November 25, 2002

Cirque Amongus

"And now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls and children of all ages, we present the Gaudior Circus!" And with those words, the 211 students of Gaudior Academy began the Parade of Performers and their Circus Night Production.

The circus performance was the culmination of a unit that started in late September. The staff invited Cirque Amongus, an international circus company, to conduct a daylong workshop with the students. Over 40 adults from the Gaudior community, family members and friends, came to help all the children learn ten different circus skills. Students spent the morning moving through workstations that allowed them to experiment with the trapeze, unicycles, tight wire and magic. They learned how to put on clown make-up, spin a diabolo, juggle balls and hoops, manipulate devil sticks, and balance on stilts, barrels and globes. While the morning was spent learning and practicing the skills, the afternoon was devoted to a circus performance by the children. The students, complete with costumes and makeup, and accompanied by appropriate circus music, entertained the staff and adult volunteers with their original circus acts.

On Friday, October 4, the entire school boarded buses and vans to go see the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Palace of Auburn Hills. There they saw, many of them for the first time, real trapeze artists, performing animals and tight-wire artists.

The staff and students spent the next six weeks perfecting the one skill they liked best from the September workshops or from the routines they saw at the circus. Students created acts that would combine to form an evening circus performance for the entire Gaudior community. On Friday, November 15, after weeks of preparation, Gaudior students became circus performers for a night. Acts ranged from clown slapstick to tricks with diabolos and jump ropes to sideshow presentations. The audience saw a girl "sawed in half", a man shot out of a cannon, and a clown making animals out of balloons. The show included a dragon, girls walking on 3' diameter wooden globes and children doing routines with stilts, barrels and cans.

The audience was amazed and thrilled, but so were the children. Self-esteem ran high as the students were able to master skills they previously could only watch performers do. Through the circus experience, these students discovered talents in themselves they didn't know existed. The Cirque Amongus Company was instrumental in making this whole circus a reality. The group entirely organized the September workshop, making up the schedule, training the volunteer trainers and coordinating the actual rotations during the day. Sem and Teresa came back to the school during school rehearsals, offering their suggestions and support. The whole company came to the performance, as proud of the children's performance as the staff was.

I am strongly recommending this program to any administrator I talk to. The joy on the children's faces after they have executed a new skill is immeasurable, the chance to be a circus star - unforgettable.

Rosemary Gonzales
Gaudior Academy
Inkster, MI