India 2019 – Kudle Beach Bootcamp

January 31, 2019

On a fateful day in India, January the 12th of 2019, the sun blasted down upon the dry, dusty earth, heating the steel train tracks and the speeding compartments above to a boil – an appropriate temperature to get simmering the eager ingredients of the Indian PWB tour which had only just been thrown in the pot together. Those delectable ingredients are: Dan our fearless leader and double diabolo monkey, Erika the high-flying acrobatic chicken with a side of salad, Matt the dog-whispering devil stick shaman, Gina the indomitable clown and tooting trumpeter, Chaka the Chief and triple staff extraordinaire, Iain the dexterous juggling primate and our favorite Ma’ away from home, Ashlee the hero-princess of poi and bringer of infinite smiles, and myself, Logan, resident giant juggling bird of paradise and hoarder of all ice creams. So with all the zeal of a newly formed group of adventurers we hastened toward our first home in India, Kudle Beach in the village of Gokarna. What a fantastic home it was! Our passion for the discovery of the local culture and cuisine was noticeable immediately and equal only to the determination to develop friendships and share our myriad circus skills with one another.

We worked hard every day to become as mentally and physically fit as required in order to tackle the strenuous work ahead of us. The mornings brought yoga classes, group games, flexibility and strength training sessions. Afternoons floated by, filled with rehearsals under the tropical sun and a dutiful efficiency. Evenings rewarded our efforts with the exploration of tasty delicacies, westerly ocean sunsets, and the pursuit of our diverse whimsies. Adjusting quickly to the climate and setting, we found our individual routines, whether they be an early morning swim, well-timed juggle breaks, or an epic shower after a long day’s work! Focus fell naturally on the development of the group dynamic; intentions were set to develop workshop skills and the upcoming debut of our first show.

Amid the increasing strain of show development, two unsung heroes reared their faces to assist us on our tireless journey. The first is known as Dave Ford, present entertainer, improv player and past PWB veteran from years ago. With his appearance came a plethora of perfectly timed acting, improvisation, character, and show development workshops. His engaging presence and committed enthusiasm in assisting our cause was palpable, tipping the scales of success in our favour as we watched our skills and capacity for expression grow exponentially. The second hero that crossed our path is called Shubhra Gupta, also know as our wonderful new friend and ultimate guide to all things India. Her presence helped immensely with our easing into the foreign culture in innumerable ways. The universe around us then came together in one of those serendipitous and rare ways, bringing the revelation that she could gift the fruits of her career – costume design – to our cause, that we might further suspend the disbelief of the already infinitely imaginative children that awaited the spectacle of our upcoming circus.

And so with the injection of such wonderful help, our fiercely determined adventurers played, explored and worked until they found theirselves losing their humanity and becoming the wild creatures of their skillfully crafted jungle story. This fantastic parable would have our heroes adventure deep into the savage jungle with the help of its many strange inhabitants to seek a circusy treasure guarded by a terrible monster. With its unexpected defeat would come the jubilant celebration of all things good and playful! Finally the last day of bootcamp came and with it the busking and frantic flyering about town to advertise the beach-born opening of our terrific jungle tale. Despite the sand, wind, and a last minute injury leading to the subsequent, temporary loss of our infamous flying chicken, we boldly took the stage. With courage and a proclivity toward improvisation, we enraptured the imaginations of hundreds of lucky on-looking adventurers and brought them on our journey with us into the unknown jungle. We were destined inevitably to breach the veil of triumph in a cacophony of applause as the sun fell softly into the ocean like feather at the close of our final scene…and so the adventure had finally, truly begun.

Logan “Kaa!” Goethe

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PWB Kenya 2016 – A Newbie’s Perspective by Joe Dickinson

February 12, 2016

Mambo, jina langu Joe! (Hi, my name’s Joe!) I am currently on tour with the fabulous human beings of the Performers Without Borders tour in Kenya. Right now we have been in Nairobi for just under a month and have worked with two different projects while we’ve been here. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by veterans of previous tours; all four other members of our team have taken part in PWB projects in the past, which makes me the newbie! The whole tour so far has been an amazing experience and I’d like to share my angle on it, particularly with those of you who may be considering applying for and undertaking your very first tour.

