Social circus is a worldwide movement that has been growing exponentially in part due to the tireless work of pioneers like Jan Rok Achard of École Nationale de Cirque in Montreal, and Elefterios Kechagioglou of Le Plus Petit Cirque du Monde in Paris, or Dan Roberts of CircEsteem in Chicago (formerly of Red Nose Foundation in Indonesia) and Jessica Hentoff of Circus Harmony in St. Louis. These individuals are working in at-risk communities, bringing together people from different backgrounds and finding innovative ways to get youth, the disadvantaged and the disabled to strengthen their connections, to broaden their horizons, and to raise their self-esteem–all while increasing their skill base.
Although the definition of social circus is a topic of debate among many in the circus world, most would agree that the Cirque du Soleil corporation has done much to further the cause by setting up Cirque du Monde in 1995, an outreach and social circus network established exclusively for the benefit of at-risk and impoverished youth.
Given the current global political climate about the economics of outreach, social circuses are likely to be in jeopardy from financial cuts while the need for programs only grows. Still, take one look at this map of hundreds of social circus initiativesaround the world and you will see how there is no shortage of people, institutions and non-profits deeply interested in circus as a means to reach people in need. The second annual Social Circus Day on April 1st is a real way to rejoice and reflect on the hard work of many committed teachers and students worldwide!
The first social circus day in 2016 boasted participation from 59 groups. Travis Johnson, the president of Asian Social Circus Association (ASCA) which created the event, described some of the activities organized last year “We had circus classes, workshops and a show for refugees, disadvantaged kids, people with disabilities, and even big parades in public spaces to highlight the lives of people, particularly children and how they use circus to create change and connect with their communities.”
To find out more about how to participate in Social Circus Day, visit ASCA. Also, consider using the social circus map to find a social circus near you and ask how you can help them celebrate. If you do get involved, don’t forget to use the hashtag #SocialCircusday on April 1, 2017 to show the world how big social circus has become.
Photo Credit: Mark Treloar. Lillian Meyers teaching clowns from Performers Without Borders how to use their voices!