Category Archives: Our Common Humanity

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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Amber’s Story: Germany 2016

unicornAmber is a freshman at Dixie Heights High School who grew up in Ludlow and has been with Circus Mojo for four years. She specializes in the trapeze and spent the past year honing this skill under the coaching of apprentice Rosa Groll of Stuttgart, Germany. Amber recently took her first airplane trip with us to Stuttgart, the nearest major city to Circus Pimparello.     

My trip to Germany was for a different reason than most people’s trips to Europe. Mine was to perform in the circus. As part of Circus Mojo, I was able to be a guest artist and camper at Circus Pimparello.  When I got there, it was so cool. It looked like a normal farm with pigs, chickens, horses and alpacas … until you saw the circus tents.

The first week was my favorite. You picked a circus skill you enjoyed and learned more about it.  I also really liked the trainers and meeting many students my age. By week two, the trainers and students from the first week had left and all new people arrived, which wasn’t all bad. I had a lot of fun and met a lot of people I’ll miss.

Sometimes the best things were the little things. The circus group I traveled with became closer and there were many funny quotes from our time together. One of the trainers named Mario made us laugh when he’d say, “It’s a stretch. You don’t give up. You reach,” to someone who wasn’t that flexible. Back-and-forth teasing between Mario and our group during stretch and strengthening classes became a running joke.

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A quick shot of many of the Mojo campers. L-R Lucas, George, Marilyn, Hope, Jesse (chaperone), Shay, Tate, Julia, Amber & Liam.

Performing f13925857_10154317859478758_1049089246692021955_oor me was the coolest. On our first Wednesday, Circus Pimparello held an open house in their big top. I was asked to perform my trapeze act but didn’t want to because I was scared. My trapeze teacher pushed me because she knew my strength and potential. She convinced me to perform, and I was happy she did. Everybody loved it!

I performed again on a lower trapeze at the swim club Bud-Spencer-Bad in Schwäbisch Gmünd. Many people recorded my act on their phones, yet I didn’t know it at the time. When we were back at the camp and I heard Panic! At the Disco’s “House of Memories” playing in the tents, I knew what had happened and thought, “Hey, that’s my song!”

The next time I performed was in the Circus House, or CircArtive Haus, which is Sven’s baby. It’s a beautiful space with real lighting. Afterwards Sven asked me on the mike how I felt about my sister Tate staying at their school for a year, and I answered, “I’ll miss her but that’s one less person in my house.” [Aside:  Circus Mojo and Sven have a hunch that the longer Tate is away, the more Amber will miss her Big Sis.]

In short, I had a great time in Germany and hope to do it again!

Amber on Trapeze from Paul Miller on Vimeo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Tate Wire Art

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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Economic Impact 226,102 DKK = $38,641 USD : A Visit from the Danes

What’s the economic impact of hosting 19 people from Denmark for 10 days in the USA?

226,102 kr. = $38,641 USD

Danish circus pro,Einar Trie has been a clown for 45 years. He’s owner of Cirkus Charlie and director of Salling Cirkus Kids in rural Denmark.  In 1980 Einar performed in the opening ceremony for the Olympics in Moscow and in 1986 he walked from the top of the Grand Canyon to the bottom and back up on 3 foot (one meter) stilts.  Einar met Paul Miller, founder of Circus Mojo in Berlin at Network of International Circus Educators conference in 2011.

Miller and Trie met up again in Finland at the first ever Effective Circus Conference where Miller offered the closing Keynote in December 2013. While together in Finland they began formalized a partnership that has led to ten days of circus and economic exchange.

The following is a conversation started January 8, 2012  7:37am:

Einar Trie: “Here we live in Denmark – Ouer kids will rearly like to visit USA with a show next year. Is it possible – can you help us with place and public. And where are you liwing in your big country.”Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.58.09 PM

7:45am

Paul Miller: “Yes I would love to help you coordinate this Trip/Adventure. Do you mean in 2012 or 2013?

Jump to October 2014, nearly three years in development, Circus Mojo hosted 19 performers and coaches from Denmark for a 10 day tour in the USA October 10-19, 2014. Einar joined Circus Mojo for the 2nd Annual College Circus Festival in May 2014 to review the site and to make plans face to face with Miller. In the Summer of 2014 Circus Mojo sent three adult staff members to Denmark to participate in the production and to build this relationship.