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Me, just before heading to the airport!

So, what did I expect? Despite trying to keep my expectations to a minimum, I was full of ideas of what life on tour might be like, how living with the team would be and the kind of work we would be doing with the children at the various projects along the way. It will not surprise you to learn that I’ve been off the mark once or twice and I’d like to share the small amount of tour wisdom that I have accumulated up to now.

I shall begin, as one should, at the beginning. I applied for this tour back in the summer of 2015, having been pointed in this direction by my performing partner. After a simple application process and a very friendly Skype interview I was informed that I’d been accepted as a member of the team. I was elated and nervous and began, slowly, to prepare for the trip.

After a few Skype conversations with the team over the following months things slowly came together. Flights booked, vaccinations up to date, fund-raising done [see video here!]. Before I knew it the new year had rolled around and I was on a plane to Mombasa, the main port city of the Kenyan coast. The others on the team had booked their flights into Nairobi (on the other side of the country) so I had a couple of days at the accommodation in Diani, where we had our bootcamp, to myself before the others arrived.

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The view from our accommodation in Diani.

I should mention that this tour is my first time outside of Europe and a big step out of my comfort zone. Having those two days without the team around me to overcome the worst of the culture shock and settle in were very helpful for me but it was, nevertheless, a joy to see the others when they arrived. They’d actually made it to the accommodation the night before but the watchman at the site had put them in another block!

Surrounded by the team and thrown headfirst into the task of teambuilding and making a show, our two weeks at bootcamp flew by. Having the weird and wonderful characters of the team around me during this period of adjustment was such a pleasure and, despite getting sunstroke (remember to hydrate!) and the emotional upheaval of missing home, we really bonded as a group and put together the first version of our show, known as ‘Sleepy Fly’.

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The team before our first show, Lillian is behind the camera for this one!

The team here in Kenya are a fantastic bunch, we have a great mix of skills and personalities. In no particular order we have:

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Coco – Juggler, clown and theatre nerd. He’s been involved with social circus projects like The Serious Road Trip [website] and was part of the PWB India 2014 team. My roommate, training and club-passing buddy throughout the tour so far, off to climb Kilimanjaro in his week off. Nutter, nice guy.

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Katie – Former student of Circomedia in Bristol, dancer, clown and undercover juggler. Katie has worked at summer camps teaching circus for the last few years and went to Sierra Leone as part of a PWB team. She has loads of energy for the kids and silliness amongst the team. Diamond.

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Lillian – Graduate of Naropa University in Colorado. A well-travelled and caring soul, bringing a wealth of knowledge of theatrical teaching and practice to the team as well as being an idea factory in the show-making process. Loves to clown and paint with the kids. A free spirit.

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Abi – Performer with Chaplin’s Circus in the UK. Abi is our tour coordinator and came here to run a project by herself last year (respect!). With a lot to organise and keep track of I am consistently amazed at the amount of energy she has left for the kids. Powerhouse.

Having these guys around me has been amazing, united by the common desire to make this project work we have really formed as a team and our differences have made us diverse and flexible. After a month of sharing a flat and the pressures of living and working in Nairobi together, we are strong. PWB attracts some wonderful people and it’s a real pleasure to be travelling and working with some of them!

The day-to-day operation of the tour is all go. We teach and/or perform 6 days a week on the projects and manage to find time to refine the show, train our individual skills and keep up with the necessities in between! Boot camp on the coast was intensely hot throughout, a very pleasant change from the British winter. Diani beach is one of the most beautiful in the world and working on the show whilst sipping from a fresh coconut was a rare pleasure!

