The Salvo Clowns! The benefits of clowning with the hearing impaired.

March 29, 2018

During our stay in Darjeeling we have been working with The Salvation Army School for the Deaf. We began our work at Salvation Army (or as Kiera says in her Aussie way “Salvos”) in our first week here. We introduced them to circus through spending our first session free playing with them. From that moment the children’s love for clowning was clear.

They pointed at the red noses that were donated last year. We began to play, passing clubs and hiding them from one another. From this moment I knew that the clowning workshops I had been planning where perfect for Salvation Army.

This became even clearer when Kiera and I sat in one of their classes. During this class they were learning sign language. This was useful as I too came away with a wider vocabulary of sign language.

But what was even more important was the wider understanding   of the school this class gave me. Salvation Army School for the Deaf educates and  homes children from 5-18 who have not been taught sign language prior to attending the school. They have come to the School to learn sign language and nonverbal communication. During the class I sat in, the teacher emphasised the importance of expression as well as signing. Clowning is an exaggeration of expressions that uses mime to communicate an emotion. Thus,  through performance the students can continue to learn how to communicate through expression and mime. Circus also creates a safe space for this play. When clowning it is not the way in which a “nonverbal” person communicates but all people.  We all communicate through expression and we all love to play.

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I have facilitated two clowning workshops at Salvation Army. Using the concept of communication of expression I used the scenario of stealing a clown nose or prop off your partner. Through this enactment six expressions are portrayed. I made signs to communicate the enactment of these expressions.

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We facilitated these workshops  as clowns.  We enacted a short clowning scene where Sophie hid my red nose from me. Clown Kiera displayed the sign cards that depicted the expressions Sophie and I where enacting. I got them to copy the expressions of each scene before giving two students red noses , and a sign each. Communicating through clowning that they  could now enact the scene using the expression and prop I have given them. This gave them the opportunity to perform as a clown and learn how to use expression within performance.

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Through facilitating the workshops as clowns the boundary between the pupil and the facilitator is removed. We are all clowns miming together. Dressing as a clown got the children excited. One child tapped me and pointed at my glittery t-shirt and painted face as I was organising the group into a circle , ready to begin. I pointed at my nose, signed and pulled a sad face she laughed. My costume anticipated the opportunity for clowning and already communicated the concept of the workshop before it had began. It created an environment in which the way of communicating was through clowning.  Speaking through an expression, is an act they all use for everyday communication. Clowning is natural form of communication that we can embrace within our workshops.
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When watching their performances we were amazed at the students natural ability to clown. They were confidently interacting with the audience and creatively thinking of ways to use and hide props.  With under two weeks left of the project I will be sad to say bye to my clowning friends at Salvation Army. I am also excited to take what they have taught me back to England.

 

By Poppy Avison-Fell

 

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Alive Alert Awake & Enthusiastic!

March 27, 2018

Hola a todos! Sara Noelle here with another blog update, and boy oh boy do I have exciting news! PWB team Nica has completed our second to last week on tour. Personally I am amazed at how hard we have worked on this last project. We had a bunch of shows scheduled, and it was also show week for the kids we’ve been working with. I’ll clue you all in on the juicy highlights in this blog. Here we go!

Sooo first off, we had our Despadita (show + last day celebrations) with Casa Alianza. We managed to pull together a stellar show with these teenagers after 7 days of prep. I am so impressed. Our first week with them was mainly work shops, and the second was a mix of classes and show prep. The kids were super keen on act creation, and one of the girls volunteered to MC the show! She did it in style, with her toothbrush as her mic! The show was called “Circo Alianza”, named after the facility where they live. The name translates to “Circus Alliance.” How cool is that? I feel strongly that “Circus Alliance” is one of the best show names in history, and I cannot emphasize enough just how impressive it was to witness young people that were new to flow and circus arts put together a show in such a short amount of time. The last act was an Acro piece, and that included a two high! Amazing. Dale Circo Alianza! 

