Tag Archives: juggling

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

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

Ringling Brothers Circus in Cincinnati: A Week to Remember

We’ve known for months that the Ringling Brothers Circus was coming to Cincinnati this March. The week prior to the show’s opening, Pauly and Karen roamed the downtown streets sharing smiles and bringing a taste of what was to come:

On opening night, Ringling provided Circus Mojo with a generous number of tickets so that our crew could attend the show – and of course, it was the greatest on earth! The high-wire, the clowns, the wheel of death (!), tigers, elephants…thrilling, beautiful, and simply out of this world. What a surprise when, after the finale, the boss clown came out and took us on a backstage tour!

By the time the evening wound down and we had all returned home, I didn’t think the week could get any better. But it was only Thursday…as I drank my coffee the next morning and checked my email, I saw that Circus Mojo was going to perform on Friday night’s pre-show for the Ringling Brothers. Let me say it again because it feels so good: Circus Mojo was to perform for the pre-show for Ringling Brothers!

There are many stories to be told of that afternoon as several clowns joined Pauly and gang for a homemade lunch (thanks to Matt!), games, juggling and shared tricks. When I arrived at Mojo for our rehearsal, the room was full of rings flying through the air and there was an excitement that fit well with the show’s theme: “Fully Charged!”

Ringling Brothers circus clowns, Circus Mojo, juggling

Adam (left) juggles with a Ringling clown (right) as Pauly shows another performer how to walk on the giant red globe. Picture by Tres Kutcher.

The time went by in a blur as we prepared for our set, loaded two vehicles, flew across the bridge to Cincinnati, miraculously got past security and then before I knew it, we were backstage and set to go on in Ring Three. Two favorite things that I’d like to share about this: one, was seeing an elephant backstage with us. Living near one of the nation’s top-rated zoos, I see elephants fairly regularly, but this was surreal. The second great part was that the performers from Ringling were beautiful – not just physically. They welcomed our motley crew into their space with open arms and were incredibly supportive and friendly. I thank them for this.

Visit our facebook page to see more pictures from our Ringling Brothers experience, including our rehearsal and the pre-show in which our group performed juggling, hooping, poi and more.

Fully charged,
Cherie Dawn


Filed under Backstage Stories, Mojo News

Circus Arts for Healing

As I write this, I’m still wearing my costume from tonight’s Circus Mojo performance at a grief support group session. Pink shirt, purple leggings, etc. The only change is that I’ve kicked off my boots and let my pigtails down. Until I go to sleep, I’m guessing that the evening will still feel very present.

Tonight, we – Pauly, Matt and I – brought circus as a healing art to this special group of people who’ve lost loved ones. When I heard about the opportunity, I jumped on it, as I’m always looking for ways to give back. And it was just what I expected. When we entered the room for the evening, Pauly immediately invoked smiles from the dozens of children who were sitting front-row on the floor, with dozens more parents and helpers seated behind them. If you haven’t seen his hat routine, then I encourage you to look for it – this simple hat becomes a character itself, bouncing from head to hand to shoulder, to audience and then back again. The kids loved it (I loved it, too!).

Next, I hopped up and performed with my glow poi; it went well.

Matt, who has an ability to be spontaneously funny, took the stage next with juggling and stilt walking. Shortly after that we welcomed our audience to join us in spinning plates, walking on stilts, and balancing on the rolling globe. At least for an hour or so, grief was not at the forefront. I think, we were able to offer more than simply tricks and entertainment, but also a reprieve.

I’m grateful to have shared this evening with this group of warm people who opened their minds to experiencing things that were possibly new, and definitely silly.

As I wind down for the evening, I realize that this is the stuff that really does make the world a better place. Keep reading below to hear Pauly’s perspective on this unique evening.

Cherie Dawn

“What, a circus at a grief event?!” Earlier that day Renee, Circus Mojo’s Operations Manager who holds the circus together, got a call at her home: “Will there be a clown in make-up?” a nervous caller asked.

The tension was thick as we entered the room…Half the room was red-eyed from crying in the past hour, a quarter didn’t want to be there (teens who were dragged out to deal with personal loss in a group setting), and the other quarter was children who needed a good laugh.

On our way in, I ran into the door and caused a scene. Slapstick is funny, and the kids laughed because they hurt and are delighted that someone else “hurts” too, although in a much different way.

After this, I entered slowly while playing a tune on the melodica. Then a few bits with the hat. First, I tossed it to a kid who doesn’t want to be there. One of my rules is to engage the tough ones.

I was thankful to the little giggler who was at the front of the group laughing – this gave others permission to others to enjoy something. Working in these unique environments is easy on some levels because we bring the unexpected. Adults laugh when they’re uncomfortable; kids laugh when they’re having fun…. Adults laugh when they see their kids having fun, which brings comfort.