After our time there (and a nine hour bus ride on rough roads) we came to Nairobi to begin our work in earnest. Nairobi is Kenya’s capital, home to country’s biggest slum (Kibera), awkwardly juxtaposed with the huge villas of the nation’s wealthy and powerful. A city of real contrast and unbelievable volumes of traffic.

During our two-week period of working with acrobats of The Sarakasi Trust [website] in their training and outreach projects we spent a whole lot of time on the matatus (privately owned buses, brightly decorated, playing loud music) averaging four hours a day getting in and out of town. I got used to this pretty quickly, sharing the weirdness of the experience with others certainly helps! Living and working with the same group of people every day in a new and chaotic environment has certainly not been without its challenges but it’s a credit to focus and drive of the team that all the little sticking points are quickly resolved or accommodated for the greater good of the project. It’s a great dynamic to work with.

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A view over Kibera.

Of course, all of this is about working with the kids! Over the last two weeks we have been working with our partner, The Koinonia Project [website], at one of their children’s homes called the Kivuli Centre. This is an open community centre with a pharmacy and library that also houses 35-40 rescued boys, who were formerly street kids or the children of single parents who couldn’t cope.

The boys sleep in two dorms, depending on their age and are fed and looked after by a house ‘mama’ as well as receiving lessons in drumming and acrobatics from local trainers. The boys come from a tough place and connecting with them and keeping them engaged was pretty tricky to begin with. They were prone to fight and squabble and this takes a lot of energy out of the teachers.

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Working with the boys at the Kivuli Centre.

We have very quickly got them onside and we’ve been priveleged to see some startling progress from them. Skills with the props are coming on fast; the boys are hungry to learn and pretty adept at it! They’ve been engaging really well with the theatre and clown workshops run by the team as well and their cheeky, slapstick sense of humour is really starting to emerge.

Seeing the progress of kids in this way has been a very fulfilling experience and it’s heartening after a few weeks of one-off visits to possible new locations and partners. All this is part of laying the groundwork for future tours in the country but it’s hard to leave a group of smiling faces knowing you may not see them again.

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A one-off visit to a children’s project in Kibera.

So, would I recommend going on tour with PWB? The short answer is “Heck, yes!”  if you have a skill or two to share and the time to do it.  I had considered applying for tours in previous years and always managed to make excuses about my commitments at home in the UK or my ability to contribute to a project like this.

I couldn’t have been more wrong; with the support of the team I’ve found that I have a lot to share and a lot to learn from the teachers and children I’m working alongside. Performing arts have a real power to open people up and make space for community and fun, even in deprived places. Perhaps, especially in deprived places. The work is emotionally demanding but you might just find yourself surrounded by the perfect people  both to make a real change in the world with, and to help you grow, yourself!


Our First Kenya Tour

February 3, 2016

Our story so far- inspired by words in Swahili. Written by Abi, Tour Co-ordinator

‘Safari’ : ‘Journey’

This tour was a long time in the making.  It is the first time PWB has taken a team to Kenya. I made a trip here last year as a solo teacher, visiting projects and planning the tour.  I’m super-excited to be bringing four talented teachers along with me this time!

P1080205.JPGFresh off the plane; Lillian, Katie, Joe, Abi and Coco

‘Twende!’ : Lets Go!

Arriving in sunny, sticky Mombasa on the eastern coast of Kenya, the whole team had so much drive to learn and create together; interluded only by team ‘mango eating’, and team ‘let’s swim in the sea’ time. Our manifesto included grow, share, express and PLAY! We created our show and shared skills in theatre, improv, club manipulation and acrobalance.

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Diani Beach, 30 metres from our cottage

In our spare time we went snorkling, ate coconuts and fresh fish and played in our huge garden alongside all of the monkeys including the beautiful black and white colobus monkeys and mango-stealing baboons.

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Workshops in Kibera- Africa’s second biggest slum

‘Mambo’: Hello!

We headed to Nairobi, where our first project takes place. Getting on the bus, not just any bus, the the famous Nairobi ‘matatus’; graf’ed up, pumping out reggae, afrobeat and sometimes – to our surprise – country and western! What an introduction!