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Sadly we weren’t allowed to take photos at Casa alianza, so here’s a silly post-show photo instead!

 

The next Despadita was with Sierra Maestra. For every two hour session, we had a range of 25-50 kids. I think we were all a bit nervous about wrangling all of these kids together for a handful of show prep workshops. Well, we did it and it was so much smoother than expected! Acts included hula hoop, diabolo, magic, and acro. We also had the kids volunteer to introduce each act and they did an amazing job! It can be very intimidating to put yourself on stage and perform, and these kids nailed it. I am super proud of all of them!

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Hula hula act creation!

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Super shy kiddo Angel announcing the next act!

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Pre-show group photo at Sierra Maestra!

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Sierra Maestra show set list! Check out those act names!

 

The other project we’ve been working with is Las Ampies. We only had 3 friday sessions with them which wasn’t enough time to make a show with the kids, but it was still a lot of fun gathering children from their homes and teaching them workshops. We spent our last day with them performing our show in the Barrio! The location was super dusty, and at the end of the show my feet were caked with dirt (even though I had socks and shoes on!). Often times on this tour I would look at my skin and say “Wow, i’m getting so tan!” only to shower and realise it was just a layer of dirt. This resulted in many chuckles amongst our team.

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Pre-show shenanigans to warm up our audience!

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Yours truly with a club balance!

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Just look at all these cute faces 🙂

 

Amidst all of the work we did this past week, we managed to squish in several shows! The exhaustion was real this week. I made a stupendous strong-woman dragon staff act with teammate Ivy, and we performed it for the last time this past week, because we donated the dragon staves. I am primarily a juggler and never touched a dragon staff until this tour, and I have to say it’s one of my new favourite props! Super suavecito and I love it.

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The ever-evolving “clown piece”!

 

Whew! It was a hectic week and although we faced many challenges, we also laughed a lot and made many more memories. Thanks for reading and cheers to the magic of social circus!

Hasta la proxima,

Sara Noelle


Podemos Hacerlo!

March 25, 2018

This week PWB Nicaragua continued working with kids at Sierra Maestra in the afternoons, and started work with a new organization called Casa Alianza in the mornings. Casa Alianza is a social service organization, provides residency and rehabilitation to kids ages 13-17. The kids usually come from backgrounds of addiction, exploitation, and trafficking, and go through a one year program that provides them with tools to be healthy, succeed in recovery, and thrive in a nurturing environment.

Casa Alianza has three levels to their program, separating kids into group according to the amount of time and work they have done so far in the program. We are working with about 25  kids in the first level, which means they are the newest kids to the program and have been there for about one to three months. Part of our agreement with Casa Alianza is that we will not take any pictures or video during our time here because of the fragile nature of their work and to protect the identities of the children… So you’ll just have to take my word for it, the property is absolutely beautiful. They provide separate housing for the boys and girls, and separate bedrooms depending on which level of the program they are in. There are lots of gardens and beautiful shaded spaces for the kids to have activities, and the whole property is kept well manicured and super clean.

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Acrobatics with kids at Sierra Maestra

We will meet with the kids every Monday – Thursday for two weeks, and then put on a show with them to celebrate at the end of our sessions. Thursday happens to be family day, so many of the kids get visits from their families on Thursday, and hopefully their families will be able to attend our show as well.

Working with the kids at Casa Alianza has been an absolute treat. The kids are a bit older then those we normally work with, and they are all super bright and eager to learn from us. Our team was surprised to see that daily, kids engage in a morning Tai Chi, Yoga, or Meditation session before we arrive. Casa Alianza runs lots of activities that contribute to the kids being super tuned in to their bodies and understanding the mindset of openly engaging with new activities.

