The Big Top Comes to AWL

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Students at the Academy of World Languages (AWL) had an unforgettable experience when they showed up for classes one morning. Waiting for them in the school’s gym was the UniverSoul Circus.

Principal Jackie Rowedder and staff were excited to host UniverSoul performers to help bring to life the many cultures students learn about in the classroom.

As the world’s first and only African-American-owned circus, UniverSoul has a diversity of performers not unlike AWL’s own student population, which represents more than 35 different nationalities and languages. UniverSoul’s cast has performers from Chile, China, Columbia, Mongolia, Russia, South Africa, the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, and more.

UniverSoul wowed students with a sampling of their performance from their North American tour, including:

  • Detroit-based internet sensations Fresh the Clowns
  • The colorful Caribbean Dance Team, featuring dancers from Trinidad and Tobago
  • Performers of all ages representing the Chinese Acrobatic Troupe

Students actively engaged with the performers on stage in a heated dance battle and a lively limbo contest that drew cheers from their classmates in the stands. 

One performer from the UniverSoul Chinese Acrobatic Troupe addressed the students in Chinese, connecting with many for whom Chinese is a first language or one they are in the process of learning.

Beyond deeper cultural connections and greater understanding, community resource coordinator Jill Smith hopes students see the breadth of career possibilities that exist in the world.

“We want to show kids that this is what these performers do for a profession, that they travel around the world doing what they love,” said Smith. “How cool is it that that they are able to have a job where they get to do their passion and travel and be in the circus?”

DJ Shawn Kelley, an eight-year veteran performer with UniverSoul, encouraged the students to follow their own dreams and passions.

“If you want to be a doctor, do it. If you want to be a teacher, do it. Whatever your dreams are, do it.”

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