Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Circus Update, With Thanks

Someone asked me the other day how long the Mermaid Girl has been doing circus and I added it up and realized it's been almost four years, so that would be nearly half her life. She probably doesn't remember a time before circus class, but I do, and I remember the feeling of, oh! this is the right thing for her! when she started. She'd always been limber and athletic, from a baby, and it was evident early on that she'd be happiest if she did something with all that physicality, and she liked ballet and gymnastics okay, but not especially much, and plus with both of them there's the long-term worry about body image.

But circus, for her, has been very close to juuust right: the right mix of discipline and fun, of performance and athleticism, of things she's good at and things that are a challenge for her. One of the nice aspects of my schedule this year has been that I've been able to take her to her circus class every week. It's three hours long, so I usually spend some of the time on errands, but I often stay around for the first hour or so and I've gotten to see her do just about all the stations at some point.

I've seen her climb high up the rope, as she's been able to do for years now, but then let herself down hand-under-hand with a flingy showy flourish of each arm that was new and very showmanlike, and I've seen her wrap herself up in a complicated pattern on the tissu, and then let herself down so that she flips and flops like a Chinese yo-yo and lands safely on the mat. I've seen her bend herself into an upside-down U shape to form the corner of a pyramid, with other kids leaning on her, and I've seen her work on an act on the triple trapeze with a girl in her group, the two of them swinging and hanging from their knees and pulling themselves up in unison. I've seen her do tumbles and flips and get praised for them, and have realized in a flash that the jumping and flipping she does on the couch and on our bed isn't just goofing off, but real practice, that she's practicing actual moves and techniques towards a goal, and that her coaches can see it pay off.

And I've seen her struggle, too. Some kids come to class on their own unicycles, their parents holding the door for them as they wheel themselves in, but unicycling isn't MG's thing; given the choice, she'd be happy to drop that part of class. But because it's part of the core program, she doggedly works on it every week, and is starting to get to the point where she doesn't have to hug a wall or railing every second. Juggling is hard for her too, but she had a breakthrough last week, and I was there to see it happen: she was tossing three scarves, and suddenly got the hang of the rhythm she needed to use to keep them all in the air, one after another, and she kept them going for six juggles in a row. Her juggling coach, a big gruff guy who's the boss of the whole class and one of the head coaches of the school, and who she was scared of until recently, got really excited about it, and at the end of class, when all the small groups gather on the mat together for one last wrap-up, he announced her accomplishment and everyone applauded.

That wrap-up at the end of each class is one of my favorite things about circus. One of the coaches always thanks the students for their hard work, and then asks them to stop and think for a minute and remember to be thankful: for their families, and for this wonderful space that they have to work in.

She's an exceptional teacher, that coach; she's known MG since the circus camp she did back when we first moved, the summer before last, and a couple of days ago the Renaissance Woman e-mailed her to ask about leotard suppliers. She wrote back with the information and with some unexpected, complimentary, thoughtful observations of the Mermaid Girl: her sense of purpose, her intellect, and her kindness to other students. That meant a lot to us.

Anyway, I'm not celebrating Thanksgiving this week, but every week when the coach does that ritual at the end of class, I'm thankful, too: that the Mermaid Girl has this class, and that she has these teachers who appreciate and push and know her.


Blogger Tall Kate said...

Wow! This sounds like a great class, and a great fit for your daughter. It's always rewarding to watch our kids thrive.

10:50 AM  
Blogger MsJess said...

Awesome! I asked becuase I do a bit of circus stuff now - mostly trapeze and some part of me wishes I could have gotten started when I was a kid.

Oh and the upside down U shape is called a bridge.

10:47 PM  
Blogger liz said...

Totally awesome! Is it small of me to be jealous?

7:13 AM  

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