Wizbang's 'social circus' builds skills and connections

A scene from Wizbang Circus Theatre's Free Circus Day at Coventry PEACE Campus. [photo courtesy Danielle Tilk]

On May 21, Danielle and Jason Tilk of Cleveland Heights' Wizbang Circus Theatre, a 2021 FutureHeights Mini-Grant recipient, brought their third Free Circus Day for kids and teens to Coventry PEACE Campus. There, 16 kids, ages 8–15, spent the day learning prop balancing, plate spinning, hula-hoop tricks, juggling, stilt walking, unicycling, and aerial arts, and enjoyed a healthy lunch provided by Tommy's restaurant.

Wizbang's Free Circus Day started in 2018, in the open space on Lee Road, bringing together a large group of neighborhood kids for the first time. An hour in, those who were once strangers were laughing together while juggling. At the end of the day, e-mails, numbers, and group selfies were shared. A bond was formed—all under the umbrella of what is known as "social circus."

Social circuses have been established in schoolyards, immigration camps, and communities worldwide, utilizing circus arts as a medium for furthering social justice, individual wellness and human awareness. Social circus practitioners support students as creative change-makers through the collective development of self-esteem, solidarity, and trust. 

Circus activities are all-inclusive and non-competitive, and have been proven to increase memorization, concentration, self-esteem, social/emotional well-being, physical awareness, and focus. Juggling is scientifically proven to be helpful for those with ADHD, dyslexia and dysphraxia.

Danielle Tilk currently teaches at Wizbang Circus Theatre on Lee Road, and provides afterschool programs for schools in the CH-UH and Cleveland Metropolitan school districts.

She has also created programs for Ruffing Montessori and Lawrence schools, and for the Jewish Family Service Association of Cleveland, where she developed activities for adults with cognitive impairments, mental illness, and autism spectrum disorders.

For more information about Wizbang's programs and performances, visit www.wizbangtheater.com.

Sarah Wolf

Sarah Wolf, the community-building programs manager at FutureHeights, compiled this article based on information provided by Danielle Tilk.

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Volume 15, Issue 7, Posted 12:41 PM, 06.27.2022