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Bus 52 Presents: Circus Harmony
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Published on Apr 26, 2012
Children juggling, tumbling and flying through the air are part of daily life in the heart of the extraordinary City Museum in St Louis, Missouri. The museum plays home to Circus Harmony, a non-profit whose mission is to "use the teaching and performing of circus arts to motivate social change," as Artistic Executive Director, Jessica Hentoff explains.
Learning circus skills might not be first thing someone would equate with learning life skills. The children benefit greatly, however, and in a number of ways.
Circus Harmony includes students "from all different neighborhoods and background and socio-economic levels" and puts them all on a level playing field. It is only their determination, talent and hard work that is the measure of a person within the circus and it removes all social barriers.
This gives children who would not normally communicate a chance to interact with each other and shows that despite differences in their social backgrounds, "they have more in common than they have that's different."
The children also get the chance to meet trainers from across the world including China, Russia and Mongolia and Circus Harmony's partnership with a Jewish-Arab circus in Israel has even allowed some of the students to travel to Israel to perform.
Not only are their social horizons broadened and their social skills built upon, but their self-confidence increases greatly. They are given the chance to discover their talent because "the one really exciting thing about circus is that it's not built on one skill set," explains Hentoff. For those who are not good at juggling or tumbling, they can try walking the tightrope or diabolo.
Circus Harmony gives children the opportunity to find that talent that has perhaps been eluding them, and with it, their belief in their own abilities becomes stronger.
As the program is located in the City Museum, it is heavily performance-based, with about 300 shows a year. This gives the children the great opportunity to overcome any fears they might have about perormance and allows them to grow in self-confidence as their talent grows with them.
Kellin Quinn, a performer in Circus Harmony says that "performing here and juggling in front of hundreds of people all the time really helps people, especially me, come out of their shell and be more outgoing."
Whether or not they then go on to circus school, which some do, the children have taken with them valuable social skills. They are also expected to help with the finances and running of the circus, and so learn a deal about the day to day running of a business as well as basic accounting skills.
All these positive influences are also improved by the simple fact that learning circus skills is fun, and that in itself is motivation enough to keep the children's lives on the right track. As Miles Elkins, explains, "if I start to act up in school, circus will be taken away from me so I make sure I'm doing well in school because I really like circus."
With the goal of helping "children to defy gravity, soar with confidence and leap over social barriers," Circus Harmony not only presents a truly impressive show for its audience, but it also greatly affects the lives of the children it helps.
To find out more visit their website (http://www.circusharmony.org), Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/circusharmony) or Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/circusharmony).
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