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Bedford Hills Students Try Out the Circus Arts
Wild laughter. Spinning plates. Kids on stilts. These are just a few of the sights and sounds that filled Bedford Hills Elementary School’s gymnasium recently when Westchester Circus Arts visited for a full-day workshop sponsored by Bedford Hills Elementary School Association.
“For eight half-hour blocks, students are getting hands-on experience in the circus arts,” said Curriculum Coordinator for Health and Physical Education Joseph Klausz.
In the morning, students enjoyed a performance by Mr. Amazing and Mickey the Clown, which inspired them to try out some of the things they had witnessed during the show. Students seemed to love it — especially the wild and crazy antics of Mickey the Clown.
“I don’t know any other 30-year-old who got a master’s in commedia dell'arte in Italy,” said Carlo Pellegrini (also known as Mr. Amazing) of his partner. “I think kids like Mickey so much because he is like them. He goofs around a lot, but he gets away with doing stuff with me that the kids would not get away with doing with their parents. It is that parallel processing that they get. It is very classic clowning. His purpose in life is to disrupt everything I do and get in trouble so that I can get him out of trouble.”
When students got to the gym later in the day, they were ready to get to work. Gym teachers Pat Aris and Kevin Grayson had them cycle through stations so they had a chance to try each of the skills, which included everything from the balance beam and juggling to plate spinning and Chinese yo-yos.
“Our motto is to explain the word circus,” said Pellegrini. “It stands for confidence, imagination, resiliency, cooperation, understanding and success. Our goal is to get students to understand how to approach a problem and then see it, dissect it — work backward, work sideways, use lateral thinking — and use each of the tools.”
Actively engaged and having an incredible time, students could not believe it was time to go back to class once the sessions were over.
“I liked the Chinese yo-yos,” one student told her friend with a giggle as they lined up to leave.
“I really got the hang of juggling!” her classmate answered.
Instilling students with confidence in their newfound skills and teaching them problem-solving skills in an understated way, the program was both a lot of fun and a great learning experience.