A circus camp will bring a little magic into the lives of 250 at-risk kids from Winnipeg's inner city this spring break at Gordon Bell School.

The central Winnipeg high school has opened its doors to the Circus and Magic Partnership (CAMP) program organized by the Winnipeg International Children's Festival. Students age 10 to 14 are referred by school guidance counsellors to participate in the week-long program that teaches kids magic, tightrope walking, swinging on a trapeze, aerial dance and more.

The program brings 25 artists from around the country to Winnipeg to lend their skills and expertise to the aspiring entertainers.

Creating memories, inspiring confidence

Neal Rempel, executive producer of the Winnipeg International Children's festival, said it's not about being social workers, it's about creating memories and inspiring confidence in the kids.

"Circus has a chance to give them the opportunity to be successful, to get applause, to feel good about themselves with something that is really unique," said Rempel.

Circus camp

Kasius Henderson, 11, holds the aerial dance fabric while Za'Najha Swan-Nault. 10, climbs above him on the fabric to do a tandem swing Tuesday morning at the Circus and Magic Partnership (CAMP) program organized by the Winnipeg International Children's Festival. (CBC)

Za'Najha Swan-Nault and Kasius Henderson, two Grade 5 students, worked on their aerial dance moves in the school's upper gym on Tuesday morning. It was their first time using the aerial fabric to swing and dance.

"Someone makes a swing, and then we're climbing to the top, and then they swing," explained Swan-Nault, 10.

Playground skills

Swan-Nault and Henderson, 11, a Fort Rouge School student, took turns forming the swing at the bottom of the aerial dance fabric while the other climbed over his or her partner and to the top.

Swan-Nault described the activity as really fun and cool, while Henderson said he was confident that after doing the trapeze and aerial dance, he'll be able to hang from the monkey bars by his knees when he gets back to his school playground.

The weeklong program culminates in two performances and a pizza dinner for the students and their families. The program includes in hip-hop dance, marionettes, stilt walking, juggling, MC and standup comedian workshops, and Art City is running a workshop that helps make students' costumes for the final show.

The CAMP program also runs in northern communities; last week it was in Pine Creek, Man., and next week the group will be in Cross Lake, Man.