Awe of youth circus makes My Nose Turns Red shine

 The larger-than-life-sized open metal wheel has rungs along its two rims that allow twisting, turning, spinning and climbing. A favorite Cirque du Soleil act, the German wheel features nimble acrobats who scale its rung and tumble over and under as they command every inch of the stage.

Now local theatrical clowns at My Nose Turns Red Theatre have added the German wheel to an already full plate of circus skills taught in classes for ages 7 to 18.

For more than 25 years, co-founders Steve Roenker and Jean St. John have taught children how to juggle, ride unicycles, walk tight-ropes and get laughs from any size crowd of any age. They believe that learning teamwork and trust in a non-competitive environment yields healthy physical and psychological benefits.

But for the students, it's really about the fun. Annual performances at the Aronoff Center for the Arts culminate months of work in schools and community sites. Summer camps evolve into public performances. Young clowns work closely together to create performances that showcase individual skills as well as group dynamics. MNTR's YouTube channel features a sampling of past shows and even work by MNTR students in the 2009 American Youth Circus Festival.

Roenker's gentle but determined teaching style, combined with enthusiastic advanced students, create a learning environment that is both fun and a safe place to hone new skills.

"Send your kids to the circus," advises St. John, who has taken her own advice for years. Her daughter, high-school senior Natalie Roenker, attended the American Youth Circus Festival after years of clown training. She heads to college next year to major in -- what else? -- theater.

Do Good:

Patronize a juggler. Or is that become a juggler patron? Mark your calendar for MNTR's March 19 performance and for just $25, you can be a juggler patron and get two free tickets.

Catch a special Cirque performance. Purchase tickets to the April 29 benefit performance of Ovo at Coney Island through MNTR and 100 percent of your purchase supports local clowning.

Make a Facebook friend. Keep up with MNTR's latest news on the fan page.

For Good News Editor: Elissa Yancey (Sonnenberg)
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