Circus Smirkus 2-week Residency

The movement curriculum in a Waldorf school supports the integration of the child's individual awareness into her/his internal organization. Circus skills are an integral part of our movement curriculum and an exciting supplement this year has been the recent Circus Smirkus 2-week residency. Special thanks to the individual families in our community who funded this program. This endeavor gave our students the opportunity to focus on strengthening and deepening their body awareness and spatial faculties while working on fun, challenging and engaging skills.

Circus resident artist, Joshua Shack worked with Madame Steiner and Mr. Brooks to bring circus skills and training to all students in grades 1-6. Students had many opportunities throughout the two weeks, most during their scheduled class times with Madame Steiner or Mr. Brooks, to have fun while working on learning new skills and honing other.

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Beginning with balancing peacock feathers, students first balanced them on the palm of the hand or the fingertip then progressed to nose, head, knee or even big toe. The students worked on balance, hand-eye coordination, proprioception, and body awareness. Once the basic skills were mastered, some students progressed to throwing and catching the feathers, referred to as a “shooting star.”

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The second set of skills students learned was working with spinning plates. Once the particulars of spinning the plate on a stick were achieved, students advanced to spinning the plate on their finger, balancing the feather on the plate and other combinations, all working on body integration and hand-eye coordination.

Then the students went on to work with devil sticks, two batons used with a third baton in motion. Working with the devil sticks added the skills of coordination, rhythm and interacting with another person to the student's repertoire.

Next the students worked with the diabolo, a double-funnel-like apparatus balanced on a long line held between the performer's hands. Coordination, regulating speed and rhythm and working with balance and mid-line stability were all strengthened with tricks such as "elevator" and "rock the baby." When these skills were mastered, some students moved on to additional tricks such as throwing and catching with another person, which helped with synchronization, body awareness and collaboration.

The skill of juggling, first with scarves and then gradually progressing to balls and then pins (we determined that knives and fire were a bit advanced for the curriculum) reinforced all of the skills already in play with the other materials while also synchronizing movement patterns across the midline.

Balance came back into center stage as that the students worked on balancing their bodies-first on a plank sliding over a cylinder, then progressing to the globe-a large solid ball. Standing on the sliding plank worked on rocking motions on a linear plane which activated proprioception and vestibular awareness, moving to the globe added directionality and increased vestibular input. Once students were able to master balancing on the plank or the globe, they were then able to combine that skill with earlier skills such as juggling balls while balancing on a plank or walking on the globe while balancing a peacock feather.

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Finally all of the students worked on building human pyramids. The skills they utilized went beyond those of strength and flexibility to include interpersonal dynamics and the physics involved in erecting sound structures—valuing and identifying individual strengths, community building and practical applications of the laws of Gravity. Pyramid bases needed to be strong, stable and grounded. Middles were the connectors of strength and flexibility. Flyers were on top and required good balance, flexibility and gymnastics.

The residency concluded with an hour-long afternoon performance of all grades on Friday, March 29th. It was a wonderful 2-week experience filled with skill building, performance, opportunities to overcome obstacles and develop tenacity, joint class collaboration and fun. The students were up to the challenge with enthusiasm, a can-do spirit and a real willingness by the older students to accept and make room for all levels of interaction and skill. They had a great time!

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