IMG_5381.JPGCoco teaching at the Sarakasi youth circus

‘Sarakasi’ : Circus

Sarakasi is a centre for performing arts in Kenya and our first partner in Nairobi. They teach acrobatics and dance internally and send teachers to outreach projects. The performers here perfect their skills in acrobatics, juggling and take acro and pyramids to dizzying new heights!

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‘Kidumbuisha’ : Lets Play

We started teaching alongside the Sarakasi teachers on their outreach projects such as in a garden of Bahat Boys centre, a drop in centre for street boys, in a centre in the Kibera slum and 150 very exited kids in Kayole. it allowed us to build on our Swahili, and learn new games and songs too.

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The kids show off their pyramids overlooked by their teacher Samjee; Outreach in Kayole

‘Gerazani’ : Prison

One of our most memorable workshops was in Kamiti Maximum security prizon, after we went through all of the security and seriousness we were greeted by a group of bright eyed gents who picked up juggling so quickly!  Afterwards they showed us some of the pyramids they had learnt from Washika the acrobatics trainer from Sarakasi. We heard afterwards that some of them made their own juggling balls out of rags and sand. A truly wonderful and memorable experience

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Games with the inmates at Kamiti maximum security prizon

‘Kugawana’: Sharing

I really believe that in sharing we are stronger, at Sarakasi we did one of their acrobatic workshops, and in turn we invited them to join us in the surreal world of improvisation, mime and theatre. We also held a discussion on working with children, doing games and role-plays with the outreach teachers at Sarakasi

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Discussions on teaching at Sarakasi dome.

‘Karibu’: Welcome

Our second week was partnering with the Smiles for Change Project (formerly Sarakasi Hospital Project), bringing performing arts to disadvantaged children in Hospital and rehabilitation centres. We did a wonderful workshop to Kirigitti girls rehabilitation centre alongside Mulkasa a musician and Lilian a social worker, we taught them hula hoops, acrobalance and self defence. We also did our new and improved show at Kenyatta National Hopsital, I will never forget looking out onto 84 little smiling faces, who for a few moments forgot their pain and worries and laughed! [We are sorry but we cannot show photos of this project]

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Our biggest workshop as a team so far; 150 smiling faces! In Kayole

‘Asante Sana’ : Thankyou very much

I would like to say thank you so much to everyone that has supported this project to bring smiles to the children of Kenya, for supporting Performers Without Borders and our wonderful teachers and volunteers.

Thanks for Reading. Lots of Love, Abi and the Kenya 2016 team.

 


Working with Duniya School, Varanasi March 2014

April 14, 2014

9 a.m. in the beautiful city of Varanasi, India.

PWB team wakes up at by the side of the river Ganges, stretches its bones and proceeds to the upstairs café for the morning meeting. We sit around the table bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to plan our workshops, rehearsals for the show and have some breakfast and say “good mornin”. Then it’s off on our bicycles to workshops!

Clown Workshop DuniyaIn the mornings we worked with Duniya School, a Dutch charity, working since 1996 they’ve helped the residents of the Nagwa slum have access to health and education. Alongside this Duniya Foundation distributes blankets to widows, the infirm and local families, provide food and extra curricular activities for the kids at the school and outreach projects in the community.

Raj, Nisha and the staff at Duniya really show a great interest in the development of their children and do regular social and after school activities. This was evident from the start when the staff all joined in on the workshops, their intention to learn so they can help the children where they can. Everyday a home cooked lunch is provided to all the children (in our opinion the best tasting food in Varanasi). The PWB team decided we would give more workshops with this organisation based on our shared interests in the community spirit and commitment to children.

Warm up GamesThe teaching space at the school was small and during these sessions we would do workshops based more towards the performance aspect rather than the prop such as clowning, mime or theatre. As an extra treat- twice a week we would go to a quiet square overlooking the river Ganges. This provided us with ample space to teach some hula hoop, poi and juggling workshops. The children really enjoyed the workshops and you could see the excitement exploding inside them every morning upon our arrival. Teaching these kids was an absolute pleasure; the teachers were always on hand translating and getting involved, the children well behaved and eager to learn.