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Performing our show at Barrio Mateare

We had four shows this week, and spent quite a bit of time in transit, traveling all over Managua in Kairos truck. Monday we did our show for Casa Alianza, and Tuesday we performed at Sierra Maestra (the school we teach at in the afternoons). Wednesday we did an evening street show in Barrio Mateare, and Friday we did another evening show in Barrio Dimitrov. This show was particularly crazy because there was no light to work with in the community center, so we positioned Kairos truck strategically and used the headlights as our main source of light for the show. It was a truly successful week of shows, and I’m left thinking of countless giggling and delighted children we encountered throughout the week, a reward well worth the efforts put into all the travel for the shows.

Friday we had our second trip to Los Ampies, a small community built along an old decommissioned railroad line. We meet kids on a dusty farm owned by a nice man who lets the kids of the community gather on his property every week. The area is shaded with mango trees and the kids start each session by hanging up signs they call “living agreements”, which they’ve created for when they come to the space. Reminders like ‘don’t pick fruit from the Don’s trees’, ‘No Fighting’, and ‘Listen to each other’, sprinkle the property before we begin our sessions.

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A “living agreements” sign the kids at Los Ampies created

On a personal note, Sara and I spent our weekend off in Granada, and found a local to take us out on a tour of the islets. We bought little cakes before we left, and when the boat stopped at a small island about 10 minutes offshore, we got to feed a spider monkey that hopped onto the boat! We also ran into a St. Patricks Day parade travelling through the Parque Central, and Sara got to jump into the parade and do some juggling!

We only have one week left here at Kairos, and as the tour is coming to an end, I’m happy to report the team is going strong and making the most of the time we have left. Podemos Hacerlo!!

Until Next Time… Ivy 🙂


Nicaragua: New project, same team!

March 20, 2018

The team have moved to Managua and are deep into their project already! Here are some snippets of info to fill you in

  • We are living in a really nice space full of greenery and amazing trees.
  • Our accommodation was full for a few days so we got moved to an amazing hotel nearby with a pool just outside our rooms!
  • Everyone’s Spanish is getting so much better
  • We’ve got 2 denim hammocks
  • We just did up our last calendar of the tour and saw the finishing date… dun dun duuuunnn

One of the projects we are working with is Casa Alianza. This is a place for teenagers from about 13 – 17 years old who come from vulnerable backgrounds. We are working with a group of “Phase 1” teens who are fresh to the programme. Despite being so fresh, they have positive attitudes towards each other, us, working as a team and learning in general. For me, this shows that the programme they are running is super good. They listen to each other when we ask what they learned in the session, they sit out and take time when they feel that’s what they need and in general, work as a big family despite having lots of things running around in their own minds, I’m sure. I have felt both nourished and challenged coming out of each of these sessions.

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Helen & Will with upcoming diabolo superstars

 

Project two is in a school six minutes away by car. We are working with about a million children with an average age of about 9. These kids are really well behaved and because of a mixture of their good behaviour and the team growing in confidence, we have had the chance and courage to try out some new workshops. This week’s specials included a rhythm workshop with lots of clappy numbers and a magic workshop with the infamous “paper bag trick”. The kids run around, so do we and we have a great time teaching them what we know.

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Darine teaching a macho routine with devil sticks

Project 3 is a village down a bumpy road that makes me feel car sick. We were told that this community is relatively new and they are having issues with togetherness along with drugs and violence. We go there once a week to do 2 sessions in the back garden of a lovely man called Done Jose who sits on a chair and smiles as everyone runs around and has a great time. These guys don’t have major experience with circus and are quite young so it’s a real treat to be able to introduce them to our little tricks.

This week especially, I’ve really been appreciating our team and all of the amazing things that they bring to the vibe. Here they are with 3 little facts about them (in alphabetical order)

  • Darine – (that’s me so as told by Jacob) gives lovely head massages, 
  • Helen – laughs a lot, never drinks her fresco and recently has become a badass base for acro.
  • Ivy – is a ninja in everything you can classify as a board game, always has very tidy facepaint for shows and we have discovered, loves throwing water around.
  • Jacob – is an expert at washing his clothes by hand, loves wearing leopard print and will usually finish food you don’t want
  • Kit – has an amazing collection of quirky facts, takes amazing photos at the right time and always comes back with a story after days off.
  • Sara – juggles anytime she has a spare breath, gets her hair cut most often and is great for little chit chats
  • Will – loves bopping his head to cheesy Nicaraguan pop tunes, says random funny words in his sleep and once had clean sweat bands.

