Cirque De-Stressing students

The de-stressing event brought awareness to mental health resources and student groups.

University students and Circus Mojo clown Neal Skoy  participate in an act at the Cirque De-Stress event on Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at Coffman Memorial Union.

Image by Amanda Snyder

University students and Circus Mojo clown Neal Skoy participate in an act at the Cirque De-Stress event on Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at Coffman Memorial Union.

by Branden Largent


An Argentinean acrobat tumbled upside down in a giant wheel while reading “The Catcher in the Rye.”

A University of Minnesota student juggled while balancing on a giant red ball.

And a clown tried balancing on a high wire while holding a frilly white umbrella, but to no avail.

The performers were part of the University’s first-ever Cirque De-Stress event at Coffman Union on Wednesday.

Kentucky-based circus troupe Circus Mojo performed seven 30-minute shows in the Great Hall to give students a break from daily stresses, said Paul Miller, the troupe’s founder.

The themes of the day included living a balanced life and juggling responsibilities. 

“It’s a little bit cheesy, but that’s the circus, you know, it is a little cheesy,” Miller said.

The event was also an opportunity to present mental health resources and student groups in a unique way, said Boynton Health Service Chief Medical Officer Gary Christenson — who also served as the circus ringmaster.

“We’re hoping that people will go away with a greater understanding of the variety of resources to manage stress,” Christenson said.

Luisina Rosas, a Circus Mojo member, spent much of her day rolling around in a giant German Gym Wheel, pretending to be a student running late for class.

“I think they are impressed,” Rosas said. “I think they like that we are mixing things they can relate to into our show.”

Four University students also performed in some of the shows, including civil engineering senior Jonah Finkelstein, who has been high-wire walking since he was 8 years old.

In several performances, Finkelstein walked on a high wire while juggling clubs.

He said performing for a few hours helped him take his mind off his three upcoming exams.

“When I go home tonight, I know that I’ll be able to get in there and study,” Finkelstein said. “I blew off the steam I needed to blow off and had a great time.”

Even though he’s been at the University for five years, Finkelstein said there were a lot of University organizations that he didn’t know about.

“The circus is the hook, line and sinker, but the important part is really the facilities that are here for the students,” Finkelstein said.

Between performances, audience members could pet therapy animals, learn to juggle or visit booths for various student groups and mental health resources on campus.

The University’s ONE. Unicycle Club members were at the event teaching attendees how to ride unicycles.

“People have really been responding well to it,” said mechanical engineering sophomore Brent Barghahn, the club’s founder.

“The unicycling club, for me, has been a release,” Barghahn said. “It’s what I look forward to every week.”

Mechanical engineering freshman Eric Frisbie attended Cirque De-Stress between classes.

“When most of us are only thinking about projects we have to do and exams we have to study for,” Frisbie said, “it’s really important to your mental health just to forget about that — even for a half an hour.”

Medical student Danny Lewis Jr. brought his wife and children to Wednesday’s performance. He was one of many students picked from the audience to participate in the show.

“I think it had a good message,” Lewis said. “Not all of life is so serious. You can sit back and enjoy life while making sure that the things that we need to get done, get done.”