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.


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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Julia’s Story- Germany 2016

Comp julia

Julia, a talented dancer, juggler and acrobat in her junior year at Holy Cross High School, joined us on our three-week tour and cultural exchange in Germany with Circus Pimparello, a youth circus Pauly has partnered with for over a decade. She worked hard on her circus skills and at her summer job to take her very first flight on this trip of a lifetime.

Staying up late working at Dairy Queen—getting a variety of chocolate sauce and ice cream splattered on me—is so worth the three weeks I spent in Germany. It’s an experience I’ll never forget! I loved sleeping in circus tents, training, teaching, and meeting the amazing people at CircArtive Pimparello.

Some people might say that the hardest part about going to the circus camp would be the cold nights in the tents, that they were the last table to get food or that getting a shower was harder than expected. Although these things were hard for me to adjust to, the hardest part for me was saying goodbye to the friends I made. The girls that I took care of were awesome and funny. I’d tell them different things like which of the teamers (counselors) I had a crush on or what America was like, and in return, they’d teach me German. They taught me how to count to twenty.

14054526_10154344800398758_1913712237776516874_oThe teamers were also awesome people I could joke with as if I’d known them forever. They’d teach us many things about Pimparello and life in Germany and help translate when we had no clue what was going on. We had fun nights laughing in the tent and eating the leftover snacks that were provided at the end of the day’s team meetings. I loved teaching and training with them. All of the teamers were nice people I enjoyed spending the last weeks of summer and first days of school with. 🙂

At the beginning of this trip, I was so nervous that I would have minor panic attacks and small breakdowns. I felt inferior in my circus skills and was scared to be thrown in with a group of people I didn’t know who spoke a different language. After the first few days, I knew I had definitely overreacted. It helped having my circus family with me. I learned that everyone there was being taught new things, even if they were all wickedly

Now I’m on my way home and already miss Germany. I miss my new friends. I miss my campers. I miss the food. And I miss Tate (the human, not the tots). Tate is my Circus Mojo friend staying for a year at the CircArtive School, and I’m so proud of all that she has accomplished and will accomplish.

I’m sad to leave but excited to return home to my family, my friends, and my nice warm, comfy bed. I had an amazing time that I’ll never forget, and if I work hard enough, I’ll hopefully enjoy Pimparello again. While I write this on my long journey home knowing I need to wake up early for school tomorrow, I’m happy to share with you the best summer I’ve experienced thus far.14054544_1112595318785997_2263757787250008085_o

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“Changing the World” Inspired by…

Circus Mojo was recently honored by being included in a Buzzfeed article entitled, “17 Circuses that are Changing the World.” I am thrilled that our local and global efforts are being recognized. However, all of the circuses mentioned in this article are based in the United States. There are plenty of international circuses who are deserving of acknowledgement because they are more advanced at using circus to build their communities. I, Paul Miller, the founder of the Social Circus Foundation and owner of Circus Mojo, would like to take a few moments to recognize the circuses from around the world who have guided my work. Without their contributions and inspiration, my circus would not be the organization it is today.

I am a businessman who aims to earn a living by producing quality programming and adapting concepts from around the world to the marketplace of the USA.  The announcing of a Social Circus Initiative took place in Montreal before Cirque du Soleil was purchased by American and Chinese investors.  It’s not easy making a living and a difference. I am working to make the economic case for consumers in the USA to purchase circus and I wouldn’t be in business without the licensing and adapting of many of these ideas from the circuses on this list.  If you want to learn vocational skills from these leading circuses please join us at the Institute of Social Circus & Vocational Training Center Low Profit Limited Liability Company that has licensed the ideas/concepts in exchange for equity in our center.

  1. CircArtive Pimparello , Germany 

I met Sven Alb, the founder of CircArtive Pimparello, in 2005.  Sven’s extraordinary leadership is the foundation that Circus Mojo and the Institute of Social Circus & Vocational Training Center L3C is built upon.  Over the past 1o years, over 100 young people from the USA have been able to take their first flights thanks to Sven & Pimparello.  We’re fond of saying, “Join the circus see the world!”  For many, the hope of one day attending college was envisioned only by enlisting in the military. Thanks to Sven, the young people who have gone to Pimparello have earned over $1M in college scholarships. Thanks for changing the world, Pimparello!