Denmark Exchange fountain square nanaIMG_9190florence yall

Economic impact: $38,321 or over 224,000 Danish Krone10694356_10152735123958758_648901212373934581_o

  • $23,318 Flight/Transport
  • $4,642 Lodging
  • $4,180 Meals/ Food
  • $707 Van Rental
  • $78 Parking
  • $255 Gas
  • $340 Printing & Promotion
  • $4,250 Souvenirs / Retail / Mall trip
  • $551 Entertainment / Museum

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Media Impact 

RCN Story

Fox 19 (126 recommendations as of 10.20.2014)

WCPO (140 views as of 10.20.2014)

The Bronx Ink NYC (55 recs as of 10.20.2014)

Value of over $7,000 in earned media

IMG_9231                          fountain square paul

Social Media Impact

Constant Contact  578 unique opens

Facebook + 220% in page likes +127% engagement

Twitter  403 views 6 retweets 10 favorites

Schedule

IMG_1875Saturday Tourists in Chicago

Sunday Performance Chicago Park Dist Hamlin Pak with CirquesExperience.

Tuesday Children’s Home of Northern KY & Circus Scholastics for Kids in Ludlow KY

Wednesday Children’s Hospital 1 PM (Closed performance for inpatients YMCA Cornerstone Montessori 12:15 -2:45 Ockerman Elementary 4-5PM

Thursday 8AM Performance Leadership NKY at the Carnegie Theatre Covington with Miller’s Keynote

NOON Fountain Square Cincinnatifountain square nana

Friday 8:30 AM Ludlow Schools & 10AM Providence Pavilion Nursing Home Covington WCPO News

Cirque du Soleil at Bank of KY Center

Cirque du Soleil donated 100 tickets to the Social Circus Foundation 501c3 arm of Circus Mojo to support free programming for youth in Ludlow.  Event raised $10,000 for free programming for youth in Ludlow KY. Three kids from Ludlow to Europe: Jesse, Erinn and Tate and Jean-Tae (Antigua) and Meshu (Ethiopia).

Saturday 7:30 pm Cikus Fabbriken & Salling Cirkus of Denmark Performs at the Ludlow Theatre Home Of Circus Mojo with The Last, Best Hope for Humanity (comedy troupe) & Siegelord

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On Saturday October 18th, 250 people came to Ludlow Kentucky to see the Danes and the Circus Mojo performers.  It was a straw house (circus lingo standing room only).

The Danes have supported local business, the international airport and the economy in the Greater Cincinnati Area.  Look for more developments with the Commonwealth of Kentucky approving a major tourism development loan to expand Circus Mojo.

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A Lost Boy from Sudan, a Gang and a Circus

Seven years ago today Khalid was lost to gang violence.

Circus Mojo Community Foundation

Listen to the story here on Chicago Public Radio Archive

If you’d like to read more about Khalid, click here to purchase an essay written by best-selling author Alex Kotlowitz.

Or read more about Khalid’s Mother Afaf’s experience on PBS/Frontline Website.

Today, July 7, 2012, marks the six-year anniversary of Khalid Mohammed’s death. On July 6, 2009, Jorge Pena, a member of a gang called the Maniac Latin Disciples, was found guilty of the murder of Khalid. I spent July 1 and 2, 2009 with Afaf Ahmed, Khalid’s mother, at the courthouse in Chicago to lend support in her time of need. Her strength serves as an inspiration during these difficult times and reminds me of what truly matters in life.

Khalid’s story reminds all of us what is at stake for many of the kids I served in Chicago and try to here in Cincinnati. He joined the circus in…

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Welcome to the Circus Mojo Community Foundation Blog!

The Circus Mojo Community Foundation  (Formerly the Social Circus Foundation) INC is a nonprofit (501c3) which raises funds to support programs utilizing circus as a tool for social change.  Most of the recipients of these funds have limited resources and economic, physical or mental challenges. The funds serve as a clearinghouse for scholarships and to educate and study the application of circus in non-traditional settings. 

Board Members:

Board Chair
Louis (“Tres”) Kutcher PhD
Chair, Biology Department at University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College

Secretary
Cherie Haas
Online Editor
ArtistNetwork.com

Treasurer
Jason Deller
Guardian Savings Bank
Mortgage Loan Advisor

Sara Warner
Recreation Therapist
St. Elizabeth Hospital

 

Past Board Members

Sean Sweeney
Assistant Vice President and Director – Information Technology at
Cincinnati Insurance Company

Dave Schroeder
Executive Director, Kenton County Public Library

Jene Galvin

Community Organizer

 

The Corporation intends to provide three main programs that will use the circus as a tool for social change and in medical settings:

1-   Approximately one-third (1/3) of the Foundation’s attention will be focused on using circus to improve the lives of the mentally and physically disabled. The Foundation has already partnered with Children’s Hospital of Cincinnati, Ohio to provide programming for hospitalized children, and hopes to expand to other medical non-profits in the future.

