Wonderbolt is one of the cornerstones of the Newfoundland and Labrador theatrical community. They have been providing unique, original theatrical presentations to audiences in our home province and across Canada since 1982.

They create imaginative, energetic family-style shows and have garnered a loyal and ever-expanding fan base of their original large-scale circus shows. Wonderbolt draws widely from the arts community and has developed a multi-talented versatile troupe of performers that includes musicians, singers, and dancers of diverse backgrounds. They conduct workshops on a regular basis and are committed to developing outreach programming for the physically challenged and youth in rural communities.

Over the last three decades, Wonderbolt has performed numerous times in many Labrador communities. They have produced more shows and programming there than any other theatre company. Wonderbolt operates its own circus camp at various times during the year and conducts circus skills workshops throughout the province. Since 2016 they have been working on an initiative to bring circus skill programs to all the youth on the north coast of Labrador.

The goal of the Labracirca Youth Project was to create a community-centered, physical arts program for youth who learned a variety of skills and will eventually pass them on to other young people. Wonderbolt has a working relationship with a number of communities in Nunatsiavut along the northern coast of Labrador. They have also been working with youth in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Wonderbolt has brought youth from Labrador to St. John’s to train and through their partnership with Cirkaskina (a national circus outreach program) they have connected youth form Labrador to young people from across the country.

This program built on these initiatives by bringing together motivated young people from across Labrador to come together to learn new skills, share experiences and bring these new skills and energy back to their communities. This project included a combination of digital and hands-on instruction.

The instructors for the workshops were experienced professionals who had done prior work in Labrador.  Beni Malone, the Artistic Director of Wonderbolt Productions trained at L’Ecole Nationale du Cirque in Paris and is a graduate of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Clown College.  Beni teamed up with Susan Jarvis, a well-known respected Newfoundland circus performer who has experience in designing curriculum-based programming and teaching.

Susan Jarvis and Leah Burke flew to Happy Valley – Goose Bay with a hockey bag full of circus equipment and a stack of 40 hula hoops, to do a full day workshop at the Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre.

They offered a free drop-in style workshop to the community. Amy Norman was managing the centre and advertised this to the community. Throughout the day, parents dropped in with their children and were taught informal juggling, hula hooping, and gymnastics sessions. It was a huge success, with about 100 children dropping by throughout the day. The workshop took place on the stage at the centre so parents could sit in the auditorium and watch or participate if they wanted to.

The project also included a week-long series of workshops in Cartwright. Wonderbolt went to Cartwright during the first week of May and started teaching at Henry Gordon Academy on Monday morning. This school has approximately 60 students from K-12. Wonderbolt spent a week teaching juggling, then throughout the week introduced different skills, giving students lots of time to practice. Due to the small school sizes, the students got plenty of individual instruction, and got to play a bunch of games and participate in lots of activities.

At the end of the week, they moved the whole school into their large indoor community gym next door and the students did a show for their classmates and teachers. Leah and Susan wore sparkly jackets and emceed the show, giving encouragement to students to get up in front of their peers and perform the skills that they learned during the week. Most of the students participated, where thereafter, Wonderbolt performed some gymnastics and hula hoop demonstrations, as if they were performing in a real circus show.

After the first two days they selected the most interested students. Identifying and working with this core group of students created a nucleus for the ongoing circus club. Wonderbolt conducted workshops with this group featuring a wider range of circus skills, improv techniques and technical instruction.

This project had a significant impact on the communities. The workshops conducted:

  • Reached most of the youth in the community.
  • Gave the most at-risk members of the community an opportunity for creative physical expression.
  • Created a core group of youth who can continue their development through the ongoing circus club.
  • Provided an outlet for talented local youth to share their skills with the community.
  • Made better use of existing resources and equipment.

The project reached youth between ages 15 – 25 in each community. Students who took part benefited from an increase in creative and performing skills and digital skills, including the production of their own video which will be shared with other circus outreach programs across the country. It has also encouraged physical activity, teamwork, and creative self-expression. The project was designed to evolve with the needs of the participants and tie in to ongoing live and digital teaching activities already developed by Wonderbolt.

The goal was to create a core group of students who can learn a variety of skills and eventually pass them on to other students.  A key component of this project was to establish and equip the circus club at the Henry Gordon Academy in Cartwright.  Working with the physical education teacher at the school, International Grenfell Association and theArtSmarts program, Wonderbolt was able to set up a fully equipped club which offers the youth in the community a much-needed opportunity to engage in creative, positive physical activity and self-expression.  The club is equipped with unicycles, juggling equipment, spinning plates, stilts etc. They also repaired and upgraded equipment which they had previously brought to HV-GB.