the Circus at School
stilts, unicycles, silly clowns, kazoo bands buzzing... Is this
the circus? Almost.
Actually, it’s the Big Apple Circus Beyond the Ring Spring Show
in the auditorium of East Harlem’s JHS 99. About 40 students from
schools all over the City showed off the juggling, jumping, clowning
and tumbling expertise they had been working on since the fall
in afterschool sessions with professional jugglers, tumblers and
Frank Sellitto, the director of the show, has been teaching the
program for 15 years. He says that it increases kids’ self esteem.
“They realize they can learn things they thought they couldn’t
do,” he says. Like juggling.
According to juggling instructor Sky King, teaching kids to juggle
is not hard at all. “Juggling is one of those things that seems
impossible,” she says. “But pretty much everybody does learn to
juggle.” King has been juggling for seven years. “If they can’t
do it right now, at least they understand what they are trying
to do, and they can learn it eventually.”
Along with specific skills, students learn focus, concentration
and, most important for when they are on stage, patience. Three
students performed using Diabolo, a Chinese yo-yo. The technique
is not easy. It involves throwing up the Diabolo–an object that
looks like two cones joined at their tips–and trying to catch
it on a string stretched between two sticks held in the performer’s
hands. It does not always land as planned on the string–even the
instructor on stage dropped his. But this did not phase any of
the performers who picked them up and continued their routines.
of the performers are students like you,” Tim Anderson, the Ring
Master for the show and a clown at the Big Apple Circus, told
the crowd at the start of the show. And indeed, the show reflected
the students. Kids on stilts danced Salsa, and acrobats flipped
to hip-hop music as the audience sang along.
While flips and pyramids, five-ball juggling and unicycles made
people gasp, the clown pieces made people laugh. “Mr. Muscle”
lifted a barbell with comic strain, his stuffed muscles migrating
from bicep to forearm. He rubbed his pack in pain as he walked
off the stage, but before he could leave, a girl came out, picked
up the barbell in one hand and yelled flirtatiously after him,
“Mr. Muscle, I think you forgot something!”
Joining the circus, or even practicing twice a week after school,
is not just about fun and games. The students have learned how
to perform, and how to work together. Perhaps the most important
lesson they have learned is how to move past mistakes and continue
on with the show.
the Ring is open to anyone willing to make the commitment, free
of charge. For more information visit www.gibapplecricus.org
or call 212-268-2500.
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
(212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: email@example.com.
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the publisher. © 2001.