The Lafayette Circus is a Satellite program at Lafayette Elementary School in West Oakland. We’ve been working in partnership with Lafayette School for the past 3 years and are thrilled to be continuing our program this year.
Lafayette Circus students have been working hard two times a week since the first week of October. Teaching artist Kelly “Texas” Holly and I, Ceara “CeCe” Walton, have been leading the students in stilt walking, juggling, acrobatics, hip hop dancing, clowning, and unicycling. We have 22 students who are 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. We have 5 returning students who have been in our program for 2 to 3 years. They are working on being leaders by helping the new students with their juggling, leading warm ups and exercises at the beginning of class, and teaching others what it means to be a Lafayette circus student. Some were able to lead warm ups and show off a bit of their skills when we had visitors from the Prescott site come over. They really enjoyed engaging with the other students who were there to support them.
We had two brand new students who joined us this year pass the 25 toss juggling test by the 3rd week. They were so excited because they thought they would never get it, but we have a motto in the Prescott Circus Theatre: “The more you practice, the better you get!” Now they are working on tricks for our big end-of-the-year holiday celebration at the school.
Another student in his first year with us is riding back and forth across the yard on the unicycle without help! He was so excited. At first he was afraid when we introduced this skill. He said he couldn’t ride a regular bike, so how would he be able to ride a unicycle? But he did it! Seeing him so proud of himself and accomplishing something he was afraid of was truly awesome. He pushed himself and believed in something he set out to learn, and in such little time!
Some students have been to a juggling festival where they received the opportunity to learn more about different ways to juggle and the different props that can be used. They were also able to explore other circus skills like: balancing on the tightwire, walking the rolling globe, Chinese yo-yo, and flower sticks. Other students were able to support us and represent our program in a charity contest held at a local ice creamery called Fentons. While we were there, the students juggled and stilt walked, getting customers to vote for us by spreading the word about the history of our great program and organization as well as what it means to them. Our students urged people to keep circus running in the Oakland Public Schools!
Ceara Walton is a staff member with the Prescott Circus Theatre who grew up in the program at Prescott Elementary School. She coaches and mentors our students at Prescott, Lafayette, and Laurel Schools.