Circus Tent at Pimparello


2.  Debub Nigat (Southern Dawn) Circus-One Love TheatreAwassa Children’s Project , Ethiopia

I had the great fortune to meet Meshu Tamrat, one of the founders of the Awassa Children’s Project, a circus in Awassa, Ethiopia, when David Schien called one day.


Debub Nigat Circus – One Love Theatre – Awassa Children’s Project in Ethiopia

I had sent circus equipment to Awassa many years before to honor Khalid, a refugee from the Sudan, one of my students who was killed in Chicago. Meshu’s work, training and connecting young people to productive lives is hard to imagine.  He taught youth at the Chicago Waldorf School and eventually the Nairobi Waldorf School and founded the Kibera Social Circus in the largest slum in Africa, located outside Nairobi.


Top and bottom: Meshu and his work in Nairobi, Kenya. Middle: Meshu jumps over a line of people at Cirque De-Stress at the University of Minnesota.


3. Benposta: Spain, Mozambique, Belgium, Venezuela & More

El circo de los muchachos. Escuela internacional de circo de Benposta fundada por el Padre Jesús Silva utilizo el circo para conectarse con niños huérfanos a través de orfanatos en España, Mozambique, Bélgica, Venezuela y más. En los últimos meses hemos tenido el placer de agregar a Roberto A. Arego Bedevia, un ex director de una sucursal de la escuela de circo de Benposta a nuestro equipo. Junto con su esposa, Alina Domínguez- una exitosa coreógrafa y artista de equilibrio. Roberto ha contribuido a nuestro trabajo en el orfanato del norte de Kentucky.

El Circo de los Muchachos / International Circus School at Benposta, founded by Padre Jesús Silva Padre de Silva, used the circus to connect with orphans via boys homes in Spain, Mozambique, Belgium, Venezuela and more. Within the past few months, we have had the pleasure of adding Roberto A. Arego Bedevia, a former Director of the Venezuelan chapter of the Circus School of Benposta, to our staff. Along with his wife, Alina Dominguez- an accomplished choreographer and balance artist- Roberto has added to our existing work with the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky.


Top: Roberto working on a pyramid with artists at Benposta. Bottom: image from one of Padre Silva’s original Benposta circuses.


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Letter of support for Roberto’s visa from the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky



4. Hidung Merah  Red Nose Foundation, Indonesia 

Dan Roberts is the founder of Hidung Merah. We met when I co-directed his collegiate circus production at Roosevelt University.  Upon graduation Dan joined the staff at CircEsteem and served many roles as mentor and eventually Associate Director.


Dan Roberts as mentor beneath the stage at a Cirque do Soliel performance 2006 Chicago

Dan worked with Circus Smirkus and Clowns without Borders and then created an amazing circus in Jakarta, Indonesia.  He’s opened doors for thousands of youth in Indonesia and is building an incredible audience and network.  Dan is also the founder of the Asian Social Circus Association. He joined us on our first adventure with youth to CircArtive Pimparello  (Germany) in 2006, and he’s sent youth and staff to the USA to help launch the 1st International College Circus Festival. He has also sent youth to train and perform in Canada, Myanmar, and Poland.


5. Circo Volador, Mexico City-Mexico

Sharon Alvarez Miller ha trabajado con Circus Mojo por los últimos 5 años. Ella aprendió habilidades de circo como parte del programa Injuve financiado por el gobierno de la Ciudad de México para mantener a los jóvenes ocupados y fuera de las calles. Injuve financia proyectos y la formación profesional de los adolescentes. Entre los programas que Injuve ofrece se encuentran el desarrollo de habilidades en las artes gráficas, circo callejero, artes aéreas, hip-hop, etc. Circo Volador utiliza un teatro para las clases de circo además de conciertos y otros eventos.

Sharon Alvarez Miller has been working with Circus Mojo for the past five years.  She learned circus skills  at Circo Volador  where Injuve, a government-funded program, keeps young people busy and off the streets.  Injuve funds projects and vocational training for teens; if they show up on a regular basis for skills development in graphic arts, street circus, aerial arts, hip-hop, etc., participants earn a stipend. Circo Volador uses a theatre for circus classes around concerts and other events.


