Imagine a tiger, caught in wilderness and locked in a space the size of your bedroom. Better yet, imagine yourself being locked up for a couple of years -- not a solitary confinement, but still not allowed to run wherever you want to run, sleep whenever you feel like it and learn whatever interests you. Would you be able to fulfill yourself in such a place? Would you feel grateful when released, or rather desoriented and bitter?
Today we want to tell you about one of our projects and its successes: a circus group in a closed institution for boys who commited minor crimes like trying to steal some food or setting a car on fire. The group is called "Circus behind the fence". For a few years we have been working with these kids: conducting circus trainings three times a week at the closed institution where they spend 1 to 3 years (depending on the gravity of offense), trying to interest them in something new, providing the risk and the physical challenge they're so fond of. The circus project is extremely popular at the boys' institution, they all choose to attend at the beginning of each academic year, but by the end only the most determined and disciplined ones stay in the group. What they can perform after a few trainings, without any fear or shyness, is unbelievable. And in the end of this school year we managed to provide the kids an opportunity to show their progress and creativity at our Open Stage event at the circus. The kids came and performed in public, before the eyes of all the Upsala-Circus groups, trainers and staff, parents and volunteers, and most important -- a professional jury (St.Petersburg theatre and circus artists) that was evaluating and discussing each performance.
Twelve boys from Circus Behind the Fence worked to create their circus act together with their trainers. This allows them to feel their own importance, to improve their self-esteem and to realize there is another path in their future, other than getting released, hanging on the streets again, skipping school, commiting another crime and getting locked up in a juvenile prison. The boys are now real circus artists, and they will perform in September at our International Festival Flying Kids along with young professional companies and artists from Europe.
Thank you for your support of our project "Alternative lifestyle for Russian children"! Together we are making visible changes to our community.
Once upon a time our Circus was one of the smallest circuses in the world: we had no tent, we only had one trainer, and no more than 5 kids. 13 years later we have two circus tents, a dozen staged performances and our former artists who became our trainers. And through this journey we always had the brightest example that we could refer to: the biggest and the most famous circus in the world once also started as a small company. We are talking about Cirque du Soleil, of course.
Year after year the little artists of Upsala-Circus watched the Cirque du Soleil shows and admired the jugglers and the acrobats, the dancers and the clowns. We even went to Moscow by train to see a Varekai show. Next year we met the Cirque du Monde (the social branch of Cirque du Soleil) representatives and told them about our little circus. And the next year our little artists were invited to see the grand rehearsal of the show. One year later the whole Upsala-Circus team was invited to see what was going on behind the curtains, to talk to the Cirque du Soleil artists after the show. Little jugglers and acrobats of Upsala-Circus were getting closer and closer to their heroes, the people whose movements they have been following on stage with their eyes and mouths wide open. It is very important for the children’s development and self-esteem, to see somebody they adore and respect so close.
One more year has passed, and our artists had an exclusive workshop with Cirque du Soleil artists: they did acro together and learned some new tricks. We thought that was the best real circus experience our children could ever have.
And this year we were proved wrong.
This year the Cirque du Soleil artists from the Dralion show came to our tent.
They saw the Niece show of Upsala-Circus and our little artists got standing ovation.
Imagine our little artists, our little Anton, who was cheered and admired by the best circus artists in the world.
After the show we made Russian pelmeni (dumplings) together and ate them all and there was so much fun and laughter and real closeness that can only appear between people sharing the same ideas.
Our little artists circus dream came true! There's always a place for magic in the circus.
"It's Neverland" - that was the first thought I have got when I visited Upsala-Circus in one cold rainy day in Saint-Petersburg.
Larisa - the leader and trainer of young artists invited me inside the circus tent. There was dark, empty and rather cold. I saw trampoline and ropes all around, clubbells, big balls and other stage property I have no idea how to name it. I watched all this stuff thinking: how cool it must be to be a circus artist... I imagined children"s laughter, clowns and acrobatic tricks that amaze public, applause... I imagined young talented kids that have chosen to be an artist than to hang out with friend on the streets. That was before I saw performance and meet every artist in person.
Month later I spent 10 incredible days with Upsala Circus artists. And I know now that in real life you could be outsider, weird, not like other teens, different, slow-minded... But here in circus you are an artist. You have team and trainer, you have responsibilities. All kids in Upsala have different backgrounds. Some of them have alcoholic parents, some of them are adopted, other came from large family or from the streets...
Upsala Circus its not just sport classes, its a chance for them to get out from vulnerable difficult life situation, a chance to prove everybody, to believe in yourself, to find another person inside yourself: strong, beautiful, talented... No matter that you study in correction shcool and your classmates think you're weird. No matter that you have to spent more than 2 hours to get to the circus. No matter that you have Down Syndrome and can't even read.
Every training in Upsala Circus is a fight with dark past and unclear future, its a chance to escape real, so complicated life and find joy of being part of a team, being able to do something special, being special.
It's Neverland for those who became adults so early due to life circumstances... Its a place to be child once again.
"THE NEPHEW" Performance with Anton "special child" in main part:
We're happy to tell you that with the support of our donors, our partners and the Committee for Culture in St.Petersburg, we were able to organize another annual festival for kids and grown-ups Flying Children in September 2013.
It is a kind of festival that demonstrates that the social theatre and circus projects, and projects that work with children, or with people with disabilities, can be as splendid and popular as the professional ones.
This year our circus tent welcomed a children's circus from Estonia, a professional art company from France, a non-traditional circus from Moscow, and of course our own show - "The niece" - where the main role is played by a wonderful and bright artist with a Down syndrome.
The festival space was even more fun than the last year: the visitors could participate in circus and percussion workshops, read children books and have cupcakes and other food. And as usual, one whole day of the three festival days was dedicated to our audience from social projects: a free show was organized for underprivileged families and children from orphanages and children's homes.
Thank you for making the colorful circus world more accessible for everybody!
We are proud to tell you about our new circus show based on the drawings of a well-known St.Peterburg artist Alexander Voitsekhovsky. The main role in the show is played by a very special Upsala-Circus artist: a 9-year-old Anton, a boy with Down syndrome who is a member of our Special Child group. This show is Anton's first experience of being on stage, in front of the audience, in the stage lights. And inspite of all the difficulties that Anton and his trainers met during the rehearsals, Anton is truly the star of the show, and he draws all the attention to himself when he is on stage.
After the premiere in June, the circus group went on tour to Europe for 1.5 months, all 9 artists of the show including Anton (to ease his experience in the tour far from home, his trainer from the Special Child group came with him). They have already visited France and England, and are now on their way to Luxembourg and Germany.
We are extremely thankful to all our donors and friends, who made this show possible: the props, the costumes and the special effects cost a lot, but the show is always the high point of our work with children. It is during those moments on stage that the children realize they can bring joy to others, that they are respected and admired by other children and adults, their own parents and trainers.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.