It was an evening unlike anything seen in Santa Monica before, a circus made up of performances by youth from the local community.
Coaches from Cirque Du Soleil’s Cirque Du Monde trained twenty-two kids, members of the Santa Monica Police Activities League (PAL), for nine weeks. The program culminated with an exhibition called “Palooza” at the PAL gymnasium on November 24. The performance included juggling, acrobatic stunts, tightrope walking, stilt walking, dancing and clowning.
Cirque’s Director of Global Citizenship, Karen Gay, told The Mirror that Cirque Du Monde is part of their “cultural and social action programs.”
Every year Cirque gives one percent of its gross revenue to these endeavors. The “Palooza” program states that the mission of Cirque Du Mode is to spread the “the core values of circus performance; imagination, solidarity, risk, and confidence, to youth across the world.” The program began in 1995 and now is offered on five continents and focuses on working with youth-at-risk.
The Cirque Du Soleil website notes “Circus arts call for teamwork and a combination of strengths and talents – and these are elements that can help young people develop a sense of belonging, freedom, creativity, perseverance and discipline. Circus arts also offer young people the chance to open up, express themselves and use their marginalized status as a tool to make new links with a society that often excludes them.”
In an interview with The Mirror, Cirque Du Monde’s Social Action Coach, Liz Minnick, stated that all the youth who participated had to meet at least once a week for two hours of training. She said most of them got involved to “get the thrill and the experience.”
Minnick also pointed out that the program is an “excellent way for youth to stay in shape” and can help them with their social skills. Minnick said that Cirque partnered with the City of Santa Monica to produce the program and that wherever they go they always seek out a local partner. Lastly, she mentioned that the coaches always “tailor the program to the area” they are working in.
PAL’s mission is to “foster trust between youth and the men and women of the Santa Monica Police Department in a safe and nurturing environment.” Through their educational, cultural, recreational, and outreach programs they aimed to help at-risk youth “develop skills and self esteem, encouraging youth to reach their full potential.”