Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School Day Takes a Somersault as Circus Comes for a Visit

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School Day Takes a Somersault as Circus Comes for a Visit

Article excerpt

Byline: HEATHER LOVEJOY

It took only seconds for Zeke, the UniverSoul Circus ringmaster's sidekick, to get the kids at Carter G. Woodson Elementary School amped up.

He took the stage, microphone in hand, and called out, "When I say, 'Big Top,' you say, 'circus!' "

"Big Top!"

"CIRCUUUSSS!!!"

"I can't hear you!"

"CIRCUUUSSS!!!" they belted out even louder, seemingly shaking the building.

He had them stomping, clapping and laughing before the circus antics even began.

The interactive program Tuesday morning by performers in the Atlanta-based UniverSoul Circus, which is in town this weekend, was a surprise to the Northwest Jacksonville students. They wondered what the occasion was as teachers and staff members gathered every grade level in the cafeteria.

School Board member Betty Burney coordinated the visit, and Principal Cheryl Quarles-Gaston thought keeping it a secret would make it even more special for her students. She's in her first year at the school, and said she and the faculty have put a lot of effort into engaging the students.

"We needed this today," she said. "We've been working extremely hard getting ready for the FCAT, so this was a great mid-year incentive for the kids."

The surprise certainly had the kids excited, but a "5-4-3-2-1" countdown to silence by Zeke and their teachers got them settled down before two school-aged African contortionists from Guinea showed off their joint-defying flexibility. The students were mesmerized.

And what's a circus without a silly, red-nosed clown?

Next up was Ronaldo Aguiar from Brazil, whose clown act drew laughs when he "lost" his wig and exposed his bald head.

The most elaborate act, however, was a group of African dancers, drummers and acrobats in costumes and makeup.

Acrobatic tricks and human sculptures were enough to thrill the young crowd, but the performers took it a somersault further. …

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