Tag Archives: circus

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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Spreading Joy Through Circus Mojo’s Community Programs | Manuel Garcia

Manuel Garcia, Circus Mojo

Manuel, hosed down after a summer camp pie fight.

by Manuel Garcia, Circus Mojo teacher, performer & mentor

My journey with Circus Mojo all began when I attended the 2nd International College Circus Festival as part of Kalamazoo College’s Cirque Du K (CDK).

Throughout the festival, I got to know the Mojo team and understand their vision, specifically their work in hospitals, nursing homes, and the Children’s Home of Cincinnati, and all they do for all the community. I applied for a summer internship, was accepted, and later asked to be more than just an intern. Now I work as a roustabout, mentor, teacher, and performer.

I started out working in the summer camp with three other members from CDK: Will, Austin, and Jonathan. We arrived Sunday afternoon and were thrown into the mix on Monday morning. It was definitely an unexpected, throw-you-into-the-deep-end, way to start with an organization. But we didn’t sink, and anytime we needed a lifeline, there were other staff and mentors to help us.

circus scholastic, after school circus program in Ludlow, Kentucky

Homework help during Mojo’s Circus Scholastic Program

I’m so glad that I got to start with a few people that I knew, as it made the transition into Mojo smoother. We were learning new games to play with kids, ways to teach skills, and spotting techniques to keep kids safe while balancing on objects such as the walking globe and low tight wire. Relearning skills such as juggling, partner acrobatics, and diabolo in their simplest forms (to teach to kids) and breaking habits of spotting young adults was difficult, but we had to learn the ‘Mojo’ way and adapt to our new environment. By the end of the internship we all had over 200 contact hours with kids just from summer camp. We also had gained experience through workshops, performances, and strolling gigs (walk-around performances and crowd-interaction at functions to provide atmosphere and/or entertainment).

Circus entertainment at Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati, Ohio

Manuel, Jonathan, Sharon, Paul, and Will strolling at Horseshoe Casino

After a few weeks, I started working at nursing homes and the Children’s Home of Cincinnati (an outreach program for at-risk youth). Working in nursing homes was tricky at first because some people would be in wheelchairs or disabled and I hadn’t worked with anyone but kids. I learned that Mojo focuses on what each person can do–whatever his/her skill level or ability we would be sure to teach each person a skill they could accomplish. Next, I started working with Andrew at the Children’s Home; he had been there on behalf of Mojo many times and had a lot to offer in way of my development. Kids at the Children’s Home can sometimes be difficult or not want to join in, but we engage them on equal footing and give them back the power in the ability to say they don’t want to participate at that moment. After they see everyone having fun and realizing they could be doing the same, they often join in. Working with such different ages, backgrounds, and abilities was definitely a challenge, but I developed some essential skills: being perceptive, patient, and adaptable, as well as being able to do/teach the skills we bring in a variety of ways. Doing so made it possible to deal with various situations and be successful in making most everyone happy and participate.

Next came the birthday parties and performing gigs. Working at a Mojo birthday party is completely different than what I expected. I knew we would give a small show and then give workshops to the kids, but it’s faster paced than anything I had yet experienced. Kids are only at the party for a few hours, but still want to try as much as they can. We have to give them a chance to try lots of circus skills, but not necessarily teach them like we do in summer camp because of the limited time we have with them. A birthday party can feel like a week of summer camp crammed into a few hours. Sometimes kids aren’t even the difficult part. On rare occasions we also have to deal with parents that are less than ideal. When the birthday party is over, everyone has left, and we have cleaned everything, we can sit back, smile and reflect on how happy we made people on their special day.

You would think performing might be the easiest because all you’ve got to worry about is putting on a show. In reality it includes: set up, rehearsals, coordinating with other performers, musicians, and tech (checking mics, sound systems, lights, etc.). It is a production! It is also incredibly fun. I had the chance to meet some fantastic people from all over the world and developed friendships along the way. My favorite performance of the summer was Devou Deux, where we performed in Devou Park with the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra. It was amazing to perform to live music, and such a great experience meeting performers from New York, Antigua, Malaysia, and beyond. I even got to breathe fire with Austin during the finale as Sharon, an aerialist from Mexico city, did a dangerous-looking maneuver in the silks.

Fire breathing, fire breather | CircusMojo.com

Manuel breathing fire at Ludlow’s 150th Birthday Celebration

These experiences have helped me develop my skills with children, crowds, networking, and most importantly, awareness. When working with children, it’s most important to be aware of all surroundings (tables, chairs, people, etc.) and make sure everyone is being engaged and safe. These are the critical skills for working at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. It is my favorite thing to do with Mojo. We go to the hospital to bring both joy and distraction to kids and their families at a place where no one expects to see the circus. I’ve been training under Sharon, Paul, Andrew, and Elliot. Each of them has a different style of ‘clowning’ at the hospital so it’s great to be able to work in all these different styles and still be able to teach kids. Teaching kids how to spin a plate or balance a feather is its own reward when you see the joy in that child’s face in such a strange environment. Getting to this point was not a smooth path: there were lots of obstacles, tests, and challenges along the way.

