Circus Artist – Monnya Silver

Malama I ke kai 2004

Monnya was in first grade when her teacher called me and said she had changed the spelling of her name from Manya to Monnya. She was tired of people mispronouncing her name as ‘Man ya’. Her father and I said it made sense and was fine. By then we were used to her strong willed decision making.” Doris Silver, Monnya’s mum.

Monnya started her life long passion for flipping and flying when she was just four. She practised gymnastics and dance then later added equestrian acrobatics and aerial circus arts to her repertoire. She has been performing professionally for fifteen years nationally and internationally with the band Devotchka, as well as with Quixotic, Oracle Dance, Big Horse Productions and…………………………. the HICCUP circus.

Our connection began in 2003 when I received a call out of the blue from a squeaky voiced young woman. She explained she was visiting friends in Puna and had heard about HICCUP and wanted to check us out. She came to Bellyacres one potluck night with her boyfriend and we immediately bonded over our love of circus. I was always keen to engage curious visitors in our programs and so Monnya attended a class and was immediately a huge hit with our kids. That weekend she joined us for the Pahoa winter parade and I put her on our float swinging fire poi. She shocked me later saying she’d never performed fire before. Her courage was exemplary but more impressive to me were her talents as a naturally gifted teacher despite her being just eighteen. We agreed to keep in touch and it’s grown into a lifetime friendship.

Monnya returned to Puna the following year and almost annually for the next eight years. She taught at our HICCUP camps, performed in several shows and was the powerful female lead in our masterpiece 2005 “Malama Ka Aina” community production.

Monnya and Jerry in ‘Malama I Ke Kai’ 2005

Her joyful talents translated brilliantly to motivate and inspire our HICCUP students at numerous workshops, camps and performances. She changed the HICCUP program permanently by introducing our kids to silk tissue/ribbons, rope, trapeze, lyra and other varieties of aerial arts. It was largely due to Monnya’s influence that our young Puna kids developed so fast and so proficiently with their aerial skills. She began teaching with a rig set up between two ohia trees, then I had a portable steel rig built and eventually we moved into S.P.A.C.E. As a regular charismatic Bellyacres visitor she also became a much loved member of our circus Ohana and established lifetime friendships with many parents, students, interns and residents. Everyday was a happy smiling playday with Monnya.

Back on the U.S. mainland Monnya coached the Evergreen Cougars gymnastics club and built a formidable troupe. Unlike most coaches, who primarily offer instruction Monnya infuses her love of dance, music, gymnastics and life into her students. In 2009 she came up gold guiding the Cougars to the Class 4A state championship and made them a team to be reckoned with year in and year out.  Monnya’s teaching talents then led to her creating her very own circus troupe ‘the Snowflakes’ in Evergreen. She worked hard developing her own skills particularly in aerial arts and passionately shared everything she learned with all the young people she attracted with her effervescently bright and bubbly personality.

Monnya has always had a soft spot for our Puna children and for many years brought them recycled leotards gifted by her wealthy gymnastics school parents for our less privileged kids. What a heart she has! Undoubtedly our HICCUP camps made a difference in each camper’s life and Monnya played a key role in many. At first she assisted me under the tents and tarp structures we used and after we completed construction of S.P.A.C.E she served as the Director for all three Hiccup Circus camps in 2008 and returned again in 2011. Family life is important for Monnya so it was no surprise that she brought her sister Alex niece Sophie, brother in law and nephew to help us out.

It’s obvious to anyone who knows Monnya that she is gifted with the super power to connect powerfully with kids. Her magnetic personality produced a close bonding with our HICCUP students and with my daughter, Isla. Like all the young people blessed to share quality times with Monnya their lives have been positively transformed and I believe that they carry a little of her sparkle everywhere they go.

After living in Puna for 33 years I moved with my family of seven to Waimea where Dena and I worked for the Kahilu Theatre. What a change! Life continued and within a year I had started a north Hawaii circus troupe called Cirque Ohana. Once again I was able to arrange for Monnya to return to Hawaii to direct our 2016 and 2017 circus summer camps. This time she arrived as a wife and mother with her stunt performer husband Aaron and their two boys. It was a real treat to see how her life had also changed in a few years!

As always Monnya performed her usual magic with all the participants and everyone had a wonderful time especially the audience we packed into the Theatre for the great show she wrote and directed. A huge bonus was having our two families hang out together and I’m delighted that our kids have now begun visiting her world in Chicago.

Shortly before I was deported Monnya performed at both my farewell parties and bestowed one of my most cherished compliments on me saying, “He’s just been really ahead of his time in terms of things affecting the earth and local communities. Those shows taught me the impact of what arts and circus can have on people’s lives. They’ve shaped me as an artist and a person more than anything else I’ve ever done.”

Monnya is now a busy mum raising her super-hero boys and has joined Aaron as the Flip’n Crippins working on films and TV specials. After touring the world as an aerialist she’s is now using her background in circus, gymnastics, equestrian vaulting and CMX Martial Arts as an SAG/AFTA stunt woman. She says, “Performing is one of my utmost passions life. I love being apart of a team and collaborating with others to make beautiful, impactful art.”

Monnya’s original visit to Hawaii led to her becoming a valued member of our renegade HICCUP ohana which has enriched the lives of my family and loads of our Hawaii kids. May she always be blessed with success and happiness and continue her wonderful high flying life!

Published by Graham Ellis

As a child of the '60's with a wanderlust spirit I just followed my dreams and opportunities as they arose. My journey took me to some of the brightest and darkest places imaginable. I met amazing people on the way, some were famous and some are infamous. Some are just great friends with stories that blended with mine as we traveled together on land, on the sea and in the sky. We all share the renegade spirit !

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