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Getting kids in the ring

It has been at least 10 years since flying trapeze artists and twisting aerial acrobats have swung through Whitehorse. And that's not because it's too far for the circus caravan to travel. They just haven't been invited.

It has been at least 10 years since flying trapeze artists and twisting aerial acrobats have swung through Whitehorse. And that’s not because it’s too far for the circus caravan to travel.

They just haven’t been invited.

So this February, the Boys and Girls Club decided to bring Vancouver’s Inner Ring Circus north to give kids an experience many of them had never had before.

“Some kids didn’t even know what a circus was,” said Prodan.

The idea of hosting an old-style red-top circus came up when Prodan was brainstorming with kids fun things they could do in town.

“The list was surprisingly small at first and the kids kept complaining there was nothing to do,” he said.

” So I said, ‘Well, what would you guys want to do? The sky’s the limit. We could have a circus.’”

And sure enough, that was exactly what the kids wanted to do.

The deal was set soon after Prodan made contact with an old climbing friend, Travis Johnson, who produces Vancouver’s Inner Ring Circus.

“I met this guy years and years ago and just gave them a call and they agreed to donate their services.”

The Inner Ring Circus, the professional arm of Vancouver’s Circus School, has been known to help out other organizations, such as BC’s Cancer Foundation and groups that work with disadvantaged youth.

“We have a soft-spot for youth organizations,” said Johnson speaking from Vancouver, in between last-minute preparations for the show.

Johnson’s father, Aaron Johnson, before starting up Vancouver’s Circus School, used to run a youth centre for at-risk youth where he taught circus skills to the kids.

“The thing about circus is that it’s relatively inexpensive to teach so long as you’re not doing aerial work, and it’s non-competitive,” said Johnson.

Sports like soccer teach kids that only one person can be the best, whereas in circus its more about experimenting with self-presentation, he pointed out.

“With performance you can do things your own way, which makes it really good for kids’ self-esteem.”

A lot of the youth Johnson and his father have worked with over the years have stayed on to either perform or teach with the Vancouver Circus School.

The group, which will include 12 performers and three stage technicians, has offered to hold workshops on Sunday to teach Whitehorse youth the basics of circus juggling and trampoline.

The hope is to build a long-term relationship with the circus school and the Boys and Girls Club in Whitehorse.

“We plan on turning this into an annual thing and coming up to Whitehorse once a year to do workshops and a show,” said Johnson.

This will be the first time that Inner Ring Circus works with a Boys and Girls Club, but Johnson said the experience in Whitehorse could open up an opportunity to work with Boys and Girls Clubs all over Canada.

“This will be the start of something really cool,” he said.

Inner Ring’s show, entitled Bounce, has been touring for the last year and “explores the world of bouncing through everything from trampoline to hand-standing,” said Johnson.

The performance will feature trapeze, juggling, aerial silk, hoola hooping, comedy and illusion-based tricks.

“The kids seem pretty excited about it all. They’re helping to sell tickets, put up posters and generally just helping to put the word out about the event,” said Prodan.

Although Whitehorse youth have never been trained in circus performance, the Boys and Girls Club has found a way to still put them in the spotlight this weekend.

Prior to each show on Friday and Saturday, audience members will take in a carnival that pulls on local talent.

Youth will be showing off art and dance skills they learned during an ‘urban arts program’ organized by the club this summer. And politicians Larry Bagnell and Steve Cardiff have volunteered to get themselves soaked in a dunk tank amidst a sea of clowns, cotton candy and popcorn.

To get as many youth out to the show as possible, the Boys and Girls Clubs have made a public request for people to sponsor youth who may not be able to pay for their own tickets.

Already 30 people have come forward, said Prodan.

“We think every kid should see a circus. This is one event that no one should be left out of.”

Bounce performs two separate shows at the Canada Games Centre on Friday at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. and on Saturday at 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. Workshops will be held on Sunday at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for youth. They can be purchased at the Canada Games Centre, Triple J’s Music and the Boys and Girls Club of Whitehorse.

Contact Vivian Belik at