Circus Harmony 'Quarantraining' During Pandemic
Why circus during a pandemic? Jessica Hentoff, the artistic/executive director of Circus Harmony explains, "Circus has always been about joy, triumph, and laughter demonstrated through strength, flexibility, and balance! Circus Harmony is about supporting each other and realizing we are all connected. We've always taught our students to be creative and resilient. All the life lessons we teach in our school- especially persistence, responsibility, and teamwork- are exactly what is important now, in the middle of a pandemic!"
Circus Harmony has the reserves to be able to pay their teaching artists through May. Like so many non-profits, they are seeking donations but recognize that food and health concerns are much bigger needs, especially right now. Circus Harmony has switched its classes to an online format to keep their students connected and in shape. They are calling these Quarantraining classes and range from preschool to juggling to hard core conditioning. Students and circus friends from all over the world - from Australia to Germany to Canada and from 3-year olds in St. Louis to 68-year olds in New York City - are joining in to both participate and offer classes.
Currently, the classes are posted every day on the Circus Harmony Facebook page at www.facebook.com/circusharmony. You need to message them to confirm your identity to get the passwords. As they add classes, coaches, and participants, they plan to move their Quarantraining information to their website at www.circusharmony.org. Until they can see people in person, they continue to use circus to help people to be strong, flexible, creative and well-balanced during the pandemic and beyond!
Many circus schools are offering online classes now through Zoom, Facebook Live and YouTube. Some charge and some, like Circus Harmony ask for donations. "We wanted to use an interactive platform so that our coaches could make corrections and our students could stay connected to see and talk to each other," Hentoff points out. "It's important to stay active right now. In this time of separation, it's even more important that we stay connected!" Circus Harmony also has one fun but challenging Quarantraining Stretch-along on their YouTube channel.
Circus Harmony is a social circus school located inside City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. Social circus means they use the teaching and performing of circus arts to motivate social change. Circus school means they teach a variety of circus arts to people 3-93. They works with over 1200 children a year. They teach children throughout the St. Louis metropolitan region. Their location inside of City Museum allows them to present over 700 shows a year. On Saturday, March 14, the Museum was still open and they were still running classes and shows. By Sunday March 15, it was clear they had to shut down to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Circus Harmony "teaches the art of life through circus education." Young people are learning to not only flip, fly and fling, they also learn important life skills such as focus, persistence, and teamwork. Learning circus with others teaches trust, responsibility and cooperation. "Perhaps the most important experience for children in their programs is that they have the opportunity to meet and interact with children from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds than their own.
Hentoff feels that, "Circus folks, whether they are 8th generation or new circus students, learn to be creative problem solvers." When the pandemic started to shut the world down, she was tracking her students, some of whom were touring around the world. Two were in Moscow with Cirque du Soleil, one of her sons was touring in France with an Australian circus. Others were in Germany, Florida, and Canada. "I feel like we were all playing musical chairs," Hentoff said. "When the music stopped, you had to stay where you were." Of the two in Russia, one made it to Montreal, one made it to St. Louis and tried to get to Vancouver but the border closed. Her son made it back to Australia. His circus company has said they can pay their people, at least in part, for a year. Hentoff also messaged a friend there who is part of a multi-generation traditional circus. Like all circus people, her friend offered any help her son may need. "Circus people are always there for each other," she points out. "That's a circus lesson everyone can use!"