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Circle of life

  • Jackie Davis of Temple will be signing her new book about self-teaching circus skills at the Milford Toadstool on Feb. 17. —Courtesy photo by Scot Langdon

  • Jugglers demonstrate skills detailed by Jackie Davis in her new book, “DIY Circus Lab for Kids”. —Courtesy photo by Scot Langdon

  • Jackie Davis with her husband, Rick Davis, of Temple. —Courtesy photo



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, February 08, 2018

A book on circus skills had been on Jackie and Rick Davis’ to-do list forever. The Temple couple, who taught circus arts to children for decades, had intended to co-author the book, but the timing never quite worked out.

Now, the book is out, with Jackie Davis’ name on the cover, and dedicated to Rick, who died in 2015 from brain cancer.

She still sees it as a collaborative effort, said Davis.

“A lot of the stuff here is Rick’s,” she said, thumbing through an advanced copy of “DIY Circus Lab for Kids,” which will be officially released next week. “It’s of Rick, through Rick.”

Davis has taught circus in southern New Hampshire for twenty-three years. She created the Hilltop Circus at the Pine Hill Waldorf School as well as the Silver Lining Circus Camp and the Flying Gravity Circus – all programs using circus arts education for youth. Her husband, Rick, spent decades as the school residency director for Circus Smirkus, another regional youth circus program, and would spend a week in schools training them on the basics of circus and putting together a show.

Collectively, the couple knew they had the chops to write a circus skills book. In particular, Davis said, she was interested in writing a textbook for use by physical education teachers or homeschool parents looking to add a non-competitive body skill into their student’s education. 

That goal had fallen to the wayside with Rick’s death, said Davis, but when she got a call in 2016, a year after his death, from a contact at Circus Smirkus, she felt her husband’s hand in it.

Quarry Books had called up Circus Smirkus, asking if they had a recommendation for an author to write just such a book, though aimed at kids, for their “Kid’s Lab” series. Davis was the first person on their list.

“It literally fell out of the sky, out of the blue,” said Davis, about the offer. “I said, ‘Good one, Honey.’”

The book allows children to learn the basics of juggling, balancing, clowning and show-making, each skill paired with tutorials on how to hand-make props they might need at a cheaper cost than purchasing ready-made equipment. Whether it’s juggling balls from tennis balls filled with sand and covered with colorful balloons suitable for kids of any age, or a plywood tight-rope frame that may need some adult assistance, the idea is to create an environment of inclusivity, said Davis.

“Kids have a right to this stuff,” said Davis. “These are all things that you can do in your backyard, place of worship or with a school club. Just grab this stuff and try it.”

That’s one of the things she loves most about circus, said Davis – it’s for everyone.

“Whether you’re tall, small, wide, thin, whatever color or gender you are – whether you have legs! I’ve worked with aerialists who didn’t have legs. It’s just mid-blowingly inclusive. There’s not a population that’s ubable to do some kind of adaptive circus,” she said. “And it’s not competitive, so everybody wins.”

While the book has step-by-step instructions, illustrated with local performers from Davis’ troupes, photographed by Scot Langdon of Longhill Photography over the course of last winter, Davis knew that some of these skills didn’t translate well to flat images. She asked her publisher if she could create accompanying videos to demonstrate the skills.

“They said, ‘That’s a great idea. But we can’t pay you.’”

Undaunted, and sure of the benefit, Davis ran an Indiegogo, a web-based crowd-sourcing campaign, asking for funds to pay for a former student, Joseph Laszlo, to be the project’s videographer. With Davis’ efforts, now purchasing the book will come with access to a webpage with those video tutorials.

Davis will attend a book launch and signing on Feb. 17, from 2-4 p.m. at the Milford Toadstool Bookshop. The signing will include performances by the Hilltop Circus. Advanced copies are available through the Peterborough Toadstool or through purchase online. 

For more infomation call the Milford Toadstool at 673-1734 or email Davis at jackieleighdavis@gmail.com or on Facebook @JackieLeighDavisAuthor or visit www.DIYCircusLab.com.