We ended up donating a good portion of our PWB kit to Duniya School knowing that they would continue to bring out the props and encourage their children to play and learn these fun new arts. We knew this was the right decision when Coco and I went to the school a couple days after the project ended to drop of some last pieces of equipment. We found the school filled with children laughing and playing with the various circus props we had donated a few days prior. This is the kind of partners that PWB are looking to work with engaged in circus skills, to explore the physical and mental potential of the children while having great fun!

Kids Walking to Workshops


PWB India 2014: Boot camp and Introduction

February 3, 2014

Nothing can really prepare you for arrival in Mumbai. Finding words to describe this city is no easy task. Crowded, noisy, polluted, smelly and chaotic but at the same time it is full of culture, beauty and friendly people. Mumbai is the wealthiest city in India and has a population of about 20 million inhabitants, of which roughly 55% live in slums / informal housing.

Streets of Mumbai

Streets of Mumbai

The divide between rich and poor is very evident here. People sleeping in the streets, is the accepted norm. Poverty unfortunately is a way of life for millions of Indians and a big reason why we are here. To work with those kids who have very little, and bring them some joy and skills that might empower them to a better future.

With us all arriving in Mumbai we had a couple of days to explore the city and adjust to this exotic new world. This gave us all some perspective on what lies ahead and the task we have set out to achieve. But before we start work with the kids, we were off to boot camp in Gokarna, a 12 hour train journey South.

We arrived in Gokarna early hours of the morning, dazed and tired from our long train journey. Awakening to our first day in Gokarna was surreal. This was not the utter chaos of the city instead we were greeted to a tropical paradise. Warm sandy beaches lined with palm trees and small restaurants. We were however not here for a holiday this was boot camp and we quickly got into a 9 – 5 routine.

Sunset Circus Jam on Kudle Beach

Sunset Circus Jam on Kudle Beach

We had two weeks in Gokarna in which we got to know each other better, creating a fun circus show that we would be performing across India and taught each other new skills through workshops. At the end of our two weeks of hard work (in paradise), our show was finally ready: The Mad Hatter’s Chai Party. We performed on the beach to an audience of about two hundred tourists and locals and used this opportunity to do some fundraising for PWB.

We managed to raise just over 14000 (approx. £140)  rupees by passing a hat around.

AND NOW!!  PWB India 2014 team have each written a short paragraph to introduce themselves:

Abi Cooper
Hi There! (In Hindi) Namaste – Mera Nam Abi. I am the coordinator of this years India tour. I perform Hula-hoop, Fire Dancing and acrobalance but my favourite is prancing around with any prop. I am so excited to start this years tour as I have so many fond memories from volunteering on the last tour. I am taking a break from teaching at Cambridge Community Circus to teach the youth of India. I am especially looking forward to teaching aerial with the Vertical Circus in Delhi. Giving smiles, energy and joy, spreading PWB circus love all around the world.

Tom Puckett
I have been performing and teaching circus arts for over 7 years. I am a juggler / acrobat. I am VERY EXCITED to be working to help bring joy and self confidence to vulnerable children in India.

Bruno Kopf
Hi I am Bruno and I am a professional fire dancer and flow artist from South Africa. I have been performing and teaching my arts for 5 years. Performance arts changed my life and gave me the self confidence to do anything. I hope to share these arts with the underprivileged children and empower them to a better future.

Andrei Cococeanu
Hi everybody! I’m Coco. I’ve been juggling for about 10 years, doing some theatre in that time, enjoying travelling, making friends across the world, performing shows. Working with people makes me happy, and I think everybody has a little performer inside them, all they have to do is bring it out and enjoy themselves.

Ashley Ferrari
Namaste! My name is Ashley and I am a circus performer specialising in Hula-Hoops. I spend a lot of time street performing. I find it richly rewarding to spread joy where it is least excepted. I hope to achieve this by teaching circus skills in India.

