Tag Archives: cultural exchange

George’s Story: Germany 2016


George is a freshman at Thomas B. Doherty High School in Colorado Springs and a fifteen-year-old acrobat whose dynamic  flips wowed the crowds in Germany. He traveled with us as a guest artist from Salida Circus. Billed as “Colorado’s most unique circus troupe,” Salida Circus has a professional troupe along with social circus outreach development, which makes them a perfect partner for both Circus Mojo and Circus Pimparello.



When my boss, Jennifer, from Salida Circus got the text from Paul about Germany, I wasn’t sure how to feel. I was hesitant to join a Kentucky circus that was a three-hour flight from my home and then take another flight to Europe. Getting the chance to go to Germany was amazing, though, even if I was nervous.


It was a pain in the butt getting to Germany, yet it all paid off in the end. I improved my ball juggling and tumbling and matured quite a bit. A few of my funniest stories have come from this trip, ranging from getting a bad haircut to slipping in the mud and accidentally eating some. The point is that not only does the trip here benefit my skills, my trade,and my maturity but it also has taught me important values and life lessons, all while having fun.


What I’ve noticed about Circus Mojo and Circus Pimparello members is that all of them are young people who are getting the opportunities they need to work and learn in an expressive outlet–CIRCUS! This is a rarity in today’s world. I’m glad to be a part of such an important project and hope to participate again.    



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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 info@circusmojo.com for more information.
*To that end, Circus Mojo is beginning the inaugural term of the Institute for Social Circus Vocational Training Center, a program for adults to learn how to use circus arts to build relationships in various cultural and medical settings.

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A Year of Service, Wire Walking as Community Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cincinnati Children's Spring Carnival Residential Psychiatric Hospital

Cincinnati Children’s Spring Carnival Residential Psychiatric Hospital

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

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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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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Youth Development, Courtesy of International Circus Exchange

7: The number of years that I, Paul Miller (Circus Mojo’s Founder & the Founder & Chief Goof-Officer of CircEsteem), have been partnering with Circus Pimparello in Germany for student exchange programs for youth development.

Group to Germany

$250,000: The total scholarship amount earned by past students who have participated in these exchange trips to Germany.

$6,000: The amount needed to fund this year’s program (click here to contribute any amount) The German Government’s Social Exchange program will fund the balance of the $22,000 needed. (We’ve raised $1,000 to date 7/5/12 via Kickstarter and $127.34 street performing.)

This trip has served as a great tool in convincing parents and students that the time and energy devoted to circus skills training and youth development is worth the effort. What does Jesse and Sharon have to say?

Now it’s my turn to convince you:

In 2006, I began this program and recruited youth mostly from  Senn High School in Chicago,  despite that  students from here repeatedly fall short of federal standards. It has been quite a challenge for all the kids I’ve taken. In the past we aligned political forces to secure refugee emergency travel documents from the State Department, secured passports, raised funds, and more. It’s undeniable that these efforts have been worth it. Here in Ludlow, KY, the home of Circus Mojo, we’ve had to help the local kids get their birth certificates and their passports for this trip.

At Senn High School in spring 2010, (only) 3.3% of juniors scored high enough on at least three of the four parts of the ACT to be considered “college-ready” for key freshman classes. Senn has a 56.8% Graduation rate.

However, ALL of the students from this high school who came to Germany earned college scholarships, with most being full rides:

Viviane Clement, Carleton College, full ride

Teresa Clement, Lake Forest College, full ride

Cornell Freeney, Illinois State University, full ride

Others like Donald Keme, who earned a scholarship to Truman College, chose the path of vocational skills training and now has a degree from the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences. He’s currently working as a full-time professional in his field.Keme Juggling

Collectively, these shining examples received over $250,000 in scholarships.  Graduates are working in their chosen fields of study.  While in the general population/economy, many finish college and few work in their chosen fields.

It’s a bold statement to attribute these young people’s success to the circus. But it’s the deep investment made in these individuals through the circus that has helped them rise above. Each took an adventure to Germany to work, perform and learn with Circus Pimparello.

Last year we hosted this cultural exchange, hoping to inspire young people like Erinn and Jesse, who have grown up in Ludlow. Both have been working with Circus Mojo since we opened our doors in this low-income community. Neither child had been to a circus – let alone performed in one. This summer, both will travel in a plane for their first time; both now have passports to explore the world.

