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Oh, those daring young TAG kids

PORTSMOUTH — Bryson Bias threw one leg over the trapeze bar and then the other. When the Fairland West student had wiggled his way to a precarious balance, he gingerly let go and swung into ever kid’s fantasy, whether grown-up or not.

For a few minutes at least Bryson had joined the circus.

“You feel like you are on air,” he said. “If you like to jump and have fun, this is pretty fun.”

This was the Cirque d’Art or the circus arts troupe of the Southern Ohio Museum in Portsmouth and also the final leg of the annual two-day camp for the talented and gifted students of Lawrence County.

Starting this past Thursday TAG students from Chesapeake, Fairland, Symmes Valley, South Point and Rock Hill spent two days in Portsmouth sitting in on a chemistry class at Shawnee State University and visiting the campus’ planetarium. Then it was off to the museum where they took in the sculpture of Kentucky folk artist, Lavon Williams, before practicing aerialist-type feats, but much closer to the ground.

This was the 15th year for the countywide camp that brings the TAG students together.

“It’s the socialization with other gifted students and experiencing things they may not have a chance to otherwise,” Kara Speed, Fairland school’s TAG teacher, said.

Pegi Wilkes, performing arts curator at the museum and also a professional aerialist, started Cirque D’art nine years ago with 55 students. Today it has 200 student performers who focus on ballet, acrobatics, tumbling and trapeze equipment.

The goal of the program is to teach students balance and coordination while promoting teamwork.

“It is to be aware of their bodies,” Pam Thompson, a Cirque instructor, said. “Sometimes when we are clumsy, it doesn’t mean we don’t have the motor skills, but that we don’t use them. In Cirque, you use a lot of balance. My daughter is a great basketball player because she takes ballet. It gives her balance.”

The TAG students took turns, under the watchful eyes of Cirque teachers, hanging on the aerial bar, twisting through the Roman Ring swing and climbing up the scaffolding besides working on the trapeze.

Selena Marcum from Burlington Elementary admitted she approached the bar with trepidation.

“It is kind of scary. You feel like you could fall,” she conceded.

Yet she persevered and came through with aplomb.

And even the big guys got into the act when Nathan Speed, husband of Kara, did a knee bend from the trapeze, with the Fairland students cheering him on.

“The blood rushes to your head,” he joked while his apple-red face cooled down.

As a trio on the triple trapeze slowed down from a swing, the guy in the middle scampered off first without waiting for his buddies, rating a mild chastisement from Thompson.

“The triple trapeze is all about watching your partners, but you did good,” Thompson said. “You guys were awesome. And smile. The circus is about smiling.”

Ty Staten of Fairland West didn’t need any encouragement to do just that.

“When I started swinging on it, it was pretty cool,” he said.