During bootcamp, we were all fresh and hyper and eager to get to know the personalities of the team. In Leon, we were starting to figure out how a group of 7 people who previously only knew each other’s Facebook page, can manage to work together. San Marcos, things were starting to settle, and here in Managua, I feel like we are all fitting together like a little jigsaw.

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Back of the camioneta cheekiness

I’d be telling fibs if I said there were never frustrations but frustrations are (usually 😉 ), not at each other directly and just at the situations that happened. We’ve got a team that I feel is really emotionally intelligent and know what they need when they need it. We’re really open as a team and are free to express what we feel and always try to accommodate needs of whoever in the team is having difficulties.

I’m so glad I’m working with people that will jump in and run games for me if I’m feeling really tired after a show, that will check in a little bit extra if I mention I’m feeling a bit tender that morning, that will tell me they disagree but do it with love, that teach me, let me teach them AND have really funny cheeky banter in the back of the camioneta. It has only been when I stepped back and looked at our amazing team without a mind full of workshops and shows that I realised how much I appreciated this bunch of energisers.

So I’m taking this blog post to publicly tell this amazing team that you are amazing, we’re all doing a perfect job at being ourselves and we are all playing a really important part in this mind blowing project doing heart warming activities for groups of superstars full of potential. GO US!

Well done team Nica 2018. Looking forward to the next few weeks.

Darine xx

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Team Nica 2018 pre show being their amazing selves


Gabriel’s Learning Center – PWB Kenya 2018

March 19, 2018

Runny little noses
Untied show laces
Can’t help but fall in love with the look of admiration on their faces.

Bright young eyes
Inquisitive glances
I wondered if they’d accept me and I’m glad I took my chances.

Smiles are universal
Their hugs full of appreciation
My time here has reminded me laughter is the same in every language.

With rough dusty hands
We toss sticks in the yard
And temporarily forget that their lives are really hard.

We must teach them how to share
They outnumber the resources by far
Sometimes the scarcity mindset can make learning patience pretty hard.

“Look at me”, they chant
A little attention is all they want
And even with nightly bedtime stories I can’t feel I’ve given them enough.

I do my best to be present
Their synchronized dances melt my heart
I’ll never forget their situation even long after I depart.

I learn so much from them
By their endless dedication
I’m incredibly confident they will surpass life’s tribulations.

Though they were abandoned
In this world they belong
Remind them that with an education they will continue to grow strong.

And thanks to this learning center
I see them filled with purpose and elation
I want only to give back a fraction of the inspiration.

I thank my fellow teachers
For their selfless participation
In impacting these lives through playful meditation.

This tour was really beautiful
And for now our it must conclude.
If you’re inspired by our story, there’s always more to do.

Written by Enrico SolRiso, March 2018

 

 

 


The last week meant lots of things…

March 19, 2018
It meant our last chance to see the kids we have spent so much time bonding with…
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Facepainting at Duniya! (Paints kindly donated by Oddballs Juggling, Camden)
It meant Holi the festival of colour…
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The team after ‘playing Holi’ with the kids at Asha Deep
And for Asha Deep; it meant show week!
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Each member of the team took a group of children and started working hard to choreograph something special.
I worked with “Team Sticks”…
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The dedication blew me away.
Not only did these kids train really hard – they asked me, each day, “can we do an extra rehearsal tonight?”. Well, there’s only really one answer  to that: YES! As a teacher – there is nothing more inspiring than passionate students. So, each night after dinner, I walked by the ghats to go meet Team Sticks and together, we made something really awesome. 
There were times of worry, there were arguments, and tears… but… then someone would say; “sab kuch mileaga” and we’d go one more time from the top. Sab kuch mileaga translated literally to, “I will get everything” – but means “anything is possible”. So we added – “if you practice every day.” 
To see these kids, who had worked so hard, dance their hearts out was really quite beautiful. Lots of performers understand the post-show Buzz. Thanks to PWB, these kids have felt it, too.
Here’s Team Sticks…. smashing it…
TEAM STICKS’ SHOW