Top: Sharon Miller performa aerial silks. Bottom: El Centro de Arte y Ventura Theatre


6. Casa de Artes y Circo ContemporaneoMexico City-Mexico

Un circo pre-profesional en la Ciudad de México, la Casa de Artes y Circo Contemporáneo nos ha ayudado a producir el 3er Festival Internacional de Circo Universitario en la Ciudad de México, ofreciendo una serie de talleres en el Desarrollo del Personaje y Clowning. Esta escuela cuenta con una trayectoria de lanzamiento de artistas jóvenes a un nivel superior; Casa es el Circus Smirkus de la Ciudad de México.

A pre-professional circus in Mexico City, Casa de Artes y Circo Contemporaneo has helped me produce the 3rd International College Circus Festival in Mexico City by offering a series of workshops in performance and in Clowning/Character Development. This school has a track record of launching young artists to the next level; Casa is the Circus Smirkus of Mexico City.


Visiting with artists at Casa de Artes y Circo Contemporaneo


7. Palestine Circus School, Palestine 

In 2006 Khalid Mohammed was gunned down in Chicago. He was my student at CircEsteem and to honor him we sent circus equipment to New Orleans (the circus lost equipment due to Katrina earlier that year) Awassa and to honor my Muslim student we sent equipment to Palestine Circus School.   The work building skills in the face of adversity is amazing.   I have signed the petition to free #FREEABUSAKHA  Mohammad Faisal Abu Sak PalestinianCircusPropsHonoringKhalid


8. Cirkus Magenta, Finland 

Cirkus Magenta helps youth in refugees in Jordan funded by FinnChurchAid (a Finnish NGO that works to provide humanitarian aid around the world), this circus teaches circus skills to refugees in Jordan. Connecting with these kids allows them to focus their pent-up energy and unleash positive development.  I had the great honor of leading a discussion and workshop at a U.S. Embassy about the use of circus as an antithesis of war. My friends from Finland have a long history of using circus as a tool for peace, and it was a privilege to work together to educate my government about this unconventional method for peacemaking.


An image from the Cirkus Magenta website


9.- 12. Internationale Jugendgemeinschaftsdienste , Germany via  Pimparello /  Bikonelli  / Variatastic / Maroni  

Six years ago Ludlow Kentucky was considered a food-desert; we had no restaurants or grocery stores.  We hosted our first volunteer from Germany IJGD (essentially the German Peace Corp) at this time.  Over the past five years the youth circus system in Germany has helped us develop the economy and circus as an industry in the USA.


IJGD’s website


13. Circus at the POINT, Bronx-USA

Funded by Cirque du Monde, Circus at the Point allows for young people from all over NYC to attend circus classes.  Circus artists from all over town would offer input and skills development for this dynamic program helping plant the seeds of circus in the next generation of courageous circus performers.

14. Circusplaneet, Belgium

My friend Sven invited me to the Network of International Circus Educators (NICE) conference in Berlin in 2010.  There I met Matthias Vermael of Circusplaneet.  Matthias brews a beer called BIRCUS to fund his circus.  He doesn’t accept government funding and instead uses the purchasing power of beer as his concession to fuel his circus.   I have licensed the BIRCUS concept and will be brewing beer in 2016 to further our social circus initiatives.

Circus Planeet.jpg

BIRCUS Brewing and its inspiration

15. Cirkusfabrikken, Denmark

I met Einar Trie in Berlin at the NICE Conference in 2010.  He brought 19 youth to train and perform in Chicago and Kentucky.  He also hosted three artists from Circus Mojo from Antigua, Mexico and Germany in 2014.  We hope to host many more youth circus groups in Kentucky to help develop circus in the United States.  The economic impact in Ludlow can not be ignored by local state and federal government officials.


