Never mind the class clown, an entire circus has taken over the classroom.
And the students in this Kwantlen Park Secondary program get school credits – whether they walk on stilts, juggle balls, spin plates, twirl a poi (a tailed paper fish), balance on a “rola bola” or play in comedy skits in small, twittering groups.
“They’re juggling almost every day,” says Grade 12 student Claudia Bédard, 17, a veteran of Cirque Surrey who gives advice to her acrobatic acolytes on stilts while perfecting her own juggling. “It’s really an open class.”
She joined the program in Grade 10 when it was a pilot project at the school.
Two years later, it’s a fully credited performing arts class made up of mostly Grade 10 students – with a focus on the show-me skills of magicians, mimes, roving performers and actors.
Amid the free-range activity and noise in the school theatre, guest instructor and juggler/entertainer Mike Battie points to a small group that have a specific goals in mind: A skit based on Idol-style competition.
“They’re practising their juggling because they’re doing scenes that have juggling integrated into the scenes.”
After the group rehearses their skit, the students get back into their random melee: Cassandra Tobin and Katarina Annas take turns on stilts while Hannah Yang spins plates on a stick and Bédard concentrates on twirling her poi.
The program, partly funded by the City of Surrey, officially started in February – previous audition-based Cirque Surrey versions were experimental, with serious performers who performed at community events such as Winterfest, the Fusion Festival and Canada Day.
This year, it’s intended for Grade 10 students of all skill levels, says Kwantlen Park Secondary teacher Laurie Brazzill.
Students can focus on either their acting or roving skills to connect with the public.
“It’s a really neat way to involve some of the students who are not as verbal as some of the actors are,” says Brazzill.
Outside of class, the Cirque Surrey students have had the opportunity to practice their roles at local venues, including roving performances at the Party for the Planet at the Central City Plaza on April 27.
Next up for Cirque Surrey: Roving performers at The Surrey Children’s Festival, which takes place May 23-25 at Bear Creek Park.
The Surrey Children’s Festival
The ninth-annual Surrey Children’s Festival runs May 23 and 24 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and May 25 from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Bear Creek Park, 13750 88 Ave.
This year’s line-up of performers ranges from a preschool performance from Australia, Grug, and Alberta circus performers The Chairmen.
Medicine Bear is dance theatre from Toronto, while Grand Dérangement gets kids moving with Acadian music from Nova Scotia.
The Spirit of Harriet Tubman from Ontario and a film from the U.K., The Itch of the Golden Nit, round out festival ticketed performances.
Six ticketed headline performances are $10 each and an all-access pass is available on Saturday for $12 to all the performances (subject to availability) and activities on site. Entrance to the festival is free, as are many community performances and art activities.
Tickets are on sale at the Surrey Arts Centre box office or by calling 604-501-5566
For full details, visit www.surrey.ca/childrensfestival