Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Send in the clowns 

I'm sure I've mentioned the kids' Zirkusschule here before, but I don't think I've said much about it. Basically, Mike and Annabelle have been part of Zirkus Trolori, a kids' circus group that practices every Friday afternoon at an Asylbewerberheim (asylum home) down in an industrial sector of Mannheim. The circus school is financed by the city of Mannheim as a resource for the children of the asylum seekers who live in the home, but a handful of children from outside the home also participate. Mike and Annabelle, however, are the only American kids in the program.

When the semester started in January, each student chose 2 circus skills to study. Annabelle chose poi balls and juggling; Mike chose juggling and ball walking. (I'm sorry, but every time I think of the term "ball walking," I giggle to myself. I am not a nice person.) For the past few weeks, however, everybody has focused on one area in preparation for their performances in May. Annabelle has become a whiz at swinging those poi balls, and Mike's juggling skills have really taken off.

The first performance was at the Max-Joseph-Strassenfest on May 14. Annabelle was horrified that she had to change into her costume in the middle of a pizza restaurant (Germans aren't nearly as hung up on nudity as Americans), but aside from that, it was a great day.

Here are Mike and Annabelle at the fest:

If you go here, you can see a picture from the fest website of the kids getting ready to perform.

A couple weeks later, the kids from Trolori took part in the Kinderzirkusspektakel put on by Zirkus Aladin. This was a 4-day fest that brought together circus groups from various parts of Germany to perform under an actual circus tent.

Annabelle's performance was the first day of the fest. Annabelle had conquered her stage fright at the street fest, and she was very excited to get another chance to perform. Here she is doing her solo (click to view Windows Media file).

Mike's performance was a couple days later. He and his juggling partner have been working on some snazzy moves. They can stand side by side and juggle as one person, and they are learning to toss balls to each other as they juggle. Click here (again, Windows Media file) to see highlights from their routine.

I had a great time watching all the troops do their acts. During the first performance, I had the additional honor of serving as Schirmherrschaft, which is sort of like the patron of a formal event. A photographer at the show explained to me afterwards that this would be the person to sit under a cover such as an awning at the head table. A Schirm can also be an umbrella, so in this case, I was the honored person who got to sit under the confetti-filled umbrella. Here I am at the end of the show with the ringmaster when he came back to collect his umbrella:

Of all the things I will miss when we leave Germany, Zirkusschule ranks right up there at the top of the list. It has required a leap of faith for me to drop my kids off every week in what is basically a tenement, but they have surely benefited from the experience. While their German speaking skills are still fairly basic, their ability to understand has improved tenfold. I get such a kick out of hearing Mike and his partner counting "eins, zwei, drei" under their breath before they toss the balls to one another. I have taken friends with me a couple of times to drop Mike and Annabelle off for practice, and I always feel I am showing a part of Germany that not many Americans get a chance to see. How many American kids get the opportunity to study circus skills in German with children whose families come from Bosnia, Kosovo, Iran, Iraq, etc.? We've been very lucky, and we know it.

The circus thing is just the neatest thing. Just a plug for FSU and the Flying High Circus (they can always go to Stetson for grad school). The Flying High Circus used to summer at some resort (I forget where but I am sure google knows) where the guests could participate. I want to say somewhere in Georgia but I am not sure.
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