Social Circus

Multiple Intelligences in the Social Circus

Here’s an article that I wrote for Spark Circus last month about how circus activities for kids and adults touch on many of the learning modes that are overlooks in traditional school settings.

By taking circus classes and workshops, you and your kids, students, or employees benefit with expanded ability in interpersonal teamwork, intrapersonal (self-reflection) awareness, and a slew of other skills from rhythm to logic!

Who knew you could get all of that just from a hula hoop or some juggling balls?

Corporate Circus Play

(photos by Saifi Khan)

I recently conducted circus workshops and stretching sessions at a tech conference in Bangalore. You can read all about it on my personal website.

One of the most under-served populations I work with are grown-ups. Everyone expects kids to love circus classes, and they do, but they don’t need them like grown-ups do. I find that adults with high-pressure jobs and busy lives don’t often let themselves play and be silly. I love to give them a moment to try something new, step outside their usual routine and even laugh their failure to perform a trick.

If you’re interested in bringing a light-hearted team building or skill development session to your next corporate event, get in touch via e-mail and let’s talk. The fees I collect from my corporate work fund programs for people in economic distress around the world. Hire me and you’re helping not only your event participants but also orphans, refugees and other people in need.

Social Circus with Special Needs Children

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Last week we made a connection with Ramaa SK, a special educator who runs Flow Special School in Tamil Nadu, India. We were invited to come down for the day to do some circus activities with their 17 students.

All kids need play and most children in special needs classes work extra hard with therapy, academics and other training to achieve their goals. Circus games introduce practice with gross and fine motor control, bilateral movement, rhythm, spatial awareness – all in a way that doesn’t seem like skill building but play.

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We received a warm welcome – the classroom was beautifully decorated with streamers, balloons, rangoli, and flowers. The children presented us with bouquets. When the parents and children sang to us, I cried a little bit. Wow. Tod & I did a short 10 minute performance using the props we’d bring out for the kids later – spinning and juggling scarves, hoops for dancing and we even did two songs.

And then we had a tour of the whole school and returned to the classroom for a feast of local dishes cooked by the moms of the school. There was so much food and it was all delicious! When I asked if I they would let me come home with them and teach me to cook, there was pleased laughter all around.

After our incredible welcome, we worked with three classes in separate groups.

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The first class of younger students had multiple physical disabilities as well as cognitive issues. We kept things simple and lighthearted. We waved colored scarves and danced together, rolled and tossed balls (with assisted catching) around a circle, and played a simple game of putting our hands and feet into and out of the hoop.

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The second group which comprised four boys with Down’s Syndrome and autism were really energetic. I was told that posture was a physical issue they all shared, so we started with some stretching and large movements, then played hoop games, and did more stretching by making dynamic patterns with scarves and our bodies: up, down, left, right, front, back.

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The final group was the most physically functional, so we jumped right in with some hula hooping. They tried half a dozen hoop tricks, especially loving the hoop rolling, before we closed the session with a jalebi hoop hooray.

Even the simplest circus activities can bring a sense of accomplishment and the reward of smiles. There was much laughter and giggling as everyone tried these new things. The parents and teachers joined in, too, helping the students and also trying the skills themselves – who doesn’t love to hula hoop?

Thank you to Ramaa and Flow School for hosting us. We look forward to coming back next time we’re in Tamil Nadu.

Spin Matsuri at Hillhacks 2015

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Spin Matsuri classes at hillhacks in Dharamsala, India.

Through the hillhacks school outreach program (May 17- June 2), I taught theatrics, dance, hooping, fitness, and juggling to almost 250 kids. I also MC’d the Gala Show on June 6th featuring three school performances and a bunch of wonderful hillhacker talents.

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Scenes from the hillhacks Gala Show. Photos by David Huang.

And during the hillhacks conference itself, I did circus fitness, juggling, and hooping with a lot of the adult participants – everyone loves to hula hoop and some of our hackers and makers took it to a new level. Tazz loved it so much that he went home in a cast after a hoop diving accident. But generally, things were a little gentler and filled with laughter.

I was excited that Freeman Murray, from Jaaga in Bangalore, hosted a daily sunset flow jam. Sometimes I had the chance to let myself hoop instead of teaching.

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Tink on TV in Myanmar

In February I made my TV debut in Myanmar as the assistant to Nat Brown, balloon artist extraordinaire. Our act for the Yangon International Juggling Festival’s “Big Show” in Kandawgyi Nature Park was brief, fun and colorful. We worked it out the same day we premiered it, so the music was a little bit too short however that did not stop the delight of the audience.

Circus show in Fukushima

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Jason and I did a show at Harmony Hongo in Aizu, Fukushima, yesterday. We had a terrific time performing song, dance and circus activities with 40 elderly people who live there.  They loved clapping and singing along with Jason and laughing along with me as I hooped and juggled and clowned around.

We’ve been invited back this summer and I am already excited to return. Older audiences are an interesting challenge. Mobility issues mean games need to be chair-based, or chair compatible. Shyness levels are about the same as in any adult audience – there are always a few keen people who jump right in, a lot who’d rather watch, and some who need only gentle persuasion to come out to play.

Yesterday we got everyone playing games and there were colored scarves and laughter everywhere! Thanks to Jason’s generosity, Spin Matsuri now owns 25 beautiful finger flower scarves. They are a terrific addition to our collection of circus toys and workshop props. Thank you, Jason, these are going to be well-loved at our workshops around the world!

Circus Bake Sale!

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Actually, it’s more than a bake sale – it’s a flea market, bake sale, & workshops put on by Intrepid Model Adventures. Donations from the flea market will go to support Spin Matsuri’s social circus projects, including the work coming up in Dharmsala this summer.

Tink will lead a circus workshop, and is selling a ton of lovely things “one coin” style to help pay for the circus supplies she will need in India. With the support of bargain hunters and all the other flea market stalls, Spin Matsuri will be able to create a performance with schoolchildren and adults in Dharmsala.

4th IMA Charity Flea Market, Bake Sale & Workshops
Sunday, April 19 from 10:00 – 18:00
Okachimachi/Ueno
Wkabayashi Heim 2-26-8 Taito, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-0016

More details are on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1414196388887941/