Have you ever experienced something that was surprisingly and refreshingly life changing? Earlier this month, I did. I've gone to the Indiana Black Expo for more years than I can count. It's almost routine at this point; so much that I don't expect to find anything new or highly interesting, to be quite honest.
This summer, my daughters attended the Madame Walker Theatre Center's Kamp Kuumba. It's an annual arts summer camp where students between the ages of 6 and 16 rotate between visual art, music, dance and theatre classes. It's a great learning experience and they're exposed to the city's most important arts organizations. This year, the students got a preview of the UniverSoul Circus that happens as part of the Summer Celebration series during Black Expo. My girls, 6 and 7, loved the preview. They came home trying to do flips and painted their faces and just begged my husband and I to take them to the full show. I'd never been to UniverSoul Circus. I didn't exactly have high expectations. Not that I anticipated a bad performance. It's just I probably wouldn't have gone without their insistence. It was just something my daughters wanted to do, and as a parent, sometimes you just do these things.
We went to the Friday evening show and paid $76 for the four of us to attend. Not 15 minutes into it, my husband and I looked at each other with wide eyes as if to say, "WHO KNEW?!" There we were at a show that we, critics of everything, would call amazing. It was funny, it was entertaining, it was colorful, it was jaw-dropping to watch. It was something I'd like to see happen on Monument Circle and during additional times throughout the year.
The girls were bouncing in their seats, pointing at the festive acrobats, getting up to dance and waving to friends they recognized from Kamp Kuumba. Camp exposed my children to something new and taught them that the arts have so many legs. The arts can mean drawing and painting, yes, but excitingly they can also mean flying through the air.
I saw them being enriched, and they didn't even know it. I found myself pleasantly surprised with the diversity within the circus. For one troupe of young men from China, it was their first trip to the United States. There were gorgeous and extremely talented ladies there from Africa. Another dancer was Cuban. They all worked together on one stage. What a fabulous way to talk about and show children the importance and the fun in diversity.
Just last evening Kamp Kuumba culminated the end of its summer camp program with a showcase on the stage of the Walker Theatre. Thirty children sang, danced and acted for 90 minutes with such a glow on their faces. They shared stories about what they learned during camp, and for my girls, it was the circus that blew them away and stood out as just one of their highlights. I'm thrilled that I found out about this unique summer experience.
"I liked Kamp Kuumba because I got to make new friends, and I love to go to art and theatre," my 6-year-old said, adding "The showcase was fun because I love to sing now." She had attempted to participate in a music club last year, but she quit due to a chronic case of stage fright. Kamp Kuumba supported her, cheered for her and let her know that she had talent -- that she could be an artist if she wanted.
I'm so glad that the little parental voice inside listened when my children said they wanted to attend this "circus." I learned from them that it was so much more than lions, tigers and bears, but was instead an enriching, valuable experience for our entire family.