2-   Another approximately one-third (1/3) of the Foundation’s attention will be focused on vocational training. The Foundation will provide will provide job training and skill sets focused on the circus industry to the underprivileged in an effort to give them the tools they need to sustain livelihood and be productive members of society.

3-   The remaining one-third (1/3) of the Foundation’s attention will be focused on education. Specifically, the foundation will study the impact of social circus in medical settings and as a tool for social change. The data collected will be used to study impact of circus on an individual’s mental and physical health, and to support social circus work in group homes, detention centers, and medical facilities.

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Circus, Race & Culture

I was very happy to see CNN covering the clowns In North Carolina protesting the Clan rally this week.  Clowns have a way of subverting authority.  This week, I had the chance to work with Robert Geathers, Jr., a defensive end for the Cincinnati Bengals, as part of the Marvin Lewis Community Fund’s “Learning is Cool” program at the Chase School in the Northside neighborhood of Cincinnati.

 

“What was your favorite subject?” asked the moderator.  I answered with social studies and geography.  I have been lucky enough to meet people from around the world through the circus.  I grew up in Kentucky just across the river and everyone in my neighborhood of Villa Hills, KY (some call it Vanilla Hills), wasImage white except for my friend John who is from Vietnam.  When I mention that I went to college at the University of Cincinnati and lived on Bruce Avenue (Northside), the crowd roars.

“Go, kids!  You will have to work hard.  People will tell you that you can’t, you shouldn’t.  But if you want to do something, do it!”

The next question was about my first job.  I answered, “Working at my high school, Covington Catholic, to pay tuition on work study.”

Just a few days earlier we hosted a birthday party for 30 kids and a birthday boy who was turning seven at our space in Ludlow, KY.  A little girl comes up to me at the end of the party:

G: The dark man has my headband.   I gave it to him when I was swinging.

Me:  You mean the African American man?

G:   The dark man in a shirt like yours but it’s blue.Image

Me:  You mean the African American man?

She appears confused.

Me:  The guy who walked the tight wire and hung and spun in the air.

G:  Yeah, him.

Me:  The Black man?

G:  No.  He’s brown not black.

Rackim, the African American performer, gave it to her Dad.

I think most kids in the area where I grew up in Northern Kentucky only see black people on the news or chasing, tackling and tossing via sports or occasionally bagging groceries in the store.

My daughter goes to a school with a nearly 99.9% Caucasian population.

The year is 2009.  We are attending the school’s open house to recruit new families.  This school had a living wax museum where kids in the 5th grade got to choose and become an important historical figure, memorize a speech and become this person. If you push the button the character comes to life.

I see someone who looks like a coal miner down the hallway.  He has a peanut on his lapel and I tell my wife, “I think that kid’s in blackface.  George Washington Carver.”

“No Way,” she says. I push the button.

“I am George Washington Carver. I have made over 100 inventions from the peanut.”

The next year, this school went on to win the National Blue Ribbon for educational excellence.  I sent a letter to the school outlining the fact that we have a black president and that I was appalled that the night the school chooses to put its best foot forward there is a student in blackface.  We chose to send our kids there anyway so that we can work from the inside to educate.  To steal a line from the protesting clowns in the CNN news clip,  “Clown Power, White Flour!”

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My daughter’s best friend is an Indian who is celebrating Diwali.  An old friend Shreeyash Palshikar, PhD., a world renown Indian Magician has come from Washington, DC for Jadoo: Indian Magic 11/16&17/2012  tickets here at the Ludlow Theatre (Home of Circus Mojo).  Marvin is right… Learning is cool whether it’s from an African American circus performer or a magician from India.  Performance and entertainment can be a tool for social change.

Circus Mojo is a for profit social venture using circus as a tool for physical, emotional and even real estate development.  We offer corporate retreats and team building as well as diversity training with an innovative approach to status and accomplishment. Circus Mojo is based in Ludlow, KY (South of the Mason Dixon for a reason).

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