Jodie Cole
Hello from India! Beautiful colours, Delightful people and lots of various smells! I am here to immerse myself in all these things, in the delights of India. Dance is my life and brings me stability, joy and expression. I want to pass this on wherever I go. So here I am, loving India and taking on its challenges in equal measure and sharing life with a fabulous team and some beautiful children. Its going to be the trip of a lifetime, I can feel it

Claudio Kuzma
I’m Claudio from Berlin, I mostly do Juggling, Object manipulation and balance. I really love sharing that joy with children, to have fun with them and let them explore this amazing world of circus.

Gary Bee
Hola! My name is Gary, I am an Idiot. I come from a beautiful country in England called ‘Cornwall’. It is a very special place with many eccentric people. I like one day to be an astronaut and be the first Cornish man on the moon. I will make a sandcastle in the space dust and live happily ever after with my moon-wife and bicycle. The End.

India 2014 Team

Back: Jodie, Coco, Tom, Gary, Bruno, Claudio, Ashley
Front: Abi


PWB Nicaragua – Final Blog

April 29, 2013

By Rob Thorburn

Many parts of Central America are like a paradise on earth and Nicaragua is certainly no exception. From lazy hammock sunsets over the Pacific ocean and jungle treks to gently smoking volcano craters or beautiful rivers punctuated by waterfalls and gorges all the way to sipping piña coladas on the boulevard while being serenaded by mariachis or tasting hand-made organic chocolate made by the person standing right in front of you. Between the members of PWB Nica we’ve managed all of the above and more on top of 9 days of boot camp, 60 days of teaching and 30 shows in less than three months. We’ve seen the country from the far north to the far south, and from the Pacific west coast to the Caribbean islands off the east. We didn’t quite make it into the rainforest, but we have spent time in the 3 biggest cities, many smaller towns and villages, with a few trips into the middle of nowhere for good measure. Of course it’s not all paradise, and we’ve seen some of the darker side of life too – it’s one of the things that is unmissable on a PWB tour as it brings you in close contact with those who are pushed to the edges of society, even in a land that is fertile, beautiful, friendly and open. There’s a incredibly high poverty rate and many children live on the streets, either earning money through begging, crime or prostitution or escaping the realities of life in a bottle of glue. Even for those with homes, a lot of them have very little to look forward to in life beyond menial jobs, crowded living quarters and poor sanitation. It’s heartbreakingly sad, and all we can hope is that we bring a little seed of joy into the lives of those we work with.

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From our perspective the tour has exceeded expectations across the board – in each place the children and young people astounded us with their appetite for learning new skills and with their friendly attitude and openness towards a group of somewhat eccentric performers who descended on them with a very British sense of punctuality and structure. Fortunately there were two quick realisations on our part which made everything run smoothly. Firstly, we adjusted our Britishness to a more Latino outlook – as flexible and open as possible, and letting the tour happen to us rather than pushing to make it work exactly the way we had planned. Secondly, as we spent more time in each place we came to realise that eccentricity is not just for circus performers; the organisations we were working with were headed by individuals who are incredibly passionate, fun, intelligent, driven, absolutely in love with music, theatre and circus, and just a little bit crazy to top it off – exactly what we were looking for!

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Our mission was slightly different in the three places we focused upon. In Granada at La Escuela de Comedia y el Mimo we were working with children and young people who already have a knowledge of circus, and we were looking to give them new skills, as well as helping the school with some new ideas for how they can work as an organisation. Although we wish we’d had more time with them, it was still a great success – the young people in the core and learning groups showed a progression that was astonishing in the short time we had with them, and the organising team were very open to ideas of how to develop their festival and their funding strategy. We wish them the very best of luck for both in the future, and can’t wait to come for another edition of El Berrinche Ambiental.

