Next time your daughter threatens to run away and join the circus, consider encouraging her to do just that. CircEsteem, aka Chicago Youth Circus, teaches children circus arts as a way to promote self-esteem, coordination, teamwork and learning. In addition to working with students in select city schools, the organization's Uptown location offers classes, after-school programs and summer camps for kids starting at age 7.
All class sessions culminate in some kind of performance, the main show taking place in the spring. Kids have been perfecting their juggling and balance skills, practicing on the trampoline, twirling on silk ropes and spinning round and round in gymnastic wheels in preparation for two shows in May. When my sons and I joined the Saturday morning "beginners" class a few weeks before the show, students were visibly excited about the upcoming performances. Whether they were spinning plastic plates or juggling while balancing on large balls, the kids were mastering stage presence and poise.
Because CircEsteem draws from so many neighborhoods, classes feature students (and instructors) of every size, shape and color. This multi-cultural atmosphere is another way of making everyone feel welcome. In addition to using adult instructors, some of whom are former circus performers, CircEsteem has a jobs program where more experienced teenage students work with the younger kids. It's a great way for kids of different ages to interact and seems to inspire the younger ones.
After joining the class for a communication and trust-building game, my sons, age 8 and 9, were thrown right into the show. Children are encouraged to try a variety of skills, both large and small motor. My sons were no exception as they moved from balance boards to plate spinning. "I can't do it" is not an option at CircEsteem as instructors patiently teach and re-teach. It was beautiful to see how every degree of success was applauded and celebrated. I was amazed at my sons' achievements in just one short class, as they had to combine a new skill with choreography and showmanship.
CircEsteem is currently accepting registration for weekly summer camps. Campers will perform in parades as well as various summer festivals. For a full schedule of camps and classes, visit their Web site.