cincinnati to teach for one hour a Circus Class. The kids are between 14 and 16 years old and have not done or seen any circus before. We teach them basic skills include juggling, acrobatics, plate spinning, globe walking, rhythm and tight wire, which helps them developing their coordination ability, their patience and their will to achieve success.

But in this class not only our students have to learn to be patient also we as the Circus Mojo stuff have to learn how to teach with patience. The class reason for this is that the kids are very chaotic and have not the best behavior. This difficulties are making it hard for us to get their attention and to have a focused class. Even though we still have our “bad days” with these kids we are getting them more and more involved in doing circus and their skills have improved the last months a lot.

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My students at Dohn Community High School

A lot of times we meet people from Cincinnati and tell them we are from Germany the reaction is always friendly and surprisingly nice. The reason for this is not only because Germans are just nice peopleJ it is especially because Cincinnati is well known as the German American city. So a lot people start to talk with us about their German back round, how much they love Germany, our beer, our food and that their dream is to visit Germany sometime or again.

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Christkindelmarkt in Cincinnati with fellow Volunteer Kira Haid

Because we feel so welcome here we thought we shouldn’t miss the “real” German Christkindlmarket and the Oktoberfest. So of cause we went to both of them and each of it was a funny experience and an interesting discovery what Americans think what is real German food or real traditional clothes. We tried for example the Bratwurst but I have to say unfortunately it was not the same like in Germany. There was also some stuff they sold which I have never seen before. But all in all we still liked it and it was fun to see and to watch what Americans think it is German culture.

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Cirque De-Stress at University of Minnesota

I have been working here with a lot of kids, teching different things, but I hope in 2016 to get more kids I can teach trapeze and I look forward to training new skills.

A note from Paul Miller: Tate and 12-15 other young people from Ludlow will be participating in Circus Mojo’s immersive culture and circus exchange program to Germany’s CircArtive Pimparello this summer!
This program takes circus beyond a performance- or amusement-based activity to become a vehicle for instilling in young people the cultural competency and awareness necessary to be accomplished global citizens, in much the same way that the Kentucky Department of Education is approaching students’ international literacy*.
Circus traditionally relies on the bizarre and exotic to attract audiences, and it is in that same spirit that Circus Mojo draws audiences and participants.  I am extremely grateful for the IJGD organization which has connected us with various valuable circus artists who bring to Ludlow not only their talents as performers, but also their foreign accents and unique perspectives- they bring the world to Ludlow.
If you are interested in this opportunity please email info@circusmojo.com for more information.
*To that end, Circus Mojo is beginning the inaugural term of the Institute for Social Circus Vocational Training Center, a program for adults to learn how to use circus arts to build relationships in various cultural and medical settings.

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A Year of Service, Wire Walking as Community Development

We return from Germany in August 2014 (my 9th year of exchange with CircArtive Pimparello in Germany). When we arrive at the airport, there is  a 21 year old in a long leather jacket and a giant knitted scarf smoking a cigarette… She’s never experienced the 98% humidity that the 275 loop can provide.  Her name is Johanna ~ she’s a wire walker and “buffoon” from Hannover Germany about to embark on a voluntary year of service in Ludlow, KY.
11885786_10153484935468758_8425806540382483903_oHer English is superb as we drive down the hill to Route 8 along the river to Ludlow. I ask her what she’s expecting. “Does everyone have a gun here?”  No, Ludlow is a very safe community but some do. This area still has many racial issues… I pointed out the Stars & Bars of the Confederate flag that flies on a few homes on Route 8.  I explain the Mason Dixon and if the slaves could get across this river they work towards freedom. A year later and the Confederate Flag has come down in South Carolina, but it still flies on Route 8.

Before there were 2 coffee shoppes, three antique stores and a distillery in Ludlow, before the Winkle Bros opened their studio/gallery and before the Ludlow Theatre began its historic restoration and conversion to BIRCUS Brewing Co., Johanna joined us as a volunteer.

Johanna spent 12 years in a youth circus in Hannover and when she wanted to expand her horizons she chose Ludlow, Kentucky’s Circus Mojo. She spent 300+ days developing community with hundreds of performances showcasing the great skills developed via the German Youth Circus system. She has inspired many, from the Ludlow 150th performances to Cirque De Stress in Minneapolis to the Cov200 and All Star Game Celebrations; this talented performer has wowed audiences across the USA!

