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St. Clair Shores

Cirque du St. Joan

May 14, 2014

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All dressed up and ready to go, eighth-grader Sara Izaguirre practices her moves on the trapeze before the Cirque Amongus performance April 29.

ST. CLAIR SHORES — The circus came to St. Joan of Arc Catholic School, complete with lions and tigers, trapeze artists and tightrope walkers.

But the performers weren’t professionals — they were students. Specifically, students at the school who spent the day learning the art of performance.

“We are a circus enrichment company,” said Chuck Clark, of Cirque Amongus, a 13-year-old company based in Livonia. “We come into schools and at the end of the day, they end up being the superstars.”

St. Joan of Arc Principal Don Ancypa said the students spent the morning in groups of 10 trying out all the acts, including juggling, tight wire, acting like an animal and using the trapeze. After lunch, the students were able to choose which events they wished to perform in the circus; they spent the afternoon practicing those, then getting their faces painted, putting on costumes and getting ready for the 2 p.m. performance, complete with ring masters — who were also students — and music.

All 478 students at the school performed, Ancypa said, from preschoolers up to eighth-graders.

“It’s fantastic. They are so organized,” he said of the company.

About 120 volunteers and the teaching staff came together to make the event happen, as well — complete with training the night before.

“It’s quite an effort, but it’s going really well and the kids are really into it,” Ancypa said.

The day, paid for by the St. Joan of Arc Parent Teacher Group, was a big hit with students.

“It’s very fun because you get to do all these different kinds of acts,” said 10-year-old Marcelle Majeski, a fourth-grader. She picked the trapeze as her specialty for the show. “I’m doing a backflip and a front flip over. It’s been a challenging process. It’s kind of easy and it’s also hard, too.”

Eleven-year-old Hannah Davis, a sixth-grader, also chose to practice the trapeze.

“You get to do so many things and you get to skip school,” she said. “It’s a lot harder than it looks.”

And 13-year-old Bailey Lack, a seventh-grader, was practicing building a ladder pyramid with her fellow students. Between learning magic tricks, balancing on a barrel and more, “I’m happy it came,” Lack said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

Clark said there are a lot of educational benefits to the program, from improving motor skills to developing teamwork and cooperation.

“It’s a great community builder,” he said. “It’s been great all day. The kids have been great sports.”

“It’s really cool because it’s a fun new way to celebrate,” said 7-year-old Gino Paluzzi, a second-grader, who was riding a minibike in the show.

Ancypa said he appreciated the fact that the students had been in cross-grade groups all day.

“After a couple sessions, they got to know each other, support each other,” he said. “It’s about cooperation, teamwork and fun.”

The students did not mind trying new things, either.

“I love the tightrope,” said 10-year-old Faith Chomicz, a fourth-grader, “because it gets you to do new experiences and even if you are scared, you still might like it.”

To learn more about Cirque Amongus, visit

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