Who are you?

It’s Boogie. Dr. Boogie. At Least that was my name on our PWB tour to the Philippines.  And when I introduced myself in our giant circles at the Filippino schools, I’d point to the big bold  “Dr. Boogie” on my tour shirt, shout out my name as loud as I could, stick out my arms and legs for a little boogie, and see how many kids I could get to join in.

What memory have you most revisited from a tour?

On our tour, we made good friends with our partner youth leaders. They showed us around, shared their meals, homes, and lives with us. Eventually we handed off 100 kg of donated props to them so they could keep the circus education alive even after we left. This way, our short tour of the Philippines was only the beginning.

We had the tremendous privilege to watch these friends try circus for the first time at our school workshops. And then we saw them keep practicing, and enjoying it too. One even performed with me in our final kids shows. She’d picked up her first Diabolo only one week prior. But we both tossed and we both caught. Ta-da! *Hundreds of children go wild!* *Big proud grins!*

What areas or aspects of the tour challenged you the most?

Sometimes on tour you get sick. And sometimes everybody gets sick.

When everybody got sick on my tour, I was the least sick. So I was sent to the schools we were meant to visit to make things right. 

I’m a great follower—yes, let’s!—but I don’t often take the lead like I did that day. I left in the morning, a solo clown, no plan, mildly nauseous. And I returned a few hours later, victorious! I’d visited the schools and met with the teachers to reschedule. AND I played games with the students I met along the way. Because why not? I told them to practice some silly finger tricks because there would be a test when I returned.

How thrilling to be in charge! This was my first PWB tour, and a short one at that. I look forward to touring more in the future, and maybe even stepping up as head clown again.

On the tour what was your biggest achievement?

I’m going to steal and pass off a kid’s achievement as my own.

In a juggling workshop, one small boy was juggling 2 balls the “wrong way” (a throw and then a pass—rather than a throw and throw). And because our group was so large, I didn’t correct him. I just showed him how he could level up to a 3 ball shower (3 balls moving in a circle, instead of following the classic braiding pattern).

Well! This boy practiced and he qualified a few showers by the end of our half hour together.

I didn’t think this was possible in such a short time! I’m still working on my own shower. And this boy was so small! I learned that when I approach each student fresh, without being so set in what I already know, we can accomplish some wild things.

What was your kids show about?

We were a short tour, and we only had two days to put together two shows. Not only that, but we lost two clowns halfway through the tour. What was our kids show about? Being flexible, because the show must go on.

I think back to our first stumble through in the park. When some kids started watching, we turned the rehearsal into a performance. Our kids show was not about showing off our polished skills and thoughtful story line. It was about spreading joy. Wherever we go, whether we’re prepared or not, we bring some sparkle. It’s the energy of ‘I don’t know what I’m doing but I can still be brave and stand up and do it.’ And the kids we met went wild for that.

What was your biggest breakthrough with teaching?

Physical literacy—what is it? Try to draw a circle with one hand. Now a triangle with the other. Now both at the same time. Can you do it? If you can, you probably have a high level of physical literacy!

I found lots of physical literacy among the children I met in the Philippines. I saw very young ones managing diabolos and flower sticks, beginning to juggle 3 balls, even qualifying 3 ball showers! I saw a child leap to kill a very dangerous caterpillar that I was about to touch. And overall, I felt privileged to work with groups that had incredible focus and emotional regulation. Very impressive. Very different from the students I work with in the States.

One day on our tour, we met the minister of education. A very serious man, whose occasional laugh revealed how great he must be with children. Sitting between his Christmas tree and a map of all the schools on the island, Sir Bong (yes, his real name) shared the challenges he faces in developing the region’s education: districts where children have to work instead of attending school, or where they have treacherous routes to travel to get to school, maybe scaling mountains or wading rivers. But when he told us the children’s learning is slow, we had to interject with our own experience. The children we worked with were, when it came to physical literacy, extremely fast learners. 

I traveled to the Philippines with PWB because I thought I had something to give to a place I knew to be underdeveloped and needing help. And I did give: 100kg of donated kit, circus shows for kids who may never have seen any live performance before, so much play and laughter and excitement to meet each other. But I also gained some perspective, because these children I assumed were lacking are actually rich in physical literacy. They also taught me a great deal about hospitality in the ways they went above and beyond to welcome and take care of us. And while I arrived believing myself to be the performance expert, yet again my assumptions were wrong. The Philippines is covered with beautiful stages—it’s a culture that really appreciates singing, dancing, karaoke, etc. Our kids show was good, but it was the generosity of our audiences that made it great. Imagine 600 kids yelling and screaming and sharing their energy while we performed. It was this excitement that created the magic of our tour.

Circus, dance, and my physical practice/community saved my life. I’ve made it my mission to share that with others and help change the educational structures that deprived me of my physical literacy for so long. My time in the Philippines helped me see how things can be different. It opened new perspectives and had me rethinking my first world ideas of wealth and opportunity. I left the Philippines very grateful for these gifts I’d received.

When I’m not Dr. Boogie, I go by Moti. Find me @yourunclemoti if you want to connect and keep the conversation going 🙂

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