At one private school we were working at, I sat a child out to watch because she was crying and being difficult. Johanna said I would never get her to participate again.  I separated Johanna from the crying 9 year old; our philosophy is to disengage with people who are crying in struggling to master a circus trick. I offered the idea that I have never seen a child cry from frustration while learning  to walk. Maybe if they’re hurt physically a tear may be shed, but learning circus skills is like learning how to walk. Johanna  worried that the young girl would not want to participate.  I assured her if we let her watch the rest of class and join us when she was ready, we’d hook her. I often say, “Every circus needs an audience.”   The next week for class, I chose not to attend, but asked for the staff to watch for the same girl’s participation and to support it. Sure enough, she joined in. Johanna shared this shift in expectation that afternoon. This is the work of circus engagement and why I need committed volunteers to spend time with Circus Mojo.
Youth from Children's Home of NKY and from Ludlow cooperating  via integrated circus therapy

Youth from Children’s Home of NKY and from Ludlow cooperating via integrated circus therapy

We have been working with the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky for 5 years. Johanna has done a wonderful job encouraging these kids to participate.  Additionally, she has spent 100+ days working at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, from the Residential Psychiatric unit to the Orthopedic Waiting room.  The number of kids, teens, parents, nurses, doctors, and staff to whom Johanna has brought joy would be difficult to capture.

Johanna’s importance to Circus Mojo has gone beyond simply her work as at schools and hospitals. She has also been a valuable asset in terms of cultural exchange. She has acted as a translator of both language and culture between Circus Mojo and Germany’s CircArtive Pimparello. She has also helped pave the way for future Germans to come to Ludlow to work with Circus Mojo.

Cincinnati Children's Spring Carnival Residential Psychiatric Hospital

Cincinnati Children’s Spring Carnival Residential Psychiatric Hospital

Johanna applied to Witten, a private school in Germany.  About 2500 people apply each year and 120 are interviewed  for a total of 35 spots at the university. She wants to study Psychology and we have had many discussions (or debates) on how circus works in the minds of kids, especially those experiencing difficulties. With this year of service I knew that Johanna’s University interview would be very strong. A year at a circus in Ludlow, Kentucky based on community and individual development would differentiate her from the thousands applying for this school. Not surprisingly, she was accepted to the university Witten/Herdecke and will be attending in the fall of 2015.  Most of all Johanna has served as a roll model and coach to future courageous performers.

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Tate West ~ Art project Ludlow High School

In 2005 I began an international circus exchange with Sven Alb, the founder of CircArtive Pimparello and I have taken over 100 youth from the USA to Germany; for many of them, this was their first time on a plane. These youth have earned over $1M in college scholarships. Tate’s first trip on a plane was to train and perform with Circus Mojo in Germany. Tate has been invited to spend her junior year as an exchange student in Germany.  

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Johanna of Hannover ~ Tate West of Ludlow

Johanna is the third German volunteer to spend significant time in Ludlow with Circus Mojo, and in September we welcome Rosa Lisa and Kira from IJGD for a year of Service in Ludlow KY.

ABOUT IJGD

“After World War II pupils from Hanover organized the first work camps aiming to promote reconstruction, to reduce negative stereotypes through international encounters and to envisage new democratic forms of living together. ”

Young people between the ages of 18 and 26 can take part in an international voluntary service. They can work abroad in a social or cultural establishment for a year. Volunteers there will get involved in common welfare and thereby make intercultural, sociopolitical and personal experiences. The formation of a supporting initiative is necessary for the participation of the IJFD.

First, it affords participants an opportunity to reach out to other people and other societies. At the same time, the International Youth Volunteer Service helps the volunteers to enrich and cultivate their own personalities through the informal learning experiences that come with the chosen field of activity and the seminars offered as part of
the programme. The young volunteers learn to get along in a new and unfamiliar environment, acquiring social and intercultural skills as they go that will continue to benefit them long after their return to Germany.

Social learning

Life in a group in all spheres of the IJGD is characterised by a social togetherness and a culture of understanding. It is important to us that various needs and opinions are considered and an inclusive togetherness is made possible. To enable this, prejudices should be questioned and overcome.

Interactions within a group as well as a change of perspective can help form one’s own personality as well as (re-) shape an entire society. It can also help in learning social and emotional skills such as the ability to deal with conflict or to cooperate. Social learning describes a lifelong, cross-generational process that is characterised by a self and joint responsibility, communality and civic participation.”

http://www.ijgd.de/en/services-abroad/6-months-or-longer-abroad/international-youth-voluntary-service-ijfd.html

Both Germany and the United States have had their share of darkness, but programs like IJGD and Circus Mojo work to promote social cohesion and cooperation through increased cultural awareness. The city of Ludlow, Circus Mojo and the USA have grown thanks to the work of IJGD, and we are excited to continue working and learning with this valuable program.

We will miss Johanna very much, as she continues her journey back in Germany, but the show must go on!
Thank you, Johanna, for sharing your time,  efforts, and expertise with our community.
May your efforts bear fruit!