For example, during one of the earlier weeks in my training, we were working with a boy who was visually impaired. This was my first time working with someone who couldn’t see well, and I was a little nervous about what we were going to do. We still did tricks like spinning a plate on his finger and teaching him to balance a feather, but we had to do it with a completely different approach. We let him feel the shape of the plate and stick before spinning it on his finger. While it was spinning on one hand, he brought his other to feel the rotation and gradually brought it to a stop. Balancing a feather was especially tricky because one of the easiest ways to balance something is by looking at the top of it, but the boy was able to learn all the tricks we shared with him! It was incredibly gratifying to see him succeed and it was a great learning experience for me, in that I now had a new way to teach tricks when other ways might not work. All the challenges I faced were met head-on and helped to develop me into a performer/ caretaker who can thrive in various environments and situations. I am still learning and still stumble, but we have a great staff who are always willing to offer advice, and lend a helping hand.

hospital pic

Jonathan, Andrew, and Manuel training at Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center

We are currently preparing for a trip to Mexico City for the 3rd International College Circus Festival, and I could not be more excited. This festival is what started my journey with Circus Mojo and it’s amazing to realize a year has flown by since I first met the Mojo team. I will also be running Summer Camp this year! I’m looking forward to mentoring and teaching lots of great kids this summer, as well as meeting and working with the new Mojo personnel that will be joining us.

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Clowns Have to Eat: Jesse Dascola on Circus and Culinary

Jesse Dascola shares her once-in-a-lifetime experience of traveling to Germany to study circus. Every other year, Circus Mojo students participate in this unique opportunity. To learn more and help more local youth tour to Germany, click here.

Six years ago I joined the circus when I was in 8th grade.  At that point in life I was your typical kid who would get through school and then go home, play video games and watch TV. Little did I know that would change when I joined the circus.  Looking back upon my time in the circus and the y8th grade globe actears I took off from it, I really see the changes and impact it had on me. When I was 14  I can’t think of anything special or really creative that I did before joining circus. Once I joined the circus I learned how to be creative and how to express myself in different ways and take a risk on creative assignments. The first photo seen was taken at my first circus show, I still remember it like it was yesterday. We had worked for weeks to put an act together with a group of about 7 of us. Then the day of the show only three of us showed up. We had to work together with the help of our trainer to create a new act with very little time. I thought I was nervous when I first showed, I was even worse once we changed the act. Our trainer Dan Tafelski saw how all of us were worried and he came to us and told us, “Don’t worry just go out there and have fun.” And that’s what I did.germany 1

During my second summer with the circus I got an awesome chance to go to Germany to have an exchange with another circus, CircArtive Pimparello. I remember getting out of the car and getting to the top of the hill and looking down at, what I’ve called, the circus valley. I literally stopped in my tracks, and just took it all in, I was amazed at the beauty of it and was thinking about how I would get to spend the next three weeks there. The second photo is the group of us from America who got to visit Germany, on our hike through the woods.

During the time there, the founder of CircArtive Pimparello, Sven talked about how he would love for an American to come stay there for a year. I  really wanted to and thought I could the year after I graduated high school, but in that time I stopped doing circus and lost contact with a lot of those people.

When I was a junior in high school I decided that I was going to follow a career in culinary arts.  It took a lot of confidence on my part to really go down that path but having my background in circus I knew I was going to be able to do it.  I really started working on my cooking skills at home after that and started to get really creative with some of the decorations I put on cakes or how I would plate food.  I feel

dragon food

like I took creative chances that I wouldn’t have taken before because I learned that I could and that it’s OK for me to be creative through the skills I learned at circus.  The third photo is a dragon I made out of food. It was a project I had in one of my classes, we had to make some type of picture out of food. Most people were making simple designs. I wanted to do something that would be impressive, so I chose a dragon, my teacher thought I was crazy for picking that and said it would be hard, but I had made up my mind. It took me the whole five hours of class to get it together, it was made mostly from cucumber and green cantaloupe. It didn’t turn out exactly how I envisioned but it turned out great and everyone was impressed.

choc cake

The photo above is a dessert I make at the restaurant I work at currently. Now I have come back to my circus roots, I got in touch with Paul Miller of Circus Mojo and he took me back to Germany the summer of 2012. I was so excited to get to go back, and see all my friends from Germany and get back into doing circus. This trip in a much different role than the last time, this time I was an adult chaperone and a teacher. I had more responsibilities. I was so happy to be back and doing circus again. During that time Sven brought up having an American come and stay again and I thought I could actually do it.