Adam Funck, Andrew Kutcher and Sharon Perez Alvarez have been working hard to earn this trip too. Unlike Erinn and Jesse, they came to Circus Mojo with a strong base in circus skills. They now have the opportunity to perform and learn in Germany. This summer, Cora Siebert (2006 Tour), Jesse Dascola (2008 Tour) and Cortez Young (2010 Tour) will lead this group of young people.  Andi Wywiorski Teen Troupe Leader from The Actors Gymnasium will also join us.

Take a moment to look at the profound impact on youth development that the trips have made in the lives of past participants…please KICK IN to bring this trip to fruition!


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Be An Exchange Student with Circus Mojo, Summer 2012

Cultural Exchange in Germany with Circus Mojo Summer 2012

Circus Mojo is proud to announce a special opportunity for high school students to learn new skills, practice the German language and connect with teenagers from across Europe. Paul Miller has successfully partnered with Circus Pimparello of Germany for this cultural exchange for the past six years.

Circus Pimparello’s 2011 Trip to Circus Mojo:

Setting Up Circus Pimparello Tents:

Pimparello Teen Performer Highlight:

We will travel July 28 through August 18. We are working to raise funds by street performing and through our Kickstarter Campaign the majority of the cost is underwritten by the German Government, which partially underwrites the transportation, food and accommodations for this social exchange.

A Message From Cultural Exchange Sponsor Circus Pimparello

We are the “Verein JuKi – Zukunft für Kinder und Jugendliche e.V.“ (“JuKi – Association Future for Children and Young People“). In Circus Pimparello we unite meeting, learning, teaching, nature, circus and pedagogic. Our association is non-commercial and has the official recognition as an organization that independently supports social work with young people. Our association was founded in March 1998 with the aim of offering activities for children, young people and families, where they can have new experiences.

Our task is to make the kids and young adults hungry for life: we want to make them curious about themselves, to others and to their environment. Our circus work is a lot more than teaching artistic disciplines such as juggling, acrobatics and balance. Using artistic devices like dance, theatre and rhythm we want to teach young adults to develop their own creative feat. This is why we are the “new circus.” Circus Pimparello gives space to young people so they can realize and live their ideas, dreams and skills through circus work.

We guide young people through a shaping process in art and culture using circus. Our goal is for kids and young adults to find their own tools to offer them a way to navigate through the complexities of society.

It’s important for us that kids and young adults develop a natural joy in movement through circus. Many times the young adults discover a so-called motion study learning field.

We offer a safe sphere for young people on our circus farm. They try things and in this way they experience the creative possibilities for positive development. The embedded place in nature is healing and inspiring. Our 70 animals (horses, donkeys, alpacas, deer, sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, geese, chicken and cats) are also used in a pedagogic and therapeutic way.

In our circus we have rich and poor, disabled and abled, socially underprivileged and sheltered, immigrated and German, learning handicapped and gifted kids and young adults. All of them get to know each other. Those pretended opposites are dissolved in the work with circus. Every young person gives his individual skills to the group to create a social cooperation, which is marked with mutual respect and appreciation. Thereby, the kids and young adults are proud of having built something on their own.

We promote engagement with the qualification of the young adults to the so called “circus youth trainer.” We offer extensive courses in different circus disciplines, presentation and pedagogic. Our engaged teenagers are motivated because of the space they have to realize their own dreams and visions.

In 2010 Circus Pimparello was awarded with the “Werkbund Label” for its integrated circus work with kids and young adults. The “Werkbund Label” is given to projects and initiatives that distinguish themselves through outstanding innovative or artistic qualities and social or political prototypical features.

Aims of our circus pedagogic:

1. Development of personality
Circus pedagogic promotes and strengthens kids and teens to discover, accept and display their own personality. Circus pedagogic works through the positive confirmation with artistic, physical and cognitive talents and does not concentrate on deficits. It also shows borders but it encourages youth to expand or to blow them.

2. Development of the group
A goal of circus pedagogic is to unfold mutual trust, to take responsibility for oneself and the rest of the group. There is room for real teamwork to grow on this base. Competences like respect, acceptance, the ability to take criticism and to solve conflicts, furthermore the ability to cooperate and communicate with others. To succeed, everybody has to deal actively with oneself, the group and the circus techniques.

3. Joie de vivre
The fascinating fact of circus pedagogics is the combination of vitality and mindfulness. The fun of doing things together helps to build vital energy and liberating laughter. Desire for exercise and letting go, experiencing focused moments and to flourish playfully are connected.

4. Mutual learning
Circus pedagogic wants to encourage the artistic expansion of each individual of the group. Participation is a major feature of the learning process. Learning from each other and with each other leads to artistic-aesthetic results.

Contact circusmojo@gmail.com for more details on this unique opportunity!


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