Fifty-eight kids from Jewish Pittsburgh ran away to join the circus last week.
OK, maybe they didn’t actually run away, but they performed in the Greatest Show on Earth just the same.
The kids appeared in Circus of the Kids, which held three shows at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill.
Circus of the Kids is a 31-year-old program that blends circus performing with lessons in self-esteem and self-reliance for kids. More than 500,000 young people nationwide have taken part in Circus of the Kids since 1982.
A sort of summer circus camp for kids, the children signed up and auditioned for various types of acts, before circus staff assigned each young person to the act for which they were deemed best suited.
They then rehearsed for a week before they took to the center ring — or, in this case, the JCC gym.
Ten-year-old Samantha Honig was selected for the triple trapeze.
“I wanted to do this because I’ve always wanted to be in the circus,” she said, and it really looked like fun.
“I was nervous,” she added, “but really excited.”
Samantha’s sister, Grayson, 9, performed a balancing act done on a flat board rolling atop a cylinder.
Not an easy feat.
“We auditioned at the beginning and we all tried all these different things,” Grayson said, “and we got points on how you did on each thing, then they saw what you did the best.”
The girls’ mother, Jennifer Honig, said she wasn’t familiar with Circus of the Kids until she saw a segment about it on CNN. She said the organizers had high safety standards.
“I was blown away,” Honig said. “You’re talking about these kids training for four days, and it was only about 2-3 hours a day, and to see the most timid child get up and perform.
“I think all the kids learned something,” she added. “They were pushed to learn something, try a new skill and that was the true magic, to see the kids stretch and grow, and have fun.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)