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College Circus Brings Hope to Kids’ Futures! By Nena Woo

10154923_10152322534448758_5131531566578322557_nThe trip to Illinois State University and the Gamma Phi Circus on April 11th sparked a fire of inspiration in the six Circus Mojo kids that Dr. Louis Kutcher and I chaperoned. Many of them come from low-income families and have never seen a college campus. Some of them experience the struggles of a small community and bullying for being different. The trip to ISU opened their eyes to a new world of possibility. As a previous admissions counselor and mentor for many youth, I must admit, I have never been so impressed with the enthusiasm and engagement of young students on a college campus. The day began with a five hour drive and ended with a desire for going to college and joining a collegiate circus.

Since we arrived on campus early and weather was beautiful, the kids started their day practicing circus on the quad. They juggled, hula hooped, and unicycled together around ISU’s collection of trees and campus features.

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Lunch was provided at Watterson Dining Center by Arlene Hosea, Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs & Director of Campus Dining Services. The students enjoyed the newly renovated dining center set up buffet style offering a variety of selections including pizza and hamburgers, salads and homestyle foods, to special ethnic selections. Since I am an ISU graduate and former Gamma Phi Circus participant, they got a head start on their questions about being a college student and being a part of the Gamma Phi Circus.

After lunch, the students received an official admissions presentation by Rachel Caracci, Assistant Director of Admissions at ISU. They learned about requirements for getting into ISU and what the university has to offer. Each student brought a list of questions they had created before the trip which they wasted no time sharing with Mrs. Caracci. I’ve never seen junior high school students so engaged for a college admissions presentation. We took them on a campus and residence hall tour where they asked many more relevant questions.

Following the tour we stopped at ISU’s Special Collections at Milner Library. Circus Now’s Online Director, Rainie Themer works in Special Collections and shared historic circus artifacts including Tom Thumb’s “Tiny Tim” wife’s shoes and gloves and photos of the Gamma Phi Circus in its beginnings. They also learned about early American circus and viewed books and photos of traditional circus performers.

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Around 5 p.m. we picked up our dinner donated by Avanti’s Italian Restaurant, an ISU community favorite, and brought it to Redbird Arena for a backstage tour of the Gamma Phi Circus. The Circus Mojo kids expressed anticipation and excitement for meeting the Gamma Phi performers since the initial planning of the trip. The tour led by Director Marcus Alouan and contributing performers was the highlight of the day for the kids.

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One of the junior high students stood with a notebook in her hand going down a list of questions she had been preparing for weeks to ask the Gamma Phi Circus performers. Another, 6th grader, smiled and whispered to me “This is weird, I feel like we’re VIP.” This made me smile and realize how important this exposure was in the formation of these kids’ futures. It may be their first inspiration of seeing a college education along with their passion for circus as a reachable opportunity.

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The Gamma Phi Circus provided us with excellent seats for their evening performance. I watched the glitter in the Circus Mojo kids’ eyes as they watched the college performers in awe of their flips, balancing acts, strength, collaboration, and professionalism. One student expressed her opinion that she enjoyed watching the college students over Ringling and was excited to know that it was an opportunity she could take advantage of after high school.

After the show, the kids met more performers and had their programs signed. They talked about their favorite acts and learned that the Gamma Phi performers were average college students pursuing degrees in many different fields including accounting, education, theatre, and biology. As we walked back to our vehicles, I could see the admiration for the performers and inspiration they felt as they shared their favorite events of the day and interesting facts they learned. 10153919_10152322535813758_2569549224375806294_n

I cannot say “thank you” enough to our sponsors and the people that helped make this trip happen (Arlene Hosea, Pam Woo, Avanti’s Italian Restaurant, the Gamma Phi Circus, ISU Admissions, ISU Special Collections, Dr. Louis Kutcher, Trader Joe’s, Krogar, and Riverside Marketplace) including parents and supporters. We are so grateful at Circus Mojo and the Social Circus Foundation to have offered this opportunity to the young Circus Mojo students. It has proven to have an impact on their lives and their perception of the opportunities available to them. As a professional and an advocate of social circus, this trip was one of the most inspiring events of my career.

 

Gratefully,
Nena Woo

More photos of the trip can be seen on Circus Mojo’s Facebook page.

Join us for the 2nd Annual International College Circus Festival (May 16-18, 2014) hosted by The Social Circus Foundation and Circus Mojo offers students the chance to show off their skills and connect with a community of students and professionals who share a passion for circus arts. The weekend program includes performances to entertain families, networking, workshops, professional guidance and career opportunities. The festival provides vocational training and education focused on the circus industry for students, including those underprivileged, giving them the tools they need to sustain livelihood and be productive members of society.

 

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