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VIDEO: The circus comes to Maple Ridge Secondary

Circus master Benoît Ranger brings his circus program to MRSS teaching students skills all week long

There are more than 5,000 positions on the trapeze.

And a world-renowned circus performer is at Maple Ridge Secondary – not to perform some of those positions for the students – but to teach them how.

Circus art master Benoît Ranger has performed with Cirque du Soleil, Théâtre des deux mondes, and at Variétés de Radio-Canada. And, now as founder of the circus program, Les Trasporteurs De Rêves or The Dream Circus, he crosses the country teaching children the various circus arts.

Ranger will be at the school for about a week and a half teaching the students different skills associated with a circus like juggling, the diabolo with flower stick, how to spin plates, aerial rings, a stable trapeze, aerial silks, roller balancing, tightrope, and stilt walking.

On Monday, students were introduced to the equipment and were separated into small groups to make their way through seven stations spread out throughout the gym.

Ranger explained that most people start out in the circus arts doing floor routines and tumbling in gymnastics. Those who are interested pursue aerial skills like silks and tightrope. Then they work on their balancing and juggling. Then trampoline.

“And after you go higher, and higher, and higher,” explained Ranger. That is when you become a multi-circus artist – when you have learned all the skills of a circus performer – which, he said, takes around 15 to 20 years to complete.

The next step as a circus performer is becoming a clown, and finally, a master, which means you are ready to teach the craft.

Ranger, who has been in the business as his clown character Ben Labarouette, or Ben The Clown, for 40 years, said his life has been fulfilled being able to travel worldwide, with 17 different circuses. He has been a master for the past five years.

What he enjoys most about teaching is watching the children’s faces light up, no matter what age.

“You can see in their eyes all the lights and the stars,” said Ranger, adding that his program helps with self-esteem.

“Kids love it and they listen well. They are very well educated and for me, it’s a pleasure to be here,” he said about taking his program around the province.

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Ranger said the most challenging to learn are the aerials. At MRSS the aerials were at a low level where students could access them from the ground. But when they get higher, noted Ranger, that’s when a fear of heights sometimes develops.

The silks are pretty demanding because a lot of strength is required to climb them and perform tricks. But also, he noted, the tightrope is also challenging.

“Now it is a low level to learn tricks. But normally it’s one metre, one metre and a half, the real height,” he explained. The tightrope he uses is more for dance techniques and doing spins.

Hella Beckmann, the French immersion department head at MRSS, and one of the key people who brought Ranger’s circus program to the school, noted that Rangers’s school set up the French circus project in B.C. for the first time in 2010 with the goal of integrating the circus arts into the curriculum of schools.

“Circus arts province learning opportunities for students of all levels,” said Beckmann.

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“Participation in the unique adventure of the MRSS Dream Circus will promote personal development, self-confidence, artistic expression, community, and general well-being,” she said, adding what a great opportunity it is for the students.

What Ranger likes best, though, is how the students help each other out, which he describes as a real circus family type of approach. He noted that it’s not about being the best but how each student works in a group and how they proceed to learn and share information.

He is positive tonight that each student will go to bed and dream about their circus skills and be ready to try again on Tuesday.

Following Maple Ridge, Ranger will be off to Richmond and then to Coquitlam.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

I got my start with Black Press Media in 2003 as a photojournalist.
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