The Ledger Independent: Circus Mojo visits TES students
September 25, 2019
TOLLESBORO — Students of Tollesboro Elementary School were visited Monday by Circus Mojo, a youth and adult program centered on promoting the circus arts.
Performers showcased their various skills and feats before the eager students, ranging from juggling and balancing to wheel gymnastics and even some clown antics.
Paul Miller, founder of Circus Mojo, who also acts as the clown for performances, said this tour has a two-fold purpose. Not only is the performance encouraging people to express themselves through means such as improvisation, character development, and group performance, but also to promote international relations.
Circus Mojo is working with Wunderbar Together, Miller said, an initiative funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented by the Goethe Institute that is celebrating a year of German-American friendship.
Miller said he actually approached TES to perform for the students and that Circus Mojo had previously performed at the school a couple of years ago for a previous tour.
“I’m working to connect the politics side of this,” Miller said. “So (Rep.) Thomas Massie has worked with me on a couple different initiatives, and he’s a big ‘pro business’ candidate, and this being partnered with the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs I really wanted to bring something to Lewis County. And he’s (Massie) helped me with some different projects over the years. These kids, we’re really hoping to inspire them to follow their dreams just like all these artists did to get here.”
This performance at TES is part of a series of shows being done as the group travels down to Atlanta, Ga.
Elis Gifford, one of the performers, said she has been involved in the circus arts since she was 12 when she started in youth circus in Perth, Australia. She also attended the National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne, Australia where she earned a bachelor’s degree in circus arts.
Gifford said she finds performing for schools and in front of kids enjoyable, and finds a deep correlation between circus and children.
“For me, circus and kids have always been pretty intertwined because I started in youth circus, and a lot of our first performance opportunities were at schools. I really like that kids have a real sense of wonder, like they’re not afraid to be amazed in seeing someone doing something that you wouldn’t normally see so I really like that.”
To Mirko Ropeter, a performer from a small town near Frankfurt, Germany who specializes in the gym wheel, circus is one of the few ways people can receive a live and genuine performance.
“I think it brings joy in a way less people think it should,” he said. “There’s TV and stuff, and a lot of it is fake, but circus is still like a real performance and people put a lot of effort into it without any effects so it’s the real deal, and that’s what I like about it.”
In traveling and promoting the circus arts, Miller said Circus Mojo tries to preserve that spirit of performance so that it may inspire the next generation to pursue this art, or whatever inspires them.
“We’re like endangered species, we’re trying to keep the traditional circus alive,” he said. “It really is the grace of the acrobat, the skill of the juggler and the antics of the clown — these are like the three circus archetypes that we’re really trying to inspire.”
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