Left and Right: Danish artists come perform in Ludlow


16. Gamma Phi Circus ,  Illinois-USA

I wanted to create a college Circus Festival to connect students with circus opportunities.  I reached out to The Gamma Phi Circus the oldest college circus in the USA and they joined in. Lucky for me Cornell Freeney was one of my students at CircEsteem and his senior year and future America’s Got Talent Superstar Christian Stoinev joined us in creating the International College Circus Festival.

Gamma Phi has been giving the young people of Illinois State University a chance to finish college while running away with the circus.  I hope that the young people who work with me now can follow in Cornell’s Footsteps.


17. Mobile Mini Circus for Children, Afghanistan  

I met the legendary David Mason at the Effective Circus Conference at the University of Tampere in 2013.  David has done amazing work in war torn Afghanistan  giving joy to countless children.  I have been fortunate to get the support of many in the USA  former soldiers who now work in government development.  When I am working to explain the power of circus I simply show a video of MMCC and then follow-up with the concept that the US Government via USAID has funded work in Awassa, and the Hidung Merah Circus in Indonesia.  These officials minds are opened when I show them the work of MMCC.


Performance at Mobile Mini Circus for Children


18. & 19. Circus Zambia, Zambia / Van Lodostov Family Circus, Vermont-USA

Ted Lawrence was a clown with Ringling Bros in 1986 who has been planting circuses all over the world.  I was a Clown with Ringling in 1996-97 and he’s 10 years my elder and continues to inspire and “Change the World” with circus.

zambia auditorium

Circus Zambia performing and building future circus audience


20. Circus Minimus, Manhattan-USA 

This project is the brainchild of Kevin O’Keefe… the guy who had an idea and implemented it to create the American Youth Circus Organization.  I had the opportunity to work for Kevin and Circus Minimus at the Dwight School and Riverdale Country Day, in New York City.  A limo would come an pick me up with my rolling globe at 108th and Columbus to teach circus to kids at private schools that cost $25,000+/year.  In a way, these kids need social circus more than anyone.  They live in a world without consequences and many times get frustrated and give up on things if they are not perfect.  But the circus can offer guidance as well as consequences (there is only one way to juggle)   I am grateful to Kevin both for hiring and training me, but also for mentoring me when I founded CircEsteem (number 3 on the original Buzzfeed Article!) in 2001. We at Circus Mojo continue to offer circus program for kids at expensive private schools and I believe this is some of the most difficult “social circus,” demonstrating both to parents and administrators that the circus can be a tool of development and a worthy program.CircusMinimus


21. Comunidades Educativas Por La Paz A.C ,  Teotihuacan Mexico                                              When we (El Salvadoran/Canadian, a few Germans and Americans) wanted to bring  some circus to the community in Mexico Gus and Miriam welcomed us.

We hope to  host graduates of Comunidades Educativas Por La Paz at the Institute of Social Circus & Vocational Training Center one day and to send our students to train with them. 


22. Cirque du KKalamazoo-USA  I have been fortunate to have worked with a half dozen intelligent young people who discovered the circus in college and have used their new found passion in circus to move forward social circus / circus in community / circus for development in Ludlow / Cincinnati.

Cirque du K student artists/Alum have joined u for all 3 of our International College Circus Festivals . It takes young people to help build these systems and deploy their ideas and energy to help develop circus as a partner within education and healthcare systems.


Respect from Afar….

23. Belfast Community Circus, Ireland

I have never been to this circus but it’s the one that hold the deepest respect. 3/4 of my family hails from the emerald isle.  The legend I have heard is that the one rule is kids can’t wear their football jerseys as this is the one way to tell who is Protestant and who is Catholic.  I once took on an intern simply because the referral came from Salida Circus‘ Jennifer Dempsey, who spent some time at the Belfast Community Circus.  I hope to make it there one day, but regardless, they have inspired me to do my best and to build bridges with simple rules via circus.

24. Circus Stars, Australia 

Circus Stars “is the only circus school solely dedicated to children on the Autism Spectrum. Founded by well respected Youth Circus trainer Kristy Seymour, who developed the school after completing her Masters thesis.” How Circus training can enhance the well being of children with autism and their families”. The founder Kristy Seymour is bringing science to make the case for circus as a tool of intervention and connection. Circus Stars is changing the world for all of us. 


