On Tuesday, July 3, the St. Louis Arches teen circus troupe left early in morning from Lambert St. Louis International Airport for their two-week journey to Puerto Rico. The Arches are the advanced team of Circus harmony, St. Louis’ only social circus—a youth circus training program that also teaches social skills and focuses on underrepresented populations. The group, which is currently comprised of 9 students, traveled to Puerto Rico to spread the joy of circus in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which hit the island in September 2017. Puerto Rico is still recovering from the hurricane, which according to a Harvard study last May killed a staggering 4,600 people.
This group of young circus artists hopes to use their skills to help. Led by Jessica Hentoff, the nine Arches, ranging in age from 13 to 22, will join with la Escuela Nacional de Circo (national circus school) of Puerto Rico to create a collaborative show.
Hentoff said that the goals were “multilevel,” like everything else her circus does. “First, we hope to share circus skills with this other group, because certainly we bring things that they don’t have, and they may have things that we don’t have,” said Hentoff. “That’s the circus side.” She hopes to use the circus to bring about social change, too. “Socially, most of these kids that are coming with us have never met anyone from Puerto Rico, much less hung out with them. And of course, they’ll find out, ‘oh, they’re just circus kids,’ because that’s what happens wherever we go. Everyone lives in their own little bubble, even at Circus Harmony where the bubbles connect, where kids come from all different places—but to really go somewhere totally different, where the life experience is so different, and yet, they’ll be seeing the circus side of it, so it’s the same. The juxtaposition of that, for them to realize that we’re all connected.”
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