Most summer camps plan something special for the last day of the session — carnival rides, special foods, water slides, etc. The Kaiserman JCC’s summer day camp, Camp Kef (“fun” in Hebrew), closed out its 2013 session with something a little more unusual: a circus that featured performances by the campers themselves.
The shows, which took place on Aug. 15 and 16 in the Kaiserman’s gym, were the result of a collaboration between the camp and Circus of the Kids, a Florida-based organization that has been teaching circus routines to children for 31 years.
“I was looking for something different that had never been done before at Kaiserman, something that could help the kids build confidence and self-esteem,” explained camp director Marci Rubin. After reading about Circus of the Kids on a national JCC listserv, Rubin knew she had found what she was looking for.
The circus is, indeed, of the kids. The organization provided instructors to show the participants how to do their acts during an intensive weeklong training process that involved teaching new skills like roller skating, trapeze work and acrobatics. The training left some of the campers wondering if they had done the right thing by signing up to perform.
“The first couple of days, the kids were complaining — they were sore, they wanted to quit,” Rubin recalls with a laugh. “Then the instructors put the kids in their costumes — and everything changed” — proving the maxim that there is nothing like a little spandex to help you get in the mood to perform in front of an audience
The hour-long shows featured 11 different performances, including the trapeze, hula hoops, clowns and bicycle acrobatics.
While Rubin is thrilled by the response the circus received from audiences, she says that the most gratifying part of the experience has been to see the positive impact the week has had on the campers. She tells of how one camper, Natanel Solomonov, who performed on the bikes, fell off his bike during one performance. “He was about to cry, but then he got back on his bike and finished his routine. The crowd loved it, and his mom said she had never seen him have as much confidence as he did right then.”
While Rubin was unsure about whether or not the circus would be a one-time-only offering, she said that the crush of kids and parents asking her about next year's program has convinced her. "We will definitely do it again," she said.