Another thing I like to share with others, is this: when you’re frustrated, BREATHE. This evening we spun plates together; I encouraged everyone to not think about it too much as they became flustered while trying to spin the plates – but thinking won’t help you spin a plate.

By the end, all where smiling and had a achieved something special…even us, who get to bring JOY to those who need it.


Leave a comment

Filed under Our Common Humanity

Everything I Need to Know, I Learned at Circus Mojo (Part 1)

It was about an hour before show time as we – Pauly and the majority of the show’s cast – nailed down the final details of the performance list. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s when everyone works together to determine who will go on stage when, making sure that everything has a nice flow for the audience.

For this particular set, I was on stage five times: juggling three rings with a partner, spinning glow poi during a poi/diabolo piece, juggling scarves, belly dancing and finally simply posing and looking pretty for the audience while several performers worked their magic during the big finale.

After a few minutes discussing the line-up, it was complete, with one exception.

While I’m not one to complain, but I  had a problem: the scarf juggling was to happen just prior to the belly dance set, which required a drastic costume change. The only time I had was during a brief and spectacular juggling routine from Donald, who amazingly worked his way up to juggling seven balls.

“Pauly, I really want to juggle scarves,” I said, somewhat sarcastically, as he’d been teasing me about trying to get out of that particular routine since the day before, “but I don’t have enough time to change costumes.”

He replied, “what do you mean, you don’t have enough time? How about if you wear the belly dance costume during the scarf routine?” Well, that was the last thing in the world that I was going to do, so I simply said that I couldn’t be in the scarf routine.

Lesson #1 was about to be learned: never say you can’t.

Pauly and I agreed that since I needed to be in the scarf routine, and I wasn’t going to wear a coin bra during it (if for no other reason, the scarves could’ve caught on my coins! Eek!), perhaps I could slowly transition the costume throughout the show. So the costuming went something like this:

Ring juggling and poi = Circus Mojo T-shirt, pink skirt, black tights, high socks with stripes, black boots
Scarf juggling = Circus Mojo T-shirt over a black belly dance choli (shirt) and coin bra, black flared belly dance pants, minus the boots
Belly dance = choli, coin bra, pants, camel belt, coin belt, bare feet
Finale = Bam! back to the original costume

What a difference it can make, to be flexible and work together to make things happen! Pauly and I were able to successfully meet each other halfway. And the costume changes couldn’t have been done without were made much smoother with help from Karen, who masterfully hung my tapestry in a corner so I could have some privacy, and Lauren and Sharon, who helped me tie (and untie) things here and there for the belly dance costume.

aerial silks, circus arts, Macy's Arts Sampler

Speaking of costumes, I loved the outfit that Sharon, Circus Mojo's resident aerialist, put together for this show.

This particular lesson was learned just in time for the Macy’s Arts Sampler 2012, during which Circus Mojo welcomed several hundred guests who not only enjoyed a free circus, but also got to try out the tight wire, spinning plates, aerial silks and more during the free workshop that followed. Check out pictures from the Macy’s Arts Sampler on our facebook page.

Til next time,
Cherie Dawn

1 Comment

Filed under Backstage Stories

Macy’s Arts Sampler 2012 | Sample the Circus for Free!

Join Circus Mojo Saturday, February 25 as we celebrate the arts during Macy’s Arts Sampler 2012 in Cincinnati. Watch a circus performance, then shake out your legs and take a workshop – all for free!

There’s no need to register, and all ages and abilities are welcome – don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy the circus like you never have before. Experience the tight wire, stilts, spinning plates, trapeze and more!

circus arts in Cincinnati, youth circus, Macy's Arts Sampler, Artswave

Circus Mojo, 322 Elm Street, Ludlow, Kentucky
Show Times: 11:30 am and 1:00 pm

Macy’s Arts Sampler shines a spotlight on the arts in our community and is the kickoff for the annual ArtsWave Community Campaign, when people all across our region come together to support the creative things that make greater Cincinnati a great place to live.

Leave a comment

Filed under Classes and Workshops, Mojo News

Learn to Juggle! New Series of Circus Arts Classes Starts Soon

Juggling is not only fun, but it also increases hand/eye coordination, and benefits your peripheral vision and reflexes. Learn to juggle with scarves, balls, and rings; partner juggling; “stealing,” and more in this fun-filled hour!

New classes in juggling begin this week at Circus Mojo. Join us Wednesday evenings from 7:00pm – 8:00pm. All ages, abilities, and levels are welcome.

juggling, Cincinnati, Devou Park, roller skates, headstand

Visit www.circusmojo.com for more details and to register today!

Leave a comment

Filed under Classes and Workshops