Elena Meyer Reimer and Antoinette Mpawenayo claimed the kick-off crown in Sauder Concert Hall on Feb. 27 with their performance, “Two High.”

Both Reimer and Mpawenayo weren’t expecting the results.

“I have never performed in front of judges. I do circus to help build my self-esteem and also entertain and teach people in my community, so winning through circus was definitely a different feeling,” said Mpawenayo.

Having previous experience with their respective skills presented both Reimer and Mpawenayo with an advantage. They were confident when it came to preparing for the actual performance.

“We both had background experience so we got together and figured out some things we could do together and how we could have our skills interact,” said Reimer.

“Together we decided we can combine our different skills which include aerial silks, juggling, partner acro, and clowning. We met on Monday, Fridays, and Saturdays when we could find the time for it,” Mpawenayo said.

Mpawenayo’s circus experience took place with an organization called CircEsteem in Chicago, which she was a part of for seven or eight years years.

“I was a part of the advanced performance troupe and in that troupe there is a requirement to do a little of everything such as; German wheel, mini tramp, stilt walking, teaching circus, and so many more,” Mpawenayo said. “I don’t specialize in silks, but I know a few tricks. I mostly specialize in partner acro which is lifting people, juggling, ribbon dancing, and clowning.”

Reimer has been practicing aerial arts for six years in both silks and hoop. She started practicing her sophomore year of high school and continues to practice today.

“I’ve always liked dancing and climbing things in general,” Reimer said, “I have a younger cousin who lives in Canada where the circus scene is a little bigger and she started going to an after-school circus program that seemed really fun so that inspired me to try aerials.”

Reimer and Mpawenayo both mentioned that their community motivates them to continue in the sport. According to Reimer, most people think you have to be athletic to do circus activities but that there are things that can be done at every level. Mpawenayo added that she has been privileged to be able to teach kids of all ages at different schools.

“It’s also just a space to fail and look silly, so it’s a powerful and fun way to connect with others too, which is something I value a lot,” said Reimer.

“Just seeing the enjoyment that people have when watching and trying circus makes me very happy to continue this sport, because it means I am a part of something that makes my community smile,” said Mpawenayo.

Reimer also stressed that she’s not trying to do something different or keep the same in order to win again since there are few circus competitions; it’s more about expressing oneself than competing and also create fun experiences along the way.

“I am actually not a really big fan of winning twice. I love giving the opportunity to other people,” Mpawenayo said. “But if I were to audition for kick-off again, I would definitely do everything differently, the act that Elena and I put out was amazing and entertaining, but bringing something different to the table is very engaging.

“Maybe next time I could be more on the silks,” she added.

Although Reimer is studying sign language interpreting and likes languages and people and plans on interpreting in the future, she has every intention of continuing skills and circus activities. Mpawenayo is attending classes, she is not currently doing circus; however, she likes to juggle in her room, which helps her cope.

“Goshen College should know that I am a very accepting person,” said Mpawenayo, “So if someone ever needs an ear, I am not far from campus!”