ATLANTIC CITY - When 10-year-old Kareem Watson grows up, he wants to master the Cyr Wheel and entertain the masses with the fast-paced swirling that he could describe only with large, circular arm motions.

"The big hoop that spun all around," Kareem said Thursday.

Kareem was one of about 25 Atlantic City children who participated in Circus Camp at Resorts Casino Hotel. The two-hour program was a collaboration between casino officials and the city's Division of Recreation.

The event featured portions of the ongoing Cirque Polynesian show being performed at the casino and gave children the opportunity to try their hand at some of the performances they saw.

"This is so lovely for all the kids in the neighborhood," city resident Naomi Dixon said.

Dixon entered the casino hotel's Superstar Theatre imagining a traditional circus - complete with tigers, lions and a ringmaster - awaited her and her three children.

What she saw - fire spinning, traditional Polynesian dancing, women dangling from cloth ropes hanging from the ceiling and incredible feats of strength - was even better, she said.

"Love ain't the word," she said. "This is beautiful."

Resorts spokeswoman Courtney Birmingham said the camp was quickly organized after Resorts Chief Executive Officer Dennis Gomes thought it could benefit the community.

When Gomes asked Cirque officials what they thought of the program, they were quick to organize the afternoon a little more than a week ago.

"We love reaching out to the community and teaching kids about acrobatics and athleticism," said Tuffy Nicholas, the show's producer.

Nicholas said many of the performers are dance instructors and know how to teach children the basics of some of the dangerous acts they perform nightly.

"Depending on the age and ability, they can certainly learn the basics," he said.

Kareem beamed with pride as he described hanging from hoops that descended from the ceiling, learning the Warrior Dance and spinning a hula hoop on his hips.

"It was fantastic," he said.

Chaperone Sonia Cedeno kissed her fingers like a chef would after creating the world's best lasagna.

"It was really beautiful," she said. "I think they should have this more often."

Cedeno, who works with the city's Division of Recreation, said the city does not have enough offerings for area children and that Thursday's program provided them something they will always remember.

City resident Marion Torian, who attended Thursday with Dixon, her neighbor, agreed.

"It's really awesome," Torian said. "Not only do the children watch what the (performers) are doing, but they experience it, too."

Contact Caitlin Dineen:

609-272-7247

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