Au Revoir San Marcos, until the next time…

March 8, 2018

Final week in San Marcos, the PWB team navigates the complexities of the beautiful Quincho community. We had such a short amount of time with the Quinchos, this is a community truly filled to the brim with love. They have left a lasting impression among all the team members. We made the decision to take the excitement of presenting our personal show and devise a show with the children. Our workshops became more show oriented; how do you enter the stage, what is your stage presence and persona, and how do you exit. We queried the children on what they found an interest in presenting, and made an effort to facilitate partner acts. The Quinchos have a literal sister group, the Yaoskas, we also wanted to make a conscious effort to integrate them as much as possible. So off we went…. This is a piece of my personal photo journal:

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We fell in love with this motito, down to the amazing custom paint. I’m still considering driving one of these beauties back to the states, one kilometer at a time.

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We had the pleasure of building up a lot of skills with this group, truly a benefit of having such a prolonged presence with his group (6 years running!). Some of them just started learning circus skills the week before and they were already showing proficient skills. Some of them took up acrobatics, others heard the call of the unicycle, while prop manipulation was not one to be left behind either. Many surprised us by forming group acts without our guidance, or blindsiding us by hooping on stilts. It was amazing to see individual people whom refused to participate at first climbing on top of each other!

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Then came the time to clown out with everyone! It was amazing to see the camaraderie amongst this group, many even requesting to have ‘Quinchos’ written across their arms.DSCF6794DSCF6823

Many wouldn’t leave the costume closet until they had found just the perfect outfit to wear, but you could see the change in their demeanor immediately. It was very impressive actually, as soon as the perfect wig or hat hit their head they were immediately in character.DSCF6840DSCF6853

We opted to have the show at the central park to an unsuspecting audience. Even the short ride was a blast with the group, lively and ready to party.DSCF6928

The partner acts were a hit, the music was perfect, we had the audience loving every minute of it. This specfic part of the show was very personal to me. Before I arrived to the Quinchos I was ready to gift out my fans as I was not using them very much on the tour and I had not really planned to give any workshops with them. They had essentially become dead weight for me. However on our first day one Quincho approached me and asked me for specific instruction on learning some fan techniques. After working with him he requested I join him on stage, how could I refuse! We formed an act together and performed it in front of the town. Unbeknownst to him he has given me a reason to continue transporting my fans with me.DSCF6943

We actually ended up overshadowing a neighboring celebration for the anniversary of the city. Who knew our little ‘Circo los Quinchos’ would be such a hit!!! Our acro group performed their newly polished routines, and got an opportunity to show off all their new skills for our finale. They had a child walk across multiple two-high’s, then completed the act with a partner diabolo and two-high combo that was completely out of this world. Simply, WOW!DSCF6831

Shortly after staging this great show the team had to bid goodbye to the lovely Quinchos. The night of out farewell we enjoyed a lovely night over dinner conversing with Zelinda, the program coordinator for ‘Los Quinchos’. Zelinda chatted with us for hours about how the Quinchos were established, as well as the political difficulties faced by such a program in Nicaragua. Truly an eye-opening and awe-inspiring night, Thank you Zelinda!

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And with that we rode off into the high noon sun, looking for our next assignment in the city of Managua.
I will cherish these memories for a lifetime!
—Until the next time,
Leo ‘Kit’ Astorga

~~~
“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” – Rumi