"CIRCUS FOR CHANGE"~ 2007/08 INDIA TOUR
From October 2007 through March 2008, the Dreamtime Circus partnered with Delhi based environmental NGO Swechha - We for Change Foundation to bring free circus performances with an environmental theme to schools, orphanages, villages, and cities throughout India. 36 volunteer performers and crew joined the tour, and Swechha helped the Dreamtime Circus connect with 15 local NGO's (non governmental organizations) and 20 different schools and orphanages throughout the country. All together, Dreamtime put on 40 free shows and held a dozen free circus workshops for youth all over India. Each show created a magical experience that thousands of children and adults will not soon forget. They also provided the local NGO's an opportunity to raise their profile within the communities they serve and to use the media to communicate their messages of human rights, social equity, and environmental protection to a wider audience.
PURPOSE OF TOUR & WHY INDIA
The original purpose of the Dreamtime Circus tour of India was primarily to spread circus joy to children and adults throughout the country, and particularly in some of the more impoverished communities. We also sought to create genuine cross-cultural relationships by sharing a piece of our energy, hearts, and imagination and bringing more to the country than just our American tourist dollars. And, as the US continued its internationally condemned occupation of Iraq, further eroding the world’s opinion of America, we saw this tour as an opportunity to show folks on the other side of the globe that our country had more to offer than bullets and bombs.
When we began to collaborate with Swechha – We for Change Foundation in New Delhi, however, the purpose of the tour expanded. We used the tour as an opportunity to spread environmental awareness in a country with grave environmental issues, and we connected with local NGO’s throughout the country to help them achieve their missions of environmental protection and human rights.
We chose India because of its geographical and cultural diversity as well as its long history of embracing performance arts. From city slums to village schools to refugee communities in both urban and rural areas, India provided ample opportunities for us to reach out to a range of people that wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to see a show or learn to juggle – all free of cost. And since tens of thousands of travelers visit every year, India’s tourist infrastructure makes it a relatively easy place to travel with affordable accommodation available throughout the country. All of these factors made India a good choice for Dreamtime’s first international tour.
A SHOW WITH A MESSAGE
Dreamtime used its characteristic style of weaving circus arts into theatrical storytelling to communicate a non-verbal message about protecting the environment and respecting all of the Earth’s creatures. Our show touched on issues such as air quality, access to clean water, deforestation, and respect for women. Spirits of the air, water, earth, and fire as well as a few friendly animal characters helped a traveling clown outwit and defeat the greedy villain who polluted the land to get rich. These are serious problems impacting India and the entire globe, and while our circus show did not provide any facts and figures, it brought the issues to the attention of our audience and the local and national media. And, in the kids eyes, our shows made protecting the environment “look cool” and that was a big help for teachers to continue the discussion in classrooms.
WORKING WITH NGO’s
Our main “Circus for Change” partner in India was Swechha – We for Change Foundation, an NGO that works on environmental issues in India such as cleaning and protecting the Yamuna river and facilitates several youth education programs. Dreamtime joined Swechha on two of its youth education retreats, and we worked together on several events in Delhi. They also put us in contact with 15 different NGO’s and several schools throughout India. Almost everywhere we went, a local organization greeted us. We worked with a range of NGO’s – groups working to improve the standard of living for women in rural Himachal Pradesh, to reforest the hills of Rajasthan, to empower children in Bombay’s slums, to clean up the sacred Ganges river, and so on. Our shows often provided these organizations an opportunity to build their reputation in a community they served. “Circus for Change” events also drew the local, national, and even international press, in addition to large audiences from the local communities. Organizations took advantage of this media attention to raise awareness about their issues to a much larger audience than they would normally reach. A list of NGO’s and links to their websites can be found on our LINKS page.
HOW WE FUNDED THE TOUR
In order to perform throughout India without ever charging admission (or even passing the hat), we had to raise enough money to cover all the tour expenses. Our primary source of revenue came from ticket sales to our “Between Worlds” shows in San Francisco. We also raised funds with a raffle, an art auction, a benefit psychedelic trance CD, a yard sale, and the generous support of individual donors that supported our vision to spread circus joy and environmental awareness throughout India. Of course, the “Circus for Change” tour would not have been possible without the volunteer performers and crew that joined us in India. While the circus fund covered expenses such as the bus, stage props, and sound equipment, all 36 performers and crew members paid their own way to get to India and covered their food and accommodation while there (except when the local NGO covered that for us). Many of the performers quit their jobs in order to join the tour and one performer bought a one way ticket to India because she didn’t have enough money to afford a round trip flight! (Don’t worry, she made it back.) Dreamtime would like to thank all of these amazing volunteers and everyone that helped make our first “Circus for Change” tour possible.
The Dreamtime Circus is currently considering a second “Circus for Change” tour in 2009 as well as starting a program in California to work with schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. More information about these projects will be posted below as our plans develop.