Four Of Circus Harmony's Flying Children Land At Cirque Du Soleil!
"Circus didn't change my life. It saved my life," says Melvin Diggs, a St. Louis native who is currently touring the world with Cirque du Soleil. Melvin and three other young urban St. Louisans are all alumni of St. Louis' only social circus school, Circus Harmony. In addition to Melvin, three other Circus Harmony students are touring with the renowned Cirque du Soleil!!
"It's just amazing. I'm so proud of, thrilled and excited for them,' said Jessica Hentoff, the Artistic/Executive director of Circus Harmony. "Circus Harmony is a very small school but we have had a rather significant impact on the social circus and now the professional circus world!"
Social circus is an intervention tool used to work with youth at risk. For Circus Harmony it means they use the teaching and performing of circus arts to motivate social change by building character in individuals and building bridges between communities. Their performance troupe, the St. Louis Arches, was founded in 1989. Over the years, the students have become so adept at advanced circus arts that Circus Harmony is now also known as one of the leading pre-professional circus schools in America.
Three young men, Melvin Diggs, Sidney 'Iking' Bateman, and Terrance 'T-Roc' Robinson are all touring with Cirque du Soleil's show, Luzia. Currently in Vancouver, they next go to London and Moscow. Chauncey Kroner, is in Montreal rehearsing for Cirque du Soleil's new holiday show, 'Twas the Night Before which opens in Chicago and then in NYC . From their St. Louis City neighborhoods to these international destinations is quite a journey!
Their journeys started at Circus Harmony. They all came to the circus from different paths. Melvin started with an internship from a local Boys and Girls Club where he worked in the snack bar next to the circus ring. Melvin quickly decided that he would rather be flipping in the ring than making popcorn outside the ring! Sidney was assigned a mentor at his middle school who found out he liked to tumble and brought him to see a show. When he saw the mats he couldn't resist trying them.Terrance was actually found tumbling down the street by Circus Harmony director, Jessica Hentoff, when she chose to drive a different way to work one day. And Chauncey was a boy who liked to jump on of backyard trampoline and when he needed a place to be during the summer, a neighbor suggested Circus Harmony .
All four boys found a home and a sense of family at Circus Harmony. They found a place where they could be successful which they had not found anywhere else. Sidney says, "It was a place where I could be free and be myself without any judging. I loved the feeling it gave me to perform. I loved the security and safety it gave that I didn't have at home or in my neighborhood."
None of them had any idea that they would go on to international circus careers! It is remarkable that three of them attended prestigious Canadian circus colleges upon graduation from Circus Harmony! Sidney and Melvin attended the Ecole Nationale de Cirque in Montreal, Terrance went to Ecole de Cirque de Québec in Quebec City, Chauncey had been performing, training, and teaching at Circus Harmony
Sidney, Melvin, and Terrance have already toured the word with other circus companies. Chauncey is just starting his professional circus career but has already performed twice at the Kennedy Center - once with Circus Harmony and once as a special guest with South Africa's Zip Zap Circus! He also performed for President Obama at the White House.
Whenever they are home, they come to Circus Harmony and help the next generation. They help teach tricks, choreograph acts, and just serve as positive role models for the current generation of flying children. In Sidney's words, " This great life, these great life lessons that I've learned implement into my life now. They are a big reason why I'm considered so successful in my field. I give my time to Circus Harmony. I come back and work with the kids. I do what I can so that the youth can follow in my footsteps if they want to. It would be wrong if I didn't do anything at all."
Circus Harmony is holding their annual fundraiser, the Juggling Ball, at City Museum on November 9. Tickets are available at www.circusharmony.org and proceeds go to support the Flying Children's Scholarship Fund.Sidney, Melvin, Terrance, and Chauncey are just four of the students launched by Circus Harmony who happen to have landed with the most prestigious circus company in the world! The next international circus star may just be in need of a circus class scholarship.
There are other ways to support Circus Harmony's Scholarship Fund. They sell their Defy Gravity Coffee both online and at their shows and donations to the Fund can be made online as one time or sustaining donations.. The Flying Children Scholarship Fund gives children an opportunity that may never even have occurred to them.
From backstage at Cirque du Soleil, Melvin now says, "Without Circus Harmony I would have never known anything about circus or had the opportunity to pursue it. In return, Circus gave me my first foot steps toward the correct direction in life. To this day I am still on that path Circus Harmony opened for me. With a full heart, I can say I'm currently living out my passion every day because of that opportunity I was offered so many years ago!"
About Circus Harmony - Circus Harmony, St. Louis' only social circus, teaches the art of life through circus education. They work to build character and expand community for youth of all ages, cultures, abilities, and backgrounds. Through the teaching and performing of circus arts, they help people defy gravity, soar with confidence, and leap over social barriers, all at the same time. To learn more, visit www.circusharmony.org.