20 years of “Circus Leopoldini”: The spark ignites – Munich

When you enter the gymnasium at the Rudolf Steiner School in Schwabing on this Thursday evening, you suddenly feel transported back to your own school days: numerous bodies in motion, shouting, running, sweating and breathing. Except that it’s not children or young people in the context of school lessons who are having fun here, but the “Leopoldinis”, members of Doro Auer’s club “Circus Leopoldini”. It’s 20 years old this year, and the start of the anniversary year begins on March 15th and 16th with the show “Spring Awakening” in the Leo 17 Theater.

The 160 members of the circus school are divided into three age-appropriate categories. This evening the oldest ones are training, they are 16 to 21 years old and belong to the “Leopoldini Variete”. Several of them already act in a dual role as trainers. Just like the 20-year-old Yannick Novoa-Weber with the dark curls, who has been a member of the circus school since the fifth grade, performs solo juggling and in an acrobatic duo with his partner Myria Wallraff – but also on other days the youngest, ” Leopoldinchen” trained.

What fascinates him so much about Doro Auer’s club that he regularly spends his evenings in a gym? “The entire organization and the community in the group, but of course also the circus itself,” says Novoa-Weber. In the summer semester he starts studying industrial engineering, but at the same time he wants to continue attending the circus school. Others, like 19-year-old Valerie Weindel, have decided to pursue circus arts full-time.

Keeping an eye on the clubs: Valerie Weindel, 19, seen here juggling, is in the final round with her application for the Rotterdam Circus School.

(Photo: Robert Haas)

“At the end of February I received the news that I had passed the first round of applications to the circus school in Rotterdam.” In her applicant video, she impressed with duo juggling and floor acrobatics. Now she will go to Rotterdam for a week in April for the second round. “It will be very exciting. After this week it will be decided whether I am accepted,” she says. So it’s time to keep practicing, practicing, practicing, she picks up her clubs and runs to a free spot on one of the blue floor mats. “Valerie is one of those who came to me from another school three years ago,” says Auer. This happens more often because circus arts are taught in many schools, but they usually end in eighth grade. “If you then want to continue, you have to look somewhere else – and you can, for example, become a member of us.”

Two thirds of the circus young people come straight from the Schwabing Waldorf School, especially the younger ones who go to Auer immediately after school lessons. However, the other third approach their club from outside. “One new addition, for example, is a Finnish exchange student who is in Munich for a year and has already attended a circus school in Helsinki; of course we took her in immediately,” says Auer.

20 years "Circus Leopoldini": Matthias Eder remains connected to Doro Auer's Circus Leopoldini as a trainer and performs even after his training as a physiotherapist "Spring awakening" his acrobatic solo.20 years "Circus Leopoldini": Matthias Eder remains connected to Doro Auer's Circus Leopoldini as a trainer and performs even after his training as a physiotherapist "Spring awakening" his acrobatic solo.

Matthias Eder remains connected to Doro Auer’s Circus Leopoldini as a trainer even after his training as a physiotherapist and shows his acrobatic solo in “Spring Awakening”.

(Photo: Robert Haas)

She started her project 20 years ago – “actually for the sake of the eldest of my four daughters” as a small school circus group, says the trained tailor who, after working as a costume designer, also studied theater and education. “We don’t work according to the short-term workshop principle,” emphasizes the director. Instead, their Leopoldinis go through all circus disciplines, from the movement arts of acrobatics, juggling and balance to theater elements, music and dance, under the guidance of now 28 trainers from fourth to eighth grade. It is only after the eighth grade that the young talents specialize in one area.

20 years "Circus Leopoldini": Hannah-Lea Baumannn, 18, is a flying pole specialist - and also trains the younger ones "Leopoldina".20 years "Circus Leopoldini": Hannah-Lea Baumannn, 18, is a flying pole specialist - and also trains the younger ones "Leopoldina".

Hannah-Lea Baumannn, 18, is a specialist at the flying pole – and also trains the younger “Leopoldinchen”.

(Photo: Robert Haas)

For example, 18-year-old Hannah-Lea Baumann has chosen the flying pole and is elegantly climbing up the pole hanging from the ceiling in order to turn her figures there. She has been passionate about it since the fourth grade, and yes, she also has the trainer’s license to work with the younger ones. Even though her career aspirations after graduating from high school are in the direction of acting, “I definitely have a passion for the stage,” she says.

The Circus spark seems to be spreading to the next generation. If you think about the 4 minus that Germany received in the so-called movement certificate in 2022, then Doro Auer proves from year to year that children could very well move – if only they were let and given the opportunity to do so.

It is very important to Auer not to simply push “her children” to achieve sporting achievements. “When they create their numbers, they should be able to connect to their own feelings and express them through their performance,” says Auer. In any case, promoting social skills is central to them: This includes respect for each other’s bodies, because it’s important “not to touch each other roughly or hurt each other,” explains Auer. “I often get feedback from teachers about how good it is for their class when some of my Leopoldinchen are in it.” Her circus children simply knew that others would suffer if they did not adhere to rules or agreements and a joint project failed as a result.

And then Auer dives back into the hustle and bustle in the hall, which, upon closer inspection, turns out to be an interaction of many individuals working with great concentration on their respective numbers. Because even those who don’t take part in the best-of program “Spring Awakening” will be there at the show in the big tent in Westpark by summer at the latest.

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