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Circus Arts in Costa Rica

A few weeks ago one of PAA’s dance volunteers from Canada, Tiana Prince, returned from our Circus Arts program in Costa Rica. She says:

“As an Arts Educator, the Circus Arts program in Costa Rica provided me with a great professional development opportunity. I was given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to infuse my art with teaching and learning experiences in a beautiful new setting, at once exciting and challenging. My understanding of arts education has been broadened by my amazing experiences in Costa Rica, and will undoubtedly inform my future arts projects and teaching practice in many ways.”

Below is an excerpt from Tiana’s journal about her time working with the circus group in San Isidro:

“Finally, we arrive at a house with an outdoor gymnasium behind it. The gymnasium has a concrete, pot-holed floor, two walls, a tin roof. It’s about noon, so I’m grateful for the shade from the sun. Once inside, the tattooed Tico places his snake in a spare tire lying in the corner. The children follow him over in a parade of giggles, and then, one by one, peer into the tire and scream as if they did not expect to see the snake there. More giggles. I watch this for a while and smile. When I turn back towards the door, more children have arrived. A pair of brothers with tight curls and silver teeth catches my eye. I can smell their energy. It’s thicker here, like dust in the atmosphere that I wish I could gather in a glass jar to sprinkle over my students at home.

The Germans call the children into a circolo. This is how we always begin and end, holding hands. I lead a silent stretch, ending in a mariposa, because that’s a word I know. And just like at the studio at home where I teach little ballerinas the same pose, I ask the children which colours their butterflies are. As we go around the circle, I realize that Marie is the only girl, the only pink butterfly. The rest are blue, black, red, grey even. This ratio of many boys to few girls seems common here in our bi-weekly classes at Cocori.

We get up to dance, and the boys who choose my station over acrobatics are violently enthusiastic, yelling in lispy Spanish from missing teeth, and always grabbing at or hanging off my arms and legs. I teach them a fast-paced combo, learning quickly to leave no time between steps or they will begin to playfully beat each other up. It’s absolute chaos; they fall often, scraping their knees, but they pack their cuts with dust to stop the bleeding and continue dancing, unchanged. Perhaps this dusty remedy is their secret energy provider. Each time we repeat the dance combination, we all end in different spots, at a different point in the music, and before I can even hit the pause button, the boys are all squealing “Otra vez, otra vez!” So we stomp around on the dirty ground, again and again, so that it never settles, the energy dust.” -March 20, 2014

Written by Tiana Prince
Performing Arts Abroad alumna and Dance Educator

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