In 2008 when I was spinning about Asia with my hula hoops and I met Atira (https://www.arttohealing.org) who was doing art therapy with sex trafficked girls & women in Asia. I asked her if hula hooping could be good therapy. She said yes.
It planted the idea that maybe I too could help people with the tool being hula hooping. Little did I know that this was what they called “Social Circus”.
I first got involved in social circus through teaching kids with different abilities through the Active After Schools Communities initiative, during school hours. This was in my first years of teaching hula hooping and this was my first experience in this area. It was certainly challenging. I still didn’t know this was called Social Circus.
January 2012, I joined a bunch of international circus & artistic performers to do Sparks Circus (https://sparkcircus.org/about/spark-history/).
Spark Circus works with kids mostly from Burma living on the Thai/Burma border in small schools, orphanages and refugee camps. I had a magical experience, my first time working along side & performing with a troupe. We would teach workshops & perform a show by day and then Fire / LED shows by night. Six weeks – 2 weeks devising & performing fundraising shows then a month up at Mae Sot.
I then journeyed to Cambodia to do my own little Social Circus project with Green Gecko Projects (https://www.greengeckoproject.org). On that 2008 journey in Asia I had travelled through parts of Cambodia and had gone out to visit Green Gecko and took my hoops that I was travelling with (there were no collapsible travel hoops back then). They said that it was possible to come to teach the kids. Took me a few years but I came back! With fundraising money I bought pipe and made up 50 Hula Hoops in the Hoop Factory (Dad’s garage) and left them with a friend in Bangkok while I did the Spark Circus project. In Bangkok I bought hoop tape and bling in different colours of the rainbow.
The theme of the show at the end of the project would be “The Colours of the Rainbow”, using the Jessie J song because I love the meaning of the song - embracing diversity of people. All together I taught 59 kids over a 5week period with only 1 or 2 hoop sessions with each group each week then it culminated in a show for their families & friends.
I showed the kids how to covered the hoops and I didn’t flinch at all when it wasn’t smooth & perfect. I bought t-shirts & tights for the costumes and taught them how to do the cutting and weaving. Each age group had a different colour and had a special time to shine and we all did the chorus together. We only had the day of the performance to rehearse together and it was pretty much a disaster. But when it came time to put on the show they nailed it! It was an incredible experience, the kids were so amazing, they were like sponges they absorbed it all. While I was waiting for them to come to class I would practice & a kid would ask “oh how do you do that?”. I’d teach them and the next day 10 more kids were doing that move.
Now I knew part of what Social Circus means.
Back in Australia…
I also taught adults with different abilities and was involved in a couple of productions, a Moment To Shine with a group out West Sydney and Circumspecto with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance.
Circumspecto – Can You See Me? Theatre production at the Sydney Opera House 2013 https://youtu.be/U-kTWV-F1aw
Running workshops through the Inner West Council with my sister as The La La Sistarz receiving funding to run free accessible workshops so that finance was not a barrier.
Life often takes you in different directions and you go with the flow and follow a path but it seems I spun back to my Social Circus Road and a little dream of mine to work in Aboriginal remote community came true in 2018. I worked with the Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation (WYDAC) http://wydac.org.au/ delivering circus programs and I will be going back this year in 2019.
I love this kind of work and the future brings more learning, more diversity, more challenges… bring it on!