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El Barrilete in Léon was an entirely different prospect –  it’s a youth project working with around 120 children from 3-18, with one lonely unicyclist among their number. Although they have some cultural activities, their main focus is as a homework and vocational skills centre; taking kids off the streets and away from child-labour situations. They took to circus incredibly quickly, and by the time we left were already incorporating it into their regular performance group – they now have stiltwalkers, acrobats, hula-hoopers and jugglers to present alongside their beautiful traditional dances, comedy sketches and giant puppets!

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In San Marcos, it seemed as if all of the things that could go well for a PWB project turned up at the same time in the same place – including hugely enthusiastic partners from Asociacion Los Quinchos as well as focused and dedicated kids, eager to soak up as much as we could give them in the time we had. The climate there was a little friendlier too, and we all revelled in the semi-rural beauty of the Barrio we lived in – after a month of Léon’s hot and bustling streets, a 2km walk to a 14 acre finca where you can pluck ripe mangos from the trees certainly puts you in a good mood to teach! Once again, the speed at which the young people learned was incredible, and the skill on display during the final show was mind-blowing after just 3 short weeks. In the time since we left, we’ve been really happy to hear that they are regularly having circus practise, and have plans to put on several shows with their new-found talents.

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A PWB project isn’t just about the work we do with our main partners – on this tour we performed in many schools and projects in and around the areas we visited, and made hundreds of connections all over the country and across Central and South America. One of our big goals was to find out more about the national social circus scene, and to try to help it to develop and connect up in whatever way we could. This aim is more long-term than the instant fun we can offer through shows and workshops, but it’s also one of the best ways we can share the PWB vision and get as many kids from every walk of life involved in something we love. We’ve made some great steps both on- and off-project, connecting up various different organisations, donating and fixing equipment in project locations as well as to a few other groups, and generally making as much noise as we can about how great circus, theatre and music can be for kids. In total we taught around 200 children and performed for closer to 4,500 – a good target to aim to beat for future PWB tours!

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We’ve made a lot of friends in the last 3 months, and to tell the truth it’s proving very hard to leave this wonderful country. It’s just the beginning of what we hope to be a long and fruitful adventure for Performers Without Borders in Nicaragua, but it feels like the end of an era – already most of the team is back in the UK, and I have just one last visit to make to all of the projects before leaving the country. As Tour Co-ordinator, I’d like to say a final huge thank you to all our supporters far and near, to all the members of the team, to the PWB founders for beginning the whole thing, to all the organisations we’ve worked with over the past three months, and most of all to the children and young people we’ve met and shared with – you make it all worthwhile.

Follow PWB Nicaragua:

PWB Twitter: @peauubee

PWB Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PerformersWithoutBorders


PWB Nicaragua 2013 – Escuela De Commedia y Mimo, Granada

April 8, 2013

By Jess Herman

Finishing the project more-or-less where we started in Granada at the school of Comedy and Mime (La Escuela De Commedia y Mimo) has an appropriate full circle feel to it. Returning to the festival site of El Berrinche to enjoy once again the Palapa play space and the ecologically built ‘Casa De Botellitas’ is the perfect end to this project. We have been in Granada for a week and half, doing what we do best – workshops, shows and playing!

We arrived in Semana Santa – the week leading up to Easter. This is the big summer holiday week in Nicaragua before the rainy season begins. Granada was a hubbub of activities, christianity and tourists. We performed a show in the Cafe Theatre of the school on three consecutive nights to raise funds for the school. The first two shows were PWB Cabarets and the last was an amalgamation of routines from us and from the young performers of the school as well as performers from a new project ran through the school in a town called Esteli. The boys from Los Quinchos were a great help by advertising the show on stilts, and not only joined Bags and Tilly for a routine, but also took part in the massive acrobatic finale to the show!

During the days of Semana Santa we were based in the school and had time to teach and play with these very talented groups of kids. Just to put things into perspective, 13 year old Brian can do back flips, juggle 5 balls and can pass 7 clubs on singles (juggler geeks out there you know how hard that is!)! It was a treat to have little structure for three days and to teach what the kids wanted to learn as opposed to having a syllabus. Skills these young performers chose to learn included poi and partner poi, slackline, hoop, club passing, 3 to 5 ball juggling, double staff, contact ball and acrobalance!

