When I heard Claire was likely phasing out of her swim lessons and was instead going to take acrobatics at a circus school, I was disappointed.
Turns out, my disappointment had nothing at all to do with Claire and everything to do with me. As a child I longed to be athletic enough to join a team. I also longed to be able to afford to take classes, hire a coach, or whatever it would take to figure out how to hit balls/dance in synchronicity with 12 other girls/run without falling in a hole. My belief at the time was that I would be infinitely more popular if I played sports, regardless of whether or not I liked any of the sports themselves. (In general, I didn’t and still don’t.) And despite the fact that I did all sorts of other things – first chair clarinet in the band, chorus member in the musicals, actor in the plays, president of the debate club, member of the drama club, writer for the school paper, member of the student council – I always wondered if I had started early enough in life if I could have overcome my natural clumsiness and lack of coordination to be some sort of sporting superstar.
I think we all know the answer would have been no way, Jose.
Claire is a great swimmer, and until she started getting bored with the terribly repetitive, teenager-led classes at the YMCA, I was convinced she was headed for swimming stardom. She is fearless in the water, fast, and has long limbs. I imagined toting her around to swim lessons/meets and cheering from the sidelines. I seriously believed the entire parental club of us would have “Team Claire” shirts. I imagined her and her teammates wearing matching jackets and sitting around the house eating pizza in Uggs. Circus acrobatics felt like a dream-killer (mine) instead of a game-changer (for her).
Like so many things during my as-yet short stint in parenthood, I was wrong. Like, REALLY WRONG. Turns out, Circus Juventas is kind of a big deal. In fact, it’s the biggest school of its kind in North America. Most of the instructors come from Cirque du Soleil, Barnum & Bailey or other professional troupes and they are Serious About Circus. They stress form and physical fitness and teamwork and confidence. The coaching staff is made up of seemingly dozens of people, all with a laser-sharp focus on each kid individually and the performance of the class as a whole. To say I have been impressed would be the understatement of the year.
This past weekend Claire had her debut performance in the spring show, which features some 700-odd kids broken into three performance groups over two weeks. The spring show is like a ginormous circus recital where the kids get to show off all the amazing things they’ve worked on over the past eight months. They don stage makeup and fancy costuming, and the community turns out in droves. All three of Claire’s shows sold out, and I assume it was the same for the bulk of the run.
The show started with a parade of toddlers in candy-colored costumes swinging two at a time on a trapeze, doing a somersault, walking on a balance beam, and sliding down a giant padded arch. We saw the show twice, and these tiny kids made me weepy both times. I don’t even know, you guys. They were so adorable I told Joel I wanted to have babies just so they could be in Circus Juventas. I’m pretty sure I was kidding. Probably.
The acrobat kids were fifth in the show and it was quite the production. In addition to Claire’s class – which cartwheeled and tumbled back and forth across the floor – there were the big kid acrobats flipping and hand-springing and walk-overing everywhere. The show had a loose (very loose) storybook theme, and the acrobats had Gatsby. It was meant to be a crazy, anything-goes party situation, and it totally was. If it were a viral video, I’d watch it more than once. And not just because my kid’s in it. Promise!
Joel took his big camera to the first show, so we were able to get some really good pictures of Claire. I love this one of her the very best. She was likely coming off a big string of cartwheels and running to the end to wait her turn for another round. Look at her long arms and legs! She’s amazing.
Oh man. Claire’s class had to strike this pose and bounce their hips while they waited to tumble, and Claire was GETTING IT. I both loved her commitment to it and was horrified that, basically, she already has the potential to look 12 years old.
She was so serious about this entire enterprise. Joel is a musician, and apparently he has the exact same Serious Performance Face. Part of me wants to razz her about it, but I’m pretty sure she’ll figure it out. Overall she’s a joyful kid, quick to laugh and smile, so we can probably chalk it up to nerves. The crowds were really big, the lights were really bright, and she was on the floor with top-notch performers. I’d be a nervous wreck.
“I’m wearing EYELINER,” Claire told me first thing when I handed over a bouquet of congratulatory tulips. It sounds like there was a group of teenage girls lined up backstage doling out the white eyeshadow and lipgloss, each team receiving their own special color swipe of glitter. And look at the pipes on this girl! Circus (and the swimming that came before) have made her so strong. If she keeps it up she’ll be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
I’m not ashamed to admit I watched her first performance with teary eyes and that I was totally THAT mom who waved embarrassingly from my spot in the second row. I would not put it past me to order those Team Claire t-shirts, and Joel will probably have to sit on me to keep me from volunteering as a team captain for the next show.