I am grateful to the above circuses for inspiring our work.  Our non-profit Social Circus Foundation supports this work, the Institute of Social Circus & Vocational Training Center will build upon these concepts; Circus Mojo hopes to be in a position to leverage ideas and partnerships to continue to develop circus as a tool of individual and community development. I encourage you to list a circus in the comments below that has shaped or influenced you and please share this far an wide so we can share in changing the world together.

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My time at Circus Mojo

IMG_6043My name is Kira Haid and I’m one of the two volunteers from Germany. Since I’m a child I love it to travel. So I decided very early that I want to do a year abroad after my High School. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the culture, the people, the land and at least the language. While my research for a volunteer year I found the Organization IJGD which offered a year abroad in a Circus in America. This project sounded perfect for me. Not only the fact that the USA was one of my favorite target. I also love to do circus and was in the German Circus Maronie for 5 years. After some paper work and a bunch of seminars I finally flew to the US. And now I’m here since more than 4 months.

Circus Mojo is different than my German Circus. For example at Circus Maronie we just have one big show once a year and a bunch of small shows in my area. I never did the entertainment for birthday parties or worked in schools. So at the beginning it was for me a lot of new things here.

Another big and for me new task at Circus Mojo is the work at the children hospital. Circus Mojo works at the hospital for almost 5 years. It’s an enrichment program that helps those who are sick become active participants in the circus arts.


The first times when I went to the hospital I just observed Manny and Sharon. After 2 months observing and a some medical tests I finally get my own badge. The work in the hospital is difficult. You have to pay attention about a lot of different things (clean everything after you use your stuff, don’t be in the way of the nurses/doctors, pay attention to the kids).

But I have to say that I really like this kind of work because beside all the sadness in this job there is a very nice side. I can’t describe this feeling if you get the kids and their family smiling and if you can give them some nice minutes where they can forget everything worst. We also give the kids some circus stuff like balancing feathers or ribbons what they can keep. And I saw seldom kids which are so thankful for such small things. Also their enthusiasm for the circus makes my day often better.

In our first 4 months we already had the possibility to travel. I already told you how much I love it to travel and so I was even more happy about that. Our first trip was to Chicago. It was just Rosa and me and we traveled to Chicago to visit a friend. We were never before in Chicago, but we felt in love with this city. IMG_0891After our 4 day trip we get picked up from the Circus Mojo team and drove to a big gig in Minnesota. The name of the gig was Cirque-du-Stress and it was in a college. It was one of my highlight since I’m here. It was a very big show with a lot of talented people from different countries. It was interesting to talk to them and to interchange the own circus experience.


Because of the fact that we really enjoyed the Show in Minnesota Rosa and I decided to make our own Circus Mojo Christmas Show. After the team agree to do the Show we started to prepare it. First we looked for some local sponsor and we get three donations from Wynners Cup Café, Second Sight Spirits and live Music from Folk School Coffe. After we found our sponsors we designed our poster and flyers and spread them out in our area. Than we looked for music and started to create our acts. At the same time we also started to clean the Auditorium and get the stage ready. One week before our show happened we had a rehearsal where we did our whole show. Sadly I sprained my foot during a dance in our juggling act. I was glad that I could do at least the juggling, acrobatic and poi act. But I wasn’t able to do my wire act. So I was very happy that Tate could perform on the wire instead of me. We created in the last minute a new wire Act. Tate is a very good wire walker from Ludlow and she will go this year for the second time to Germany to Circus Pimparello. But this time she will not only spend a few weeks their, she will spend a whole year in Germany which is pretty cool.

To sum it up I would say the Show was a success. The room was full of people and we get a good feedback. Even though we had a stressful time we had a lot of fun and I’m glad that we did it.

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 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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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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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Bringing the World to Ludlow

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.

Northern and Southern Hemispheres at the same time

Standing on the equator at Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador

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.


Performers from all over the world with Mayor John Cranley at the Batter Up Bash

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.


Fabian performing diabolo for the Cov200 celebration

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.)


Practicing silks at Cirque du K

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.


Sharon performing on the German Wheel

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.


Rosa and Kira after their first trip to an American grocery store

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.


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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.  


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.


“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.”

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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