"Escuela" - School

We had two days off during which some of us went to Laguna Apoyo – a volcanic lake not too far away. As seems to happen in my time off – we found a project called ‘The Peace Project’ where they work with local kids – the leader of the project just so happens to be an ex-student from the School of Comedy and Mime! So yes, Jake and I managed to fit in another show and workshop in our time off! Wouldn’t have it any other way. We did manage to kayak around the beautiful Lake with the wonderful Matt from PWB – his fresh white skin from the UK was totally over roasted, burnt red knees despite the factor 50! Ouch!

At the beginning of last week we started a new program with our days split into three. In the mornings and late afternoons we would teach the young professional performers from the school and boys from the new project in Esteli. These four boys came to Granada for the week to learn more circus to take back with them and pass on. They were introduced to circus only 7 months ago and already have an acro-clown routine and can pass seven clubs to name just 2 of their talents! It is amazing – I am learning to juggle clubs and I just cannot believe how quickly these guys progress! Or perhaps I am particularly slow – it did take me 7 years to conquer 3 ball juggling!

Making juggling balls

In the afternoons we would teach approximately 40 kids from the local neighbourhoods. These same kids come to the school of Comedy and Mime to eat lunch, do homework and play 5 days a week. This meant that they already had some circus skills for us to build on. At the end of the week the kids presented a skill that they had learnt with us and we had a small and very entertaining show by a group of hungry Spanish Clowns!

To finish our time in Granada and indeed on the project we had one last show at the Cafe Theatre of Comedy and Mime. It was a great show with contributions from PWB (acro-staff, The Hip Hop Hoop Off, contact ball, acro and slack rope) and the young performers from the Escuela (comedy, mime, poi, unicycling, magic, acro-clowning,) as well as a combined diabolo act – Jake from PWB and Francisco from the school. The act that totally and utterly stole the show was the finale by the young people! We are talking various three people high pyramids and other shapes – one person basing 5 people at once (a 6 person dragon – does that mean anything to you? Let your imagination run wild), jumps and backflips over and under other people doing rolls and tumbles and handstands! Remember these kids are aged from 8 to 16 – I have been having some small lessons in acrobatics from them!

This brings us to the present moment – it is the last day of the project – we are organizing the equipment to donate and packing up the PWB Nica Box. Tomorrow the strangest thing will happen to me – I will be a tourist. I am lucky as I will not be returning to the UK until June. My original idea was to go and see and travel and do and be in Columbia or other countries nearby(ish). Volunteering my last three months has been epic and profound on different levels. Obviously volunteering is a way to really connect with the society you visit and an opportunity to give and therefore receive. A chance to understand more deeply the culture and make human connections and friendships.

Song session

I have little desire to chill for the next two months (although those who know me know I am not very good at relaxing!). I have already organized a show and a workshop on my way south to Costa Rica on Tuesday! I have been looking into more volunteering but in reality I think practicing some circus on a beach will be good for me – for a short while at least! I will visit some of the other social circus activities in Central America and might look at working on farms too.
Volunteering abroad as opposed to traveling – that is a whole different blog!

PWB Nicaragua 2013 – it has been an epic experience. It is all too true that you get out what you put in. This trip has sparked a relationship between myself and Central America and it is powerful to know that I can gift circus wherever I go. I hope that PWB Nicaragua will long continue, as from where I sit and sweat, this has been a tremendously successful project that has completely encompassed what PWB is all about…Seeing children grow in confidence, develop not only circus skills but teamwork and creativity, watching them achieve things they didn’t think were possible and through this become empowered to try more new things. We have left them with the opportunity to further explore their potential through circus and have heard that children from both Leon and San Marcos have already performed or have performances coming up…I can’t wait to see what the next year brings, watch this space for Nicaragua 2014 news!

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