Children Learn Tricks of the Trade at San Pancho’s Circo de los Ninos School
Sophie Hares - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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May 27, 2017

Cirque co-founder Gilles Ste-Croix has helped children learn the tricks of the trade through the Circo de los Ninos school (Facebook/CircoDeLosNinosDeSanPancho)

With their gravity-defying trampoline flips, graceful acrobatics, juggling and tightrope walking, the children in San Francisco's circus school are bringing a touch of Cirque du Soleil magic to this bohemian Pacific beach town.

In jewel-colored leotards with feather headdresses and intricate makeup, they romp through seamless routines in an exuberant take on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream with pumping music and hula-hoops, under the direction of Cirque co-founder Gilles Ste-Croix.

Wearing an ethereal illuminated dress and carried as fairy queen Titania, Juliana Palomares Rodriguez — like many of the 150 children in the Circo de los Ninos school — has set her heart set on joining the world-famous Cirque du Soleil.

"I love it," said Palomares, 15, from the town of around 3,000 residents, known locally as San Pancho. "It's really exciting to be in the show — the circus school has taught me how to present myself and work in a team."

Her dream now is go to circus school in Montreal, Canada, where Cirque du Soleil has its headquarters.

Ste-Croix raided costumes and circus gear from Cirque du Soleil's warehouses for the children's circus, which was set up in a converted warehouse six years ago.

Originally it worked with the entreAmigos community center next door, whose projects aim to equip the small town north of Puerto Vallarta to meet the challenges of increased tourism and development.

"Circo has become a project for the town ... it's something more than it was at the beginning, just to train kids in acrobatics," said Ste-Croix, before walking through the school where girls swung upside down on aerial hoops and stilt-walkers practiced skipping. "It's not a business plan for the sake of money — it's more a human resource plan."

Now aged 21, Jose Luis Herrera Botello graduated from Circo de los Ninos to a professional course in Mexico City. Here he is learning skills such as juggling, contortion, trapeze and acrobatics from Russian, Cuban and other teachers, which he will eventually pass on to the children in San Pancho.

"What I learned from the Circo de los Ninos is do things well or don't do them. If you really want something, just go for it," said Herrera, who is sponsored by Circo de los Ninos and entreAmigos.

To learn more about Circo de los Niños de San Pancho, their programs, how to volunteer, or to become a contributor to their Dream Catchers Fund, please visit their website, or look for them on Facebook.

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