Samuel joined CircEsteem in 2005 as a refugee from Ethiopia. His favorite circus skills are juggling, walking on the globe, unicycling, tumbling, and the gym wheel. In May of 2009, he traveled to Switzerland to compete in the Gym Wheel World Championship, where he represented Ethiopia. As a graduate of CircEsteem, he coaches gym wheel, mini trampoline, tumbling, clowning, and unicycling. Samuel graduated in Spring of 2013 from Truman College with an Associate of Arts Degree. He will be attending Northeastern University in the fall of 2014.
Interview with Samuel Sake, November 2013
1. What do you love most about working with CircEsteem?
For me it’s home, and everyone here is like family. Here at CircEsteem we are open to ideas and to new people. People can be good at one specific thing or be good at everything, but everyone feels special in one way or another. It’s all about helping and bringing positivity to the community. That’s what I like about CircEsteem.
2. How has CircEsteem played a significant role in shaping your life?
It took me from very bad people that I first made a connection with when I moved here from Africa. One example could be seeing one of my closest friends: he has been arrested 3-4 times already and he didn’t have circus or any other organizations in his life. So that gives you perspective. It made me be a better person. That’s the biggest thing.
3. Do you recall your first circus experience?
My first circus experience was with CircEsteem, and I remember it. My case workers took us around Chicago after I first arrived. We went to capoeira, and it was great, and I thought that would be the first place I liked until the next week we were taken to Circus where I got to see kids my age or even younger doing amazing things like juggling three, four, even five balls, riding a unicycle, walking on a tightwire, spinning the diabolo, balancing on the globe, and tumbling. I was surprised when it was time to go home how the three hours had flown by. CircEsteem was the last place I was taken before I went back to high school. It was a great ending to the summer and if I had missed that day, my life would be totally different… I would have been in capoeira.
4. Can you tell me one of your most treasured memories of CircEsteem having grown up with the circus?
I had to compete on German wheel in Switzerland, and I was representing Ethiopia. I was the first African and Ethiopian to compete. We went to the airport and everyone boarded the plane except me because I didn’t have a visa so I was held back. Once I got back to CE Rachel [Grandi] who was the Program Director at the time was running around trying to get me on the plane. Paul Miller, Maribeth Joy, and Wolfgang Bientzle were all helping to get me a visa and contacted everyone they knew who might be able to help. I was delayed by two days, and by the time I got there it was the day of the competition. I arrived, was given 20 minutes to stretch, and then had to compete, and I placed really well.
5. What’s it like to have been a CE teacher after having been a student?
It was hard at first to transform from a student to a teacher. Some of the kids that I was practicing with at the time had to become my students. I had to figure out how to get their attention and push them harder at their skills, but as time went by it became easier. I got to talk to each student individually and I got to know their goals and what they wanted for their improvement in Circus. It was hard to not be as friendly as we were before. I just got to know each person in a different way. They’re still my friends now so it’s good. They know what my goals are and what theirs are, and so we work together to be better.
6. Is there any circus skill you wish you had learned or plan on learning that you haven’t yet?
I would have loved to learn Chinese pole. When I first went to AYCO in San Francisco, I saw an amazing act with pole – kids jumping from one pole to the other. At the time CircEsteem didn’t have one, but now we do …nothing’s too late.
7. What animal do you wish you could have as a pet and what would you name it?
A lion named JJ.