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Circus arts are the focus at Camp ZinZanni

  • Written by Deborah Stone
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“Acrobalance is a combination of acrobatics and balance with an introduction to the aerial arts and other gravity defying acts.” Courtesy photo
Summer camps abound in this region and serve as a great opportunity for children to discover an interest or enhance an existing passion.

The offerings are numerous, from arts-based programs and outdoor recreational adventures to science explorations and computer/tech classes.

There’s even a camp for kids who dream of running away to join the circus.

Camp ZinZanni, which is operated through the ZinZanni Institute for Circus Arts (ZICA) in Seattle, is the perfect place for those with a penchant for the circus arts.

Four years ago, ZICA began the camp with one week-long session.

Today, it operates 10 summer camps, as well as programs during mid-winter and spring breaks.

For the young’uns, there’s “Clown School Mini Camp,” which introduces the 4- to 5-year-old set to circus techniques with an emphasis on the five senses, movement, hand/eye coordination and balance.

Participants also get to try their hand at clown makeup and costuming. Those ages 5 to 8 are eligible for “Junior Clown Camp,” where they can focus their energy on learning clown routines and basic slapstick.

Also for this age group is “Junior Jugglers,” a class that gives campers the basics of object manipulation using scarves, juggling balls, yoyos, ribbons and hats.

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Classes are taught under Teatro ZinZanni’s big tent by professional instructors, Courtesy photo.
And for future magicians, there’s “ABC’s of Abracadabra.”

If you have a child in grades 2 to 4 with an interest in science, “Circus Science” will teach him/her how to apply the science of the circus to clowning, magic and balancing skills.

Offered in partnership with Pacific Science Center, the program provides opportunities for participants to test physics as they master their center of gravity and experiment with inertia, motion, momentum and balance.

Campers spend half the day at PSC and the other half at Teatro ZinZanni.

The art of comedy, from Charlie Chaplin to John Cleese and Lucille Ball, is explored in “Comedy Camp: Slapstick & Clowning.”

A teaching artist from Teatro ZinZanni teaches the moves, while an acting teacher from Seattle Children’s Theatre helps the kids discover and integrate the characters, relationship, objectives and setting of the scene.

There are also camps geared specially toward middle schoolers and teens like “Acrobalance” and “All the World’s a Tent.”

“Acrobalance is our most popular camp,” notes Nadia Tarnawsky, head of operations for Camp ZinZanni and events and education manager. “It’s a combination of acrobatics and balance with an introduction to the aerial arts and other gravity defying acts. I think the kids really enjoy this program because it’s so closely aligned to what a true circus is in their minds.”

In “All the World’s a Tent,” participants spend an intensive week with the artists and instructors of Teatro ZinZanni and Seattle Shakespeare Company learning to apply their acting and circus skills to the Bard’s text.

Each week-long camp session meets from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the exception of the “Clown School Mini Camp which meets from 9 – 11:30 a.m.

Classes are taught under Teatro ZinZanni’s big tent by professional instructors, who are accompanied by several camp counselors who serve as teaching assistants.

“Our instructors are actual performers,” explains Tarnowsky. “We like to have current performers from our Teatro ZinZanni production on our teaching staff. And they also perform for the campers during the sessions.”

Campers get the chance to strut their stuff, too, during an open class for family and friends on the last day of each session.

Tarnowsky attributes the continued popularity of the camps to the lure of the circus and the ability of the program to make the circus arts accessible to kids of all ages.

“You’d be amazed at what they can do after only a week of instruction,” she says. “And no matter what skill level they’re at, they find their own talents and succeed.”

For more information about Camp ZinZanni, call  (206) 802-0011, ext. 7238 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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