Tightrope walking and midair somersaults are just another day at camp for participants in Circus of the Kids at the Levite Jewish Community Center.
The weeklong camp, stopping in Birmingham during a nationwide tour, teaches kids acrobatics and is concluding in two more festive circus performances at the LJCC gymnasium today. This is the fourth time the circus has visited the LJCC. Instructors say the camp fosters confidence in its participants and changes their behavior in positive ways.
“Parents are in awe of what the children are accomplishing,” said Camp Director Betty Habshey, of the LJCC. “Kids come in nervous, but they leave the camp excited and confident in their ability to learn new things.”
Campers practice a variety of circus acts: trick bicycling, trick rollerblading, trampoline bouncing and gymnastics. Veteran circus instructors, many of whom are exchange students from the United Kingdom, guide the kids in all their feats.
Owner Bruce Pfeffer started Circus of the Kids in 1982 after growing up performing in various circuses. He now travels around the country with his team of instructors sharing his knowledge in the camps.
“I grew up around the circus as a kid, but I also found I had a knack for teaching,” said Pfeffer. “Now I’m able to meet kids from all over the country and give them this experience that I’ve enjoyed my entire life.”
Joey Gallogly is one of the exchange students from the U.K. who travels with Pfeffer around the United States. He says the camp can be a very impactful experience for the participants.
“Circus of the Kids is essentially a huge team-building and trust exercise,” said Gallogly. “They have to rely on coaches that they just met, and collaborate with a lot of new friends with whom they have never worked that intently.”
Such teamwork can manifest in a variety of daring circus acts. During Thursday’s practice, five children balanced on top of an instructor and his bike as they rode circles around the circus ring. A small girl performed multiple somersaults on a mat nearby with the aid of several coaches.
Celia Nadler says her seven-year-old daughter came to the camp nervous, but now only has a few stage fright jitters that are naturally preceding the upcoming performances.
“She has learned how strong she really is after holding up five other children,” said Nadler. “I’m excited to see their performances today and tomorrow.”
Camper Weldon Dogan is also looking forward to the upcoming shows.
“I was nervous at first but the camp and the counselors are great,” said Weldon. “I can’t wait to perform in front of everybody tonight and tomorrow!”
Showtimes continue Friday at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets are $13 for adults and $9 for children.
For more information on Circus of the Kids visit www.circusofthekids.com.