Mike Hirschbach

 

HIGH IMPACT CIRCUS & THEATRICS



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Last updated at 6:47 AM on 03/07/07

STÉPHANE MASSINON

The trick: to open possibilities
Circus Circle aimed at helping young people


On the surface, it's learning to juggle. Deeper down, it's learning to walk the tightrope.

A new program, called Circus Circle, will launch today, offering at-risk young adults the chance to learn how to perform circus tricks.

Those people, ages 16 to 30, will be able to drop in two afternoons a week to learn from a Cirque du Soleil-trained performer. At first, they'll learn to juggle balls. Later, they face harder challenges such as a unicycle, acrobatics or a tightrope.

Mike Hirschbach, who toured with the famed group for two years, will head it up.

"I have to say, it really works. Not for everybody - I have yet to come across a program that works for everybody - but it is one that is really of interest to youth," he said.

"That's because circus work is interesting and it's physically demanding," Hirschbach said. "It's just off-kilter enough so that it really appeals to kids. It uses their energy and it gives them, naturally, that sense of accomplishment and of discipline. The comparison I often make is to the skateboarding community. You see that same kind of real interest, passion and determination."

Having trained people around the world through Cirque du Soleil's Cirque du Monde, he has seen the program teach something that's interesting on the surface, but really has more to it than performance tricks.

Once the program gets off the ground, Cirque du Monde, a subsidiary that does social work, will take over.

The program, Hirschbach said, is about having fun, building confidence and learning to trust.

"This isn't just about kids learning circus skills, it's also about them coming into contact with adults who can take them in an interesting direction. For some of these kids in these programs, this is going to be the first time they had a helpful, positive relationship with an adult in a long time," he said.

"As their self-image and as their roles start to change, they sometimes want to explore something else. That might mean going back to school, finding work, exploring ways of getting off the street or reconciling with their families. There's lots of different possibilities. That's what this program really is about; it's about opening up possibilities," he said.

The program runs in the basement at St. Matthew's Church, at the corner of Spring Garden Road and Barrington Street, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

smassinon@hfxnews.ca

 
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