Tag Archives: inspiration

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.


Leave a comment

Filed under Backstage Stories, college, Mojo News, Our Common Humanity

Circus Mojo in Germany | Good News from Sharon Miller

This trip has been amazing – I have enjoyed every little moment we’ve experienced in this awesome place.  People have been so nice and
caring, they always have something to offer and are also ready to Plate Spinningprovide anything we need.

I could write a book about every single thing we did but I just want to share with you some of my favorite  moments:

I had the chance to walk an alpaca in the forest. It wasn’t easy at times because it wasn’t completely domesticated and ran like crazy; but it was awesome.  I enjoyed being in a silks class with a bunch of other girls. Even when I was a little nervous about some tricks, the girls would start cheering, “Sharon, Sharon, Sharon!”  It was so much fun. I also had a lot of fun one day at a small party they had where all the girls in the silks class danced together and kept coming up with funny moves, like “the shopper.” :p

Being a part of Circus Mojo and representing the USA has been a pleasure but it has been great for me to see that a lot of people I’ve met here are also interested in learning more about where I’m from. I grew up in Mexico City, where I learned silks as part of a government program that offers classes for free to keep youth busy and out of the sCircus Mojo, Circus Pimperellotreets. I’ve been living in the USA for one year and eight months.  It has been a long immigration process to get to this point but I’ve had strong support from the people I’ve met at Circus Mojo. I recently got my green card – it was a great moment! Thanks to that I can be on this trip with the Mojo troupe.

I never thought I’d be teaching kids in the USA (where we can speak the same language), let alone that I would come to Germany to teach silks where we don’t understand each other but still enjoy the class together. I’m also excited about the new skills I’m learning and the improvement I’m making in my existing skills. I’m also working hard to learn to ride the unicycle because I’d love to take it to Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital, where I work with Circus Mojo to lift the spirits of young patients and families (don’t worry, I won’t take it there until I’m really good at it :p).  I learned a couple new tricks on the walking globe but I mainly enjoyed that class because we took it with Sven, the founder of Circus Pimparello.  He gave us an intense warm-up, but it was worth it and the class was great!

aerial silks

Ona final note, I want to thank everyone who made this happen. This means a lot to me and I’m sure that us (Circus Mojo) being here will not only be in our memories but in a lot of other people’s too. ~Sharon Miller


Filed under Backstage Stories, Mojo News

Everything I Need to Know, I Learned at Circus Mojo (Part 2)

I’m 35 years old. I’ve gone skydiving in Indiana, whitewater rafting in West Virginia, mountain hiking in Alaska, snorkeling in Hawaii and have felt the mist of Niagara Falls in Canada. One thing these all have in common is that they took place prior to my having two beautiful children in 2003 and 2005. Obviously, my life changed, not to mention the havoc that was wreaked on my body. I mellowed out.

I’ve been an apprentice for several months now at Mojo, and so I’ve been working very hard to train my muscles (and tame any fears/apprehension/etc – it can be intimidating to step out of your comfort zone) to be able to do things I’ve never done before.

But this past weekend – you guessed it, at Circus Mojo – I learned an important lesson. Neither childbirth nor age can hold a person back from something they want to accomplish. I saw this in two instances.

The first was during the Advanced Circus class on Saturday morning, when I met Emily, a friendly acrobat instructor that Pauly so kindly has brought into the Mojo atmosphere to train us all further on gymnastics. The class (about 20 of us) split into three rotating groups of juggling, walking the tight wire and training with Emily.

It was during this time that the important lesson we’ve all heard about being able to do anything became an “ah-ha” moment for me. Granted, I have these often, as I’m a creative through-and-through, but since I joined Mojo, there’s been this high-pitched voice in the back of my mind asking me if I’m too old to start this, and questioning if it’s too hard. I think this voice is common for others as well, hence the reason I’m sharing this with you.

So, three things that Circus Mojo helped me accomplish on a bright and chilly Saturday morning: handstand (without a wall! Thank you Emily!), several new juggling tricks that involve passing rings with one- to three other jugglers (Thank you Donald!), and holy smoke, I actually walked across the tight wire (Thank you Kaitlyn, Andrew and Adam!). Unbelievable. So I sort of feel like if I can do this, anyone can. You just have to want it bad enough. I’m also toying with the aerial silks, which seems like a distant dream…part of me thinks it’s just too hard given my age/weight/flexibility, but then my audacious side counters that thought with the notion that those are simply excuses. Stay tuned.

Wolfgang Bientzle, gym wheel, Circus Mojo, circus acts

Wolfgang Bientzle performing on the gym wheel during a private party at Circus Mojo.

Saturday morning was one big instance put together. The other was Saturday night, when I met the incredible gym-wheel performer from Germany, Wolfgang Bientzle. I’ve been hearing about Wolfgang since I became a Mojo apprentice – this man is 45, has performed and coached for Cirque du Soleil, has won eight world champion titles, 11 European champion titles and more than 60 German champion titles for this art form. Obviously he’s no longer in his 20’s, but during Saturday night’s show (see circus pictures here) for 200 Jewish YP’s (Event by Access/Mayerson Family Foundation) I watched Wolfgang perform (as very nearly as I could through the curtain backstage) and felt inspired by his age and skill. Audience members were letting out little screams as he commanded the wheel this way, then threw his body that way.

What does all of this mean? No excuses. Circus teaches us that anything can be done!

Cherie Dawn


Filed under Backstage Stories, Our Common Humanity