by Lauren Slavin | March 19, 2016 | Bloomington Herald-Times
When she got to the Boys and Girls Club Monday morning, Mikalah Wiles couldn’t juggle two balls, much less three rings or three scarves.
By Friday afternoon, in preparation for an evening performance in front of friends and family, the 10-year-old was tossing and catching vibrantly colored scarves and passing an hourglass-shaped diabolo between two sticks.
“I couldn’t do it as good as I can do it now,” Mikalah said during a break while her fellow club members spun plates atop long sticks.
While much of Bloomington ran out of town for spring break, the youth of the Boys and Girls Clubs had a chance to run away to the circus. Several dozen youth spent their week learning to walk on stilts, practicing the art of rope spinning and balancing pool noodles on their hands, elbows and chins.
“Every child is unique; therefore, every show is unique,” said Ann Dorwin, director of Rings Circus Education.
Dorwin brings her three decades of experience as a circus artist to the Boys and Girls Clubs annually, and regularly holds circus and comedy workshops at the library that teach skills from balance to slapstick.
But tossing devil sticks and transferring a spinning plate between two sticks are more than party tricks, Dorwin said. Kids, and especially kids with learning disabilities such as dyslexia or developmental disabilities, can benefit from these activities, which studies show improve coordination and motor skills and even boost brain power.
“This is one of those skills that adults have a really hard time picking up, but kids pick up faster,” Dorwin said of plate spinning. “It’s not just physical development. It’s cognitive development, too.”
The final circus performance would include exhibitions set to the tunes of Jimmy Buffett and the Beach Boys. During the beach party-themed show, Carter Maggard, 7, planned to show off his newfound talent for spinning small lassos, whether one in each hand or behind his back.
“I’m really excited to dress in Hawaiian stuff,” Carter said.