New Victory Arts Break: Zephyr

A circus is more than a collection of tricks and stunts—a well-crafted circus tells a story! In Zephyr, the daredevils of Cirque Mechanics tell the story of Nigel, a windmill operator, and his changing relationship with the wind. In this Arts Break, gear up for Zephyr by building a repertoire of circus skills and creating your own circus inspired by the world around you.

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New Victory Arts Break: Zephyr

Some of the videos in this Arts Break were filmed at the New Victory Theater. We acknowledge that New Victory resides on the seized homeland of the Lenape people and the intertribal territory of many First Nations. We celebrate and pay deep respect to all Indigenous peoples, past, present and future.

Before the Show: A Bag of Circus Tricks
During their careers, circus artists cultivate an enormous set of skills—a spectacular bag of tricks—and learn to perform in all kinds of acts. Follow along with New Victory Teaching Artist Hassiem Muhammad as he shares three tricks from his bag that you can add to yours.

Object Balancing

Step One: Locate an object in your home that is long and narrow in size, like a broom!

Step Two: Place the object in the center of your hand and immediately start moving your hand to steady the object.

Step Three: Lock your eyes on the top of the object and follow wherever the object leans. If it leans back, move your hand back, or take a step back! Remember to keep your eyes locked on the object.

Challenge! Can you balance your object on your other hand? Your foot? Your elbow?


Step One: Find an area in your home that is safe and clear of furniture.

Step Two: Let’s try out the cartwheel from Hassiem’s video! Start with one foot in front of the other with your arms up overhead.

Step Three: If you have your right foot in front, swing your right arm onto the ground first. Then hop onto your left foot while bringing your left arm onto the ground.

Step Four: With both your arms planted, swing yourself up onto the other side. With each swing, try to send your legs higher and higher overhead.

Challenge! Can you do your cartwheel in a new way? To music? While dancing? In slow-motion?


Step One: Locate a sheet and a doorway, or a hallway with a doorway to one side!

Step Two: Hold up your sheet so it completely covers you.

Step Three: Give your sheet a toss into the air and quickly slip to the side (behind or through the doorway) so that, by the time the sheet falls, you’ll have disappeared from behind it.

Challenge! Invite your family or friends to stand on the other side of the doorway and watch your magical illusion! Can they figure out how it’s done? Can they give it a try themselves?

You’ve done an awesome job building a bag of three circus tricks! What other tricks can you add to your bag?

On the Way: City Circus
While you head to the New Victory Theater to see Zephyr, create a silly circus of your own! In this next activity, let the sights or sounds of the world around you prompt your circus.

Step One: Take a moment to choose three words that represent the experience of your journey to the New Victory—the sound of the train, the colors of the billboards, the feel of the sidewalk. You can also pick three words from our Zephyr-inspired word bank!

Soaring Strength Balance
Air Windmill Machine
Spectacle Stability Environment

Step Two: Think of a circus trick or pose to go along with each word. For example, if you selected strength from the word bank, your trick could be lifting an imaginary weight over your head! Or if you noticed a flashing siren on your way to the theater, your trick could be spinning in place as fast as you can.

Step Three: Ask one person in your group to be the ringleader and call out each of your three words at random. When you hear a word, present the accompanying trick! Challenge yourself by adjusting the speed of the cues.

Challenge! Can you keep this going throughout the day? See how long you can remember your circus cues and moves!

After the Show: Elemental Circus
Once you’ve experienced Zephyr at the New Victory Theater, have a conversation with your friends or family guided by the reflection questions below:

Post-Show Reflection

  • What was your favorite part of the circus?
  • If you could build a machine in your home, what would you build and what would it do?

  • Windmills like the one on stage in Zephyr can convert wind power into other forms of energy. If you had access to a windmill, what would you use it to power?

Zephyr was inspired by a working windmill in central England and humankind’s relationship with the wind! In this next activity, design your own circus (in poster form) inspired by one of the four classical elements: earth, air, fire or water.

Materials: Coloring utensils and paper, circus poster template (optional)

Step One: Decide which element you’d like to use as the inspiration for your circus! New 42 Education Fellow Mana Kurozumi chose water.

Step Two: Think of a name for your circus. Because her circus was inspired by the element of water, Mana came up with the name Circus Aqua!

Step Three: Draw your circus poster! Use our template or create your own original design. Give some thought to what acts might appear in your circus, and include them on your poster!

Circus poster template with a blank banner and matte for drawing in

Mana designed her own poster for Circus Aqua, complete with announcements of water-themed acts and tricks:

Circus poster for Circus Aqua Water Spectacular, featuring splash acro, bubble juggling and a mermaid clown!

Step Four: Promote your circus! Born salespeople, circus and carnival barkers use their voices (and ample charisma) to tout their show to passersby and invite them to experience it. Check out the video below to see a great barker in action, and then fill in the blanks in our sample barker script.

Come one, come all! Step right up to see the amazing name of your circus!

Come inside and experience shocking and awe-inspiring acts the likes of which you’ve never thought possible! From one act in your circus to another act in your circus, there’s something here for everyone!

For a limited time only, step inside and see name of your circus! You do not want to miss this, folks!

Keep practicing your barker speech with New Victory Teaching Artist (and ringleader extraordinaire) Marisol Rosa-Shapiro!

Challenge! Shift your strategy from barking to performing. Perform one of your circus tricks as a teaser for your full performance.

And Beyond: Exploring Circus Tricks
Fill up your bag of circus tricks with more activities from our multi-talented New Victory Teaching Artists!

New Victory Teaching Artist Billy Schultz demonstrated object balancing
Practice hat tricks, plate spinning, object balancing and more in a week-long Arts Break dedicated to Circus Tricks.
New Victory Teaching Artist Gyana Mella
From solo headstands to base-and-flyer partner tricks, add some acrobatics to your repertoire in an Arts Break packed with acro activities.
New Victory Teaching Artist Ben Johnson
Put on a show! Turn any special skill into a stage-worthy performance with a bit of the old razzle-dazzle.

New Victory Arts Break Supporters

New Victory Arts Break is funded, in part, by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.