When we got back to the US I always had Germany in the back of my mind but I wasn’t at a place where I could go to Germany, instead I was able to move down to Ludlow, KY and work with Circus Mojo.

germany 2

The above photo was taken during my second trip to Germany, during a show we put on. After doing both circus and culinary work  for some time, I found myself being able to create new acts along with creating menus.  I was not only doing circus but teaching it to young kids.  I have a lot of pride watching them try to create acts and learn the skills I learned.  I find it very rewarding when a young student learns something and is filled with joy because I have been there and I know the feeling. After some time I decided to move back to Chicago, it’s fun knowing that I can have a career in both circus and culinary.  There are some great opportunities within the circus world for me.  I mean, clowns have to eat. This summer I’ll get to put both my talents to work again. I will be able to take Sven up on his offer of spending time in Germany and I will be spending 14 months there. I will get to do both cooking and circus while there. I know I would be in a very different place if I had never taken the chance to join the circus and acquire these skills that have lead me so far in life.  I know they are only going to get me further.  I’m only going to keep going from here and coming up with new creative ideas for both inside and outside the kitchen. ~Jesse Dascola


You can help kids like Jesse! Click here to donate today to the Circus Mojo Kickstarter fund, which will support their 2014 German Tour!

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Coulrophobia Ball: A 2012 Halloween Party in Greater Cincinnati

Are you afraid of clowns?

The Coulrophobia Ball: Fear of Clowns is an event to benefit the study of Circus Mojo’s innovative work. Come to the party October 27 in Ludlow, Kentucky. Support the work. Have a ball.

Coulrophobia Ball Halloween Party in Greater Cincinnati 2012

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Circus Mojo’s Diabolist, Adam Funck: ‘The Face’


This is my name and everyone knows it. When I came to Circus Pimparello in Germany, I was already on Sven’s good side. Sven, the man in charge of this whole circus village, came to Circus Mojo a year ago and he loved me.
Diabolo, Circus Pimparello
This year, when I came to his circus, I really became a part of the family. When I made my debut performance in Germany, he shouted my name over and over in his theatre. Everyone in the circus village knew who I was as soon as I performed my diabolo act. From then on it has become a daily custom for everyone to yell “ADAM!” the way Sven did.

You might be wondering why Sven first called out my name during the performance. The answer is ‘The Face.’ I am not a world class diabolist, I just know how to work my audience. I do the simplest tricks in the book, literally, but I make them my own by making ‘The Face.’

This so called ‘Face’ first came about when Karen, our former Ringling Bros. resident clown, told me that I needed to work on widely opening my eyes after doing every single trick. I did and she said, “I wanna see you make the biggest, stupidest face right after you catch the diabolo after throwing it in the air.” I opened my eyes as wide as I could, opened my mouth even wider and tried to smile all at the same. It was then, practicing for the Macy’s Arts Sampler ShoCircus Mojo in Germanyw, that ‘The Face’ was born. It is all about engaging the audience. I make them want to know me because I have so much fun on stage.

This trick has taken me awhile to learn, and I haven’t been using it that long, but because of it I’ve gotten to travel to this beautiful circus village in Germany – not just to travel there, but to be known, and loved by all the people. I’m now part of this family in Germany that I never knew existed. I have faith that ‘The Face’ will take me very far in life. ~Adam Funck


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Circus as a Passport 2012


To help us send more people like Erinn Please have a look at our 2014 Kickstarter Campaign

Today, July 11, 2012, Erinn Parker received her passport, BUT she has been touring and performing with Circus Mojo since we opened our doors, literally since January 2010.

We offered our Circus Scholastics after school program, which is funded in part by  A, NUT (Carol Miller) and Toyota of North America with food provided by Remke Markets. During this time, Erinn and several other area youth met with Circus Mojo staff twice a week to learn circus skills, have a snack and do homework.

Erinn performed in out first show in the theatre that summer –  OUR FIRST Spring Circus Spring 2010…. The place was a dump; the Ludlow Fire Department had just finished the demolition of the space.

She then participated (FOR FREE) in our  2010 Summer Camp program.

Click on an image below to view a slide show of Erinn’s adventures with Circus Mojo, and then visit our Kickstarter fundraising page to make a donation of any amount to support her and more youth on a cultural journey to Germany.

We offered our Circus Scholastics after school program, which is funded with a few dollars and food provided from Remke Markets. During this time, Erinn and several other area youth met with Circus Mojo staff twice a week to learn circus skills, have a snack and do homework.

Erinn performed in out first show in the theatre that summer –  OUR FIRST Spring Circus Spring 2010…. The place was a dump; the Ludlow Fire Department had just finished the demolition of the space.

Read what Citizen Pork has to say.

She then participated (FOR FREE) in our  2010 Summer Camp program.

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Incredible work growing in Thailand!

Southeast Asian Social Circus Network

This October Makhampom will host the first ever Thai social circus festival! From the 11th – 14th South East Asian and International circus groups are invited to the Makhampom Living Theatre to take part in 3 days of skill-sharing workshops, social circus forums, evening performances, and a 1-day carnival.

The focus of the festival is to build the South East Asian Social Circus network and to enhance the circus & facilitation skills of the youth circus participants.

The festival will also be an opportunity for local youth circuses to showcase their skills and abilities through performance.

Makhampom would like to invite you and your group to attend the festival.
Makhampom is currently looking for support to help bring this festival to life. We are looking for sponsorship to fund the costs of flights for South East Asian circus groups to travel to the festival.

Participation costs:
International participants: $200 AUS/person…

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