My Experience at Adult Camp
By Kathryn Sarken, Adult Camper
We arrived at Big Kid Camp with pillows and sleeping bags and circus dreams. Some of us had never tried circus, others were looking forward to their first time (ever!) at overnight camp. As a returning camper, I was eager to get back into the tents, to see friends from last summer, to meet new people, and to experience again the magic of Smirkus Camp.
We got our circus activities rolling… with forward and backward rolls! From there we expanded our tumbling routines and and tried out the trampoline; then worked together on partner acrobatics. Trapeze, fabric (silks), rope, and sling brought us up in the air (some of us higher than others!). We juggled… some of us working on club passing or behind the back ball catches while others sought to master the basics. When I finally made two throws and two catches in a row, coaches and campers alike cheered as loudly as they had for the pair successfully passing nine clubs. We giggled as we clowned, learning how to present in front of an audience, to put our own unique perspective into classic routines, and to embrace the moment.
At dinner, we were well-fed and well-dressed, arriving as pirates, ninjas, superheroes, and more. (Breakfast and lunch were equally tasty affairs, but generally consumed in our workout clothes.) We were nourished by the beauty of the mountains around us, and by the sky full of stars. But, mostly we were strengthened by the magic of Smirkus Camp and by those with whom we shared this incredible experience.
I am in awe of our coaches, top-caliber circus artists who are also amazing teachers. They met each of us where we were, stretching us literally and figuratively. They offered challenges and clear instructions, actually hand-holding when we needed it, and enthusiastically inviting us to play. They shared their expertise, celebrated our progress, and joined us as participants in the disciplines they were not coaching.
I am also in awe of my fellow campers. It was equally breath-taking and inspiring to see one camper create a short trapeze routine while another struggled to get on the aerial fabric for the first time. I was moved by the determination of a fellow camper who worked throughout the session to learn to balance on a unicycle. I grinned when, about to step up onto the tight-wire again, a camper said “I think I have found my thing!” I was touched by how much we all had in common and by how our differences complemented each other. Conversations flowed easily and encouragement and hugs were abundant. When another camper mentioned how much self-confidence she had discovered, I nodded “me too”, seeing that echoed by many others.
Two of my favorite activities were the Staff and Camper Talent Show (where we shared and witnessed circus, music, acting, and comedy acts), and an after-dinner whiffle-ball game that ended in a 10-10 tie. As someone who had never performed in front an audience, it was a personal milestone to create and perform a short solo clown act at the Talent Show. As an adult who remembers being picked last for most ball games as child, it was a joy to feel the inclusion that comes from being fully accepted and celebrated for who you are, whether that be a home-run hitter or a person wearing three tutus (including one on her head) asking how to hold and swing a bat.
As I packed up my things on our last day, another camper waved to me as she rode her unicycle down the dorm hall. Watching her, I thought about how we were rolling back to our homes, bringing with us not only new levels of determination, artistry, and joy, but deep gratitude for the experience we had shared.