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VIDEO: Circus art the focus of phys ed at Lower Mainland high school

Cirque Jeunesse B.C. makes second visit to Maple Ridge Secondary School

A circus art master who spent three years with Cirque du Soleil, was back at Maple Ridge Secondary, teaching students techniques and skills on circus equipment.

All physical education classes at the high school, in addition to French immersion classes, were able to take part in the circus workshops that included aerial rings, silks, a trapeze, juggling, stilt walking, plate spinning, roller balancing, tightrope, and how to use a diabolo with a flower stick – taught by Benoît Ranger and his apprentice and circus coach Pascale Schram, who will now be heading the B.C. chapter of Cirque Jeunesse.

Ranger has been in the industry for more than 40 years acting as his character Ben Labarouette. He has also performed with Théâtre des deux mondes, and at Variétés de Radio-Canada.

In 1987, he founded Les Transporteurs de Rêves or Dream Transporters, a circus, theatre and variety troupe and an agency specializing in the promotion and production of shows. He has given more than 3,000 shows in countries across the world.

Now the circus school has his heart, crisscrossing the country teaching students the circus arts. And, he said, the school not only teaches students about the circus, but it builds their morale as well.

“Most of my program is based on the two things, a binary system, is based on how to be a good person and develop your own skills in a circus,” he said.

Some kids are shy, but in a group they are less so and help each other out, Ranger noted.

“They develop their self esteem their confidence and that’s really important for me,” he said.

READ ALSO: The circus comes to Maple Ridge Secondary

Learning all the skills of a circus performer takes around 15 to 20 years. A circus performer then becomes a clown before achieving the title of master, meaning they are then able to teach. Ranger has been a master for about six years now.

Grade 12 students Sheridan Sinow and Jenna Hampton were drawn to the aerial rings, part of the aerial setup that also included a stable trapeze and silks.

They enjoyed being able to do something different for their gym class.

“It was really fun. It’s good to change it up a bit,” said Sinow.

Hampton found stilt walking particularly challenging.

“I’ve never been that high up before and it was really hard to just balance on them,” she laughed, adding she didn’t get far on them.

I had to hold onto the wall the whole time,” she continued.

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Evan Nagy, in Grade 11, enjoyed the stable trapeze the most.

Ranger enjoys watching the students have fun. He noted that not all children are into sports, but after a circus school session, often the students will marvel at what they were able to accomplish.

“The circus helps everybody to find their own way to keep their body in shape and be healthy,’ he said.

Hella Beckmann, the French immersion department head at MRSS, was one of the key people who brought Ranger’s circus program to the school. She said the circus teaches the students teamwork, collaboration, and concentration – all while having fun.

“It is a privilege for our school community to enjoy such a lively and unique experience as offered by the Dream Circus,” she said of the workshops that ran from April 8-12.

To learn more about the program go to:

Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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