by Colin Ganges ’16
In the summer of 2015 I joined the circus.
The Trenton Circus Squad to be exact. I had decided to volunteer in my neighborhood rather than participate in a school service trip because I felt that there was a real need in my own community. I was unsure about where I could help, but knew I wanted to interact with children.
I chose the Trenton Circus Squad because I thought it was a very unique idea, would give me the chance to learn new skills, and help in my neighborhood. The organization’s goal is to attract low income teens to help entertain children close to home. They also believe that performing arts are an effective tool to teach lifelong habits such as self-reliance and physical well-being.
Photo courtesy of Steve Sarafian
Before working with the team I had never participated in any circus nor did I have any skills associated with the circus. While there I learned basic acrobatics and juggling.
Our days were divided in two—the first half of the day was devoted to skills training and the second half to our upcoming performance. This allowed me to try all different forms of entertainment and find which one suited me the best. After deciding to focus on acrobatics and juggling I was able to practice those skills the rest of the days in preparation for our upcoming shows.
While practicing my particular routines I was nervous that my first show was in a few days, and all the skills I was planning on showing I had learned less than a week ago. We would run though the show three to four times a day trying to figure out the order of the performances.
People walking by on the streets would see us practicing and would stop in to watch for a few minutes. I would see children run in, excited just to watch us perform.
My most memorable moment came when a homeless man walked in to watch. The man who ran the Circus Squad saw him and went over to talk for a few minutes. He walked away and came back with a red clown nose for the homeless man. He put the nose on smiling and laughing while he walked out the door, even more excited than the children who would stop by. This showed me how important this community service was and how it could completely change someone’s day.
Another moment when our effect on the community was evident in the moments following the shows. After our performances we would teach the children and the adults in the audience basic skills. Everyone would be divided into five different stations with the audience cycling through.
I either taught juggling or the tight rope. At first I was very worried because I remembered how nervous I was while learning these skills and now I had to teach others. The children were so excited to try that I didn’t focus on how new I was, but on how happy they were. Some chose to try every skill possible while others stuck to one skill and didn’t want to leave until they could master it.
This opportunity for community service allowed me to help my community while getting outside my comfort zone to entertain others. I think back on how much fun I had and how this community service helped me as well as the children for whom I was there to perform and make smile.